clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The season that never was for the Celtics

What could have been for Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and the rest of the Celtics. And what could be next year.

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The season is not over. The Boston Celtics are still the 2nd seed and will have every opportunity to make some noise in the postseason. There are still many things to play for, including experience, development, and pure pride. To a man, every player, coach, and executive is going to tell us that they still believe in each other.

It isn’t what it could have been though. It hasn’t been what it could have been all year.

This entire season has been a surreal experience. Almost as if it has been played in a fog. Most of us still haven’t gotten over seeing that ankle bend in a way that the human body never intended it to. Gordon Hayward just arrived on the scene, but as soon as he left it his absence was felt. It was like starting a cross-country road trip and getting a flat backing out of the driveway.

Yet somehow, someway, the team went on a tear anyway. We couldn’t be sure if it was just smoke and mirrors but we didn’t really care. It was worth it just to get over the Hayward injury. Yet, somehow it kept on going.

Kyrie Irving spread his wings and claimed ownership of this team. Jaylen Brown skipped the 2nd step and went right to the 3rd step on the staircase like a long legged man in a hurry. Jayson Tatum is the youngest veteran in the league. Al Horford keeps doing Al Horford things and might be our best outside threat. Somehow it all worked and Brad Stevens deserves all the credit and then some.

Ultimately it wasn’t meant to last though. It isn’t clear how far that 1b version of the team could have gone, but now we’ll never know. Injury after injury hit this team down the stretch and Kyrie’s second surgery seems like the proverbial straw on that poor camel’s tired back.

I can’t help but think of this scene from Lord of the Rings where Boromir keeps getting slammed with ork arrows but he keeps on fighting till the end.

Eventually one last huge arrow drops Boromir once and for all.

It was a valiant effort. This season was worth it if only for the experience that the young guns gained (and will gain in the playoffs). Still, it does feel like we were robbed of something special.

We’ve had a chance to see Kyrie do his thing for the Celtics. We know how special he can be, night-in and night-out. We’ve seen the youth grow up in stop-motion-animation speed. We’ve seen guys that Danny Ainge assembled from all around the flat globe fit seamlessly into a highly functioning organism.

The one thing that was missing was a dynamic, versatile, playmaking guy that can score on an elite level to provide some spacing and support for Kyrie. Sound like anyone we know?

Close your eyes and you can just picture it, can’t you?

Horford smothers the driving opponent, forcing him into a bad shot that is rebounded by Jaylen Brown. He hands the ball off to Gordon Hayward who brings the ball up the court with sure hands and his eyes surveying the court. Already Tatum is running toward open space, pulling defenders with him like a planet pulls moons in orbit. Irving springs free of a pick, receives the pass from Gordon, stutter-dribbles back and forth till 2 defenders are swaying, then threads a pocket pass to Hayward who just slipped in behind the defense for an easy 2 points.

Now imagine a whole season of those kinds of plays with various actors playing different parts in the Broadway production. Who knows how far that team could have gotten this year? With the Cavs looking as vulnerable as they do and the rest of the East as jumbled as it is, how dominant could the Celtics have been headed into the postseason?

Injuries happen though. Things don’t always fall into place. All the more reason to remember and cherish the few times when things actually do. All the more reason to be patient and cautious with these injuries and make sure that the guys come all the way back to 100%.

Because next year could be as special as this year could have been. Perhaps even better as the young guys develop. Perhaps even better in part because of they had to develop. Does Terry Rozier III get enough looks and opportunities on a fully loaded team? Does Tatum break through the rookie wall when he’s not being counted on as the primary scoring threat down the stretch?

Next year, (health permitting) each of the pieces should come together like Voltron and we’ll really see what this squad can do. Injury updates and status reports will hang over the offseason, but if all goes well, they should be considered one of the few title contending teams.

Again, this season is not over yet. I can’t wait to see what Tatum, Brown, and Rozier do in the playoffs as the primary weapons. I can’t wait to see what tricks Brad Stevens has up his sleeve to maximize their strengths and minimize weaknesses.

It just feels like this season has been been a prelude to the main event.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog