We know nothing. A lot of keystrokes will be expended in the noble art of Monday morning quarterbacking and explaining how all the signs were there to see this coming if only we had looked in the right places. But what it all comes down to is that we just don’t know anything about what could or should or would happen, never mind what will happen.
The Celtics are two wins away from the NBA Finals. Pause and let that soak in. Putting everything else aside, ignoring all the circumstances involved, that is a wonderful accomplishment in and of itself. When you consider that they are doing it without two star players and that they are doing it against LeBron James, there’s enough icing there to start a wedding-cake business.
All season long, “next man up” has been both a figurative rallying cry and a literal strategic game plan. When one player goes down, someone else assumes a bigger role. When one option on offense is taken away, the ball moves to the next read, and mismatches are exploited. There’s no panic, no hand wringing, no overreaction to the moment—just focus and determination, which is no surprise considering the man directing this orchestra.
Brad Stevens is receiving a lot of the praise for leaving pre-playoffs expectations in the dust. I feel like all of it is well deserved, but of course I would run through actual sheetrock if he directed me to do so. Still, I nod my head to the efforts being made to remind people that the active roster has a great deal of talent. Just because large portions of this roster fit the age profile of Brad’s Butler teams doesn’t mean that he’s doing all of this with smoke, mirrors, and Hoosiers-type speeches.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in particular have had this pedigree all along, but circumstance provided the inertia needed to scale the learning curve faster than expected. Terry Rozier also stepped into the void with precocious zeal and memed his way into our hearts. Marcus Smart is an Uruk-hai forged from the depths of the Big Dig with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc in the playoffs, and Marcus Morris is his proud Uncle Fester. And of course there’s “Worth Every Dollar” Al Horford, who’s so squeaky clean and super talented that he could be cast as Captain America in a future reboot movie.
There’s real talent here, but it goes beyond that. There’s a collective “we” that rises above the “me” and pushes back against the “they.” While last year’s team had a classic underdog mentality, this year’s edition has the confident swagger of pedigree overcoming setbacks and obstacles.
Add it all up and you’ve got yourself a team that might just be headed to the NBA Finals. As always, it is tempting to look ahead to the next step. What happens when you add in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward? What else can Danny pull out of his hat? Some mental gymnastics fanatics have even started to suggest trading Irving or Hayward for anything from Anthony Davis to Kawhi Leonard or even some potpourri of mid-tier players and draft picks, to which I can only offer a K9-like tilt of the head.
Don’t overthink this folks. Don’t miss this moment by being distracted by the horizon. This rebuild has been faster than anyone could have dreamed, and still it seems like we’ve been “a year away” for multiple years. Maybe let’s just enjoy what this squad has accomplished already and focus on the next game.
What will happen next? Who knows? We know nothing.