As much as I don’t want to re-live a single second of last year’s season (and playoffs) it seems like we need some cleansing of the palate before we can start anew with this new season ahead of us. So I’m going to share some parting thoughts on the players that are no longer with the team and invite you to do so as well in the comments section below. This is a safe place (or at least as safe as the internet can be).
Where do I start? At the end obviously. I can’t recall a Boston athlete of his stature leaving town on such a sour note as he did. It simply ended up being a bad fit for everyone involved. Irving was replacing a guy in Isaiah Thomas that had become a cult hero. Then he was absent for an epic run to the Eastern Conference Finals. All he had to do was raise the bar for that group, but perhaps that bar was too heavy or perhaps it was set too high.
Regardless, he was a free agent and despite public proclamations made to season ticket holders, he’s right that he didn’t owe anyone anything. Everyone has their own feelings about Irving’s tenure. Anger, frustration, a sense of betrayal, or just plain disappointment. Nothing to do about it now though. He has moved on and so shall we.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Al Horford. Few embodied what we valued in Celtics more than Al. He never sought the spotlight but he always managed to have a positive impact on winning. He carried that young team to the Eastern Conference Finals and provided leadership and guidance in his own quiet way.
That wasn’t enough last season, however, and the team collapsed in on itself. Most assumed Irving would exit stage left, but few expected Horford to follow him out of the theater. Management hoped to get him on a discount but was willing to pay a premium up to a point. It just turned out that Philly was willing to go higher. That likely means they’ll be overpaying him on the back end of his deal, but it still hurts to lose him for however many good years he has left. He’ll be missed.
Mook arrived with a bit of reputation for being an iso mid-range chucker. He turned out to be a reliable heavy rotation guy that provided much needed points and versatility. On one hand, he was the proverbial adult in the room when the “kids” weren’t producing. On the other hand, did his veteran presence block some of those kids from developing in bigger roles? Or did they simply not step into a role that Morris was just better suited to fill at that point in everyone’s career? Regardless, Morris practically carried the team through the early season struggles and I don’t fault him at all for stepping up. I guess the optimist in me is hoping that Brown, Tatum, and Hayward can sop up those touches and shots and up their contributions.
Scary Terry bet on himself and cashed in bigtime this summer. Did his attitude and approach to the game make things more difficult for the team to operate as a unit? If he had focused more on team goals than individual goals, could he have cashed in even more? I have no idea. Maybe not. Maybe that’s just his game and he needs the ball in his hand to be effective. In a larger role perhaps he’ll shine like he did in that playoff run. I guess we’ll find out in Charlotte.
I just now that there’s a theoretical alternate reality where Charlotte ponied up the cash for Kemba Walker and Rozier would be the resident starting point guard in Boston right now. That wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I’m obviously happier with Kemba.
Losing Horford was a punch to the kidney. Losing Baynes on top of it was the knockout blow. All of Australia gave all he had to the Celtics. He bought into his role, played hard every game, and did it with a continual smile on his face, despite the worst of times. He even added a surprisingly effective 3 point shot. I have nothing but good things to say about Baynes and he’ll be missed.
Happy trails to the dabbing dancing bear with the disarming smile and the most interesting backside in all of basketball. He was a draft and stash gamble that never quite panned out. Hope he continues to live his best life wherever he goes.
Conclusion: I choose to believe the party line that each guy on last year’s team (including the ones sticking around on this year’s squad) were trying to help the team win in their own way. It just didn’t work out on the court the way we all were envisioning it on paper. That’s on everyone from management to coaching to the players themselves but I’m not in the mood to dwell on finger pointing. That season is done and a blank page awaits.