When the Celtics were making the playoffs with just Isaiah Thomas and lots of heart, it was easy to say “wait till next year.” There was perpetual buffet of max free agents and Nets picks to fill our hearts and minds with dreams of future riches. Last year, when the team once again overachieved without their two biggest name stars (Irving and Hayward), the whole summer was dominated by “no really, wait till NEXT year!”
Well, the team should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque because we are not where we expected to be at this point. We know all the theorized reasons by now. The weight of expectations, adjusting to roles, Hayward’s slower than expected recovery timeline, the trade deadline distraction, Kyrie’s free agency distraction, the frustration with the media, ...on and on it goes. One way or another, the whole has been less than the sum of its parts.
Which brings me to the internal dialog cycle that most fans are going through right now.
Step 1: Well, you never know, they COULD put it together in the playoffs again.
After all, they should be able to take care of the Pacers, the Bucks are seriously banged up, and the Celtics (typically) do well against the 76ers. Get this ball rolling in the right direction and anything can happen, right?
Step 2: But there’s not a lot of evidence that they will right now.
Brad Stevens (via NBC Boston): “Ultimately we don’t need to ride the emotional roller coaster,” said Stevens. “We need to get a lot better. We’ve given up 115 or more in a lot of games here recently and our defense has to improve dramatically if we’re gonna make a push to ultimately get what we want in the next couple of months.”
Step 3: Well, maybe we’ll get Anthony Davis. THEN wait till next year.
Adding Davis is not a certainty, nor is it a straight math equation. There are far too many factors and dependencies and variables at play.
Does Kyrie Irving sign up for more of this or does he decide that he can find greener pastures elsewhere? What will the Celtics have to give up to get Davis? What is Davis’ willingness to sign long term? What do they do with Al Horford (who could opt out of his contract this offseason)?
And... well, there’s a lot of “what if’s” to consider for this offseason. And a lot of that depends on how well they perform in the playoffs.
Step 4: (go back to step 1)
And round and round we go.
Maybe things will all fall together and this team will make another monster run in the playoffs. Maybe they won’t. That’s life.
But “wait till next year” isn’t a viable rallying call for this team any longer. This should be the “next year” we’ve been waiting for. There are no good reasons for this team to be this bad.
Therefore there are no moral victories for this team. All will be forgiven if they put themselves together and make the Finals. Anything short of that will be (and should be) considered a failure. This year more than ever.