Since the rebuild started in modest in the summer of 2013, the mantra for Celtics’ fans has been “next year is the year.” Whether it was draft picks or cap space or free agency that Boston was looking forward to, it was always about next season. With Gordon Hayward’s injury now coupled with Kyrie Irving’s and Daniel’s Theis’ bad knees and Marcus Smart’s bad thumb, that familiar phrase has started to creep up again: maybe next year.
But there is the now. The Celtics are the #2 seed in the East, there’s a regular season to close out and a playoff run that starts in April, with or without some of the core players. This is usually a time for vets to sharpen their skills and peak before the playoffs, but it’s been Boston’s youth movement that has started to come together as the post-season nears. Last night in Sacramento, the trio of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum turned a first half deficit to the lottery bound Kings into a definitive win at the buzzer.
The headline was Scary Terry. He was 8-for-12 from behind the arc and finished with an efficient 33 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and five steals. As a spot starter for Kyrie this season, he’s looked the part of an NBA starting point guard:
Terry Rozier's production the past six games since Kyrie Irving’s knee soreness forced him to seek surgery:— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) March 26, 2018
With one year remaining on his rookie deal until he becomes a restricted free agent (are we calling this the Marcus Smart Conundrum yet?), Rozier has proved his value on this team
The west coast trip also marked the return of Jaylen Brown who suffered his concussion 17 games and 7 games ago. He didn’t miss a beat, finishing with nineteen points. He went strong to the cup and dunked a couple of times until satisfying his mom’s wishes and laying it up late in the game. For what it’s worth, he was 6-for-6 from the line and made all twenty since February 26th. He’s been dogged by bad FT% his first two seasons, but his monthly averages have steadily increased this year from 63.3%, 56.6%, 51.3%, 67.6%, 75%, to 100%.
Finally, Tatum delivered a ho hum 12 & 7, but it’s the growing variety of his game and its increasing consistency that has bloomed over the second half of the season. Against the Kings, he featured his mid-range jumper.
Whenever he’d come off a curl, the Kings would cut off his driving lanes so he couldn’t create off the dribble. That left him enough space to can 15-footers all night.
As impressive as the kids were in the game, it’s what they did off the floor on Sunday that might be more impactful:
Stephon Clark was shot twenty times in the back by Sacramento police in his own backyard after his cell phone was mistaken for a gun. After the game, Brown said:
“It means a lot. I mean, for the family, I know it’s tough and no gesture can bring your son back,” Brown told reporters. “But as NBA players and people of influence, we have to continue to speak up about things and continue to serve as part of change. I send my condolences to his family. I think it was a great notion for DeMarcus Cousins to pay for the funeral. I think that was beautiful.”
“I know a lot of people probably agree with me when I say this: it’s frustrating to keep hearing the same stories every year,” Brown said. “It’s like, it’s just very frustrating. But we gotta continue to push forward.”
So, while their development on the court has been fun to watch, their maturity off the court—particularly Jaylen Brown—has been admirable.