This is now my ninth season at CelticsBlog. I started back in February of 2012 just before one of my favorite Celtics playoff runs ever. The season had unfortunately been shortened to 66 games because of a lockout. Boston was old and while fewer games meant less on the odometers of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, they were uphill miles because of the crammed and condensed schedule. Two trips to The Finals and two post-season flame outs riddled by injury and bad luck should have zapped Boston of everything. It nearly did, but a prideful battle in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat was the type of last stand that made me fall in love.
That was my baptism to writing about the Celtics: an often grueling/invigorating/inspiring two months from a team that had been left for dead by most pundits and many fans. I’ve rooted for the Celtics my whole life, but covering them was different. When I first joined the site, I didn’t understand the line between blog boy fan blabber and sports journalism. At first, I just poured my fandom into every article. Every piece I wrote bled green and worshiped at the alter of The Big Three. I now had an outlet and community to express my love for this team.
A few years later, Danny Ainge broke it up and my heart in the process. He hired Brad Stevens and the rebuild started. My focus started shifting towards the ins and outs of the CBA and the art of long term planning. Because of the war chest of picks that the front office had accumulated, I spent more time watching YouTube videos and reading scouting reports on college players. On the court, the analytics movement was in full swing and Stevens’ genius of taking rosters and squeezing out more than the sum of its parts was interesting to try and understand. I was lucky to work with writers like Kevin O’Connor and Jared Weiss and Keith Smith at CelticsBlog.
Basketball became more of an academic pursuit and frankly, it sucked out a lot of the joy (and pain) from the game. The Celtics didn’t “win;” they just hit more high percentage shots and forced more long-2’s. The Celtics didn’t “lose;” they just missed looks that over the course of an entire season, they normally make. And there was always a move to be made if things weren’t working out. Hope springs eternal when every summer has a quick fix or the possibility of a big trade.
The last two seasons were supposed to be a grand realization of this master plan and it just didn’t happen. Blame team chemistry. Blame timing. Blame injuries. All the coulda woulda shoulda’s didn’t materialize and now we’re here.
Well, this upcoming season feels different and maybe in a way, the same. Nine years ago, watching KG and Pierce gut out that series against LeBron filled me with so much Celtics pride. Nine years later, I’m feeling those vibes again.
A single regular season game hasn’t even been played yet, but there’s a sense that this team is building something in Boston. Maybe it’s because the foundation of the franchise is built around homegrown players. Marcus Smart signed long term last summer, Jaylen Brown got his deal this week, and all signs point to Jayson Tatum being another cornerstone, too. Maybe it’s because of the circuitous path that Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward have taken in the basketball careers to end up together in Boston. After meeting in the 2011 NCAA Final Four, they nearly teamed up in Charlotte three years later, but had to wait another five seasons to finally unite. Maybe it’s because of the youth infusion of guys like Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Tremont Waters, Javonte Green, and Tacko Fall this summer. They’ve brought with them a camaraderie and joy that was sorely missing over the last two years.
Welcome to the 2019-2020 season. Let’s go, Celtics!