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Open Confessions of a Celtics Non-Believer

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

“There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. And not because I’m in here or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then. A young, stupid kid. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him. Tell him the way things are.”

Red/Shawshank Redemption

Hi. My name is John and I am was a Celtics non-believer. I am here to lay bare my soul and confess all my sins. I was wrong about everything.

Not just how the Celtics would fare in the playoffs without Kyrie Irving because in that I was not alone.

I mean I was wrong about E’rything.

And I can’t do it anymore. I feel like a fraud having snuck onto the back of this bandwagon acting like I’ve been here the entire time. Taunting my Philly fan friends and telling everyone how ‘talented’ this team actually is. ‘You know, most of the starting lineup is comprised of high lottery picks?’ God I hate myself.

Part of it can be attributed to nearly a decade working at NBC Sports Boston/CSN the broadcast “Home of the Boston Celtics.” Understandably there are a lot of people who cover the team that want them to succeed because they work so closely together and also well, it’s good for business.

But having listened to a decades worth of blind loyalty and indefensible positions that strained credibility from the Celtics ‘footy pajama’ gang as Mike Felger likes to call them naturally bred some pushback. Being subjected to ludicrous, almost daily platitudes about the promise of James Young or that Guershon Yabusele is going to be the ‘French Draymond Green’ or people selling me on the merits of Amir (I can’t rebound, protect the rim, score, or jump over a stack of pancakes) Johnson. Also Isaiah Thomas is definitely a max contract player and Jae Crowder! For the love of all that is Holy Jae Crowder!

And before all card carrying members of the ‘footy pajama’ crew and the rest of you ‘true believers’ complete your victory lap I want to be perfectly clear; I’m not handing out full credit here. In order for your discerning opinions to matter you must first discern something. If you bet red at the roulette wheel every single spin of the wheel you’re going hit a few times.

But that doesn’t absolve me either. I like to think after 35 years of watching Celtics Basketball I am able to look at the big picture objectively and not just as a foil to the ‘Green teamers’ I found myself surrounded by. And I believed ALL of the following things about this year’s team to be objectively true.

Forgive me.

Jaylen Brown is NEVER going to be a good player


I still thought this as recently as a month ago. I didn’t see, it I’m sorry. I’ve always subscribed to the ‘draft basketball players not athletes’ school of thinking. When I looked at Jaylen I didn’t see a basketball player. I saw a sloppy ball handler without a lot of ‘feel’ for the game and didn’t think just one day he would figure it out. Well, his game has not only evolved year over year but seemingly 2 or 3 times during the course of this season and into the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

He is right now a far better more confident and complete two way player than he was even a couple months ago. He is at the same time more aggressive and more under control, finally cashing in consistently on his considerable physical gifts. In the ‘who has a higher Ceiling’ debate between him and Jayson Tatum I thought it was Tatum by a mile. I’m not so sure anymore.

Marcus Smart’s value is VASTLY overrated

Nothing pissed me off more than Marcus Smart apologists. I thought these were the dumbest people on earth. Who would pluck one “winning play” out of a sea of destruction and mayhem and point to that to hi-lite his ‘value.’ Smart to me was like a guy who sets fire to a house and then throws himself through a window to save the family cat.

But at this point it’s pretty clear that if Marcus Smart didn’t return when he did (Game 5 against the Bucks) the Celtics probably wouldn’t still be playing right now. He changed that game and that series, and every game he’s played since. Every second he’s on the floor the Celtics are tougher and better than they are with him off it. The Celtics have always lauded the impact Smart made on the floor but what sold me is listening to the reverential way opposing coaches and players have talked about him this postseason. Also after seeing him do something like this for the jillionth time eventually you have to just accept that maybe there’s a true method to the madness. I will never doubt again.

Terry Rozier was a WASTED pick and will never amount to anything

This I was certain of.

Scouting profile on Rozier: “A physical defender with a 6’8 wingspan who can take opposing guards out of there rhythm with pesky on ball defense.”

Great, we already had two of those in Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Getting even a rotational player with the 16th pick is a win but couldn’t the Celtics have addressed any other position?

And his offensive game? This guy had Summer League “All-Star’ written all over him. He was an afterthought, especially after the Celts traded for Kyrie Irving. And for two and a half years it wasn’t clear exactly what type of player Rozier was. Then Kyrie Irving went down and boom, out of nowhere he became a freakin’ ninja assassin. A fearless All-Star caliber point guard who plays tough, challenges 7 footers to fist fights, almost never turns the ball over and is killer in the clutch. Who knew? Maybe you guys did, I don’t know. Not me.

Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris was a TERRIBLE trade

Does anybody even remember Avery Bradley anymore? I loved this guy. Not just for the defense but also because he was one of the few players outside of Isaiah who could knock down shots last year and we needed that because you know Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier suck at basketball.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Morris meanwhile feels like he was born for this moment to play on this Celtics team. He embodies everything this team has become about. Toughness, resiliency. Kind of like Jonny Gomes with the Red Sox circa 2013 but you know, not a self promoting exhibitionist moron.

Trading the number one pick away will eventually cost Danny Ainge his job

Can i just skip this one?

Other things I knew to be true

  • Ainge values his assets too much and should package everything (Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, both Brooklyn picks) for a bonafide star like Kristaps Porzingis.
  • The Celtics will never land a high profile free agent.
  • Jayson Tatum is going to be good, not great. I know shut up.
  • Also Bucks in 6, 76ers in 5, Cavs in 4.

Phew. I’m glad I got all that off my chest. If this doesn’t absolve me fully for thinking all the things I thought about this team so be it. I’ll take solace in knowing I finally see the light and will spend the rest of this postseason basking in the Celtics warm glow.

But I promise to do it from way back of the bandwagon so as not to disturb any of you true believers out front.

This column was composed by John Zannis for CLNS Media and CelticsBlog.