Allow me to give you a window into the life of a writer: far more often than we’re tapping at a keyboard or relentlessly opening tabs, we’re staring at a screen that has no interest in staring back at us. Oh, your story feels dry? That’s nice; hey, have you heard of YouTube? They can help you come up with a witty lede. Try searching “Wedding Crashers best moments.” I guarantee you’ll have your story submitted by Thanksgiving 2023.
I say this to apologize for this story’s dour tone, but alas, there’s not much to be witty about for Celtics fans (nor their players) these days. It’s a cruel world, and not a soul has any lick of sympathy for those with 17 championship banners hanging overhead. As if they have any reason to, mind you: the Boston Celtics have had anything but a fun season, putzing around the Atlantic Division’s cellar with a Canadian team playing in Tampa, Flordia.
So, if you have an alternate lede to this piece, one in the form of a silver lining that might make sense of a team that — at 20-20, losers of three of their last four games — appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals just last year now looking like the characters from Inside Out make up their starting five, be my guest. We live in a free country, and I’m not private on Twitter.
Hours before Dave Dameshek turned Celtics Twitter into a place gloomier than the church “Eleanor Rigby” takes place in by stoking rumors that Brad Stevens would be announced as Indiana University’s head basketball coach by 3 p.m. ET, Marcus Smart echoed the above sentiments. “We’re not having fun,” he said. “We’re not playing like we are having fun. We’re not playing with that energy and same fire. That’s just what it is. We have to pick it up and continue to try to help one another. Nobody said this is going to be easy. When you try to do something great, it’s not easy.”
He also mentioned, per The Athletic’s Jay King, that the Celtics have a lot going on in their personal lives that might be causing the team to suffer from being bogged down. That’s probably true; I can relate. The other day, I tried to complete The Last of Us 2’s campaign before my dermatology appointment and woke up to a fuming text from my doctor. I was charged $143 for an ointment I never committed to using because I neglected her expertise for a 20-hour video game that I assumed I had more time to master. “We have to look out for one another because no one else is,” he said. Also true; just ask The Last of Us 2.
Smart went on to note that this isn't their first time being under fire, or not having anyone but themselves to look out for one another. That’s life in the NBA; you get punched, and you look for a way to get back up. ““Right now, we’re kind of blind, but we’re searching for that light. We’ve got to keep searching. We can’t give up. Because I know there’s a lot of people out there that’s already counting us out... we just gotta click. We just got to find something to click. It might take a game, it might take two, but we got to figure it out. Once we do, I think we’ll be OK.
“You’re going to have obstacles,” Smart said. “You’re going to have adversity. You’re going to have a lot of brick walls you have to go over or under or around. You just have to continue to keep pushing and not let it bring you down.”
Reaching the Eastern Conference in three of the last four years is nothing if not exhausting, but this group’s lack of shared experience is a cause for concern, and possibly an indication as to why the Celtics have yet to hit their stride this season. As CelticsBlog’s Bill Sy wrote Wednesday:
“For the Celtics, while their core three players—Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart—have all gone deep into the playoffs together, there’s less shared experience between them and the rest of their current teammates. Ten of Boston’s fifteen rostered players are on rookie contracts and in this season alone, those three plus Kemba Walker have only played four games together. And with more than half the season in the books, they’re still showing some growing pains.”
Listen, I’m 22, and I’m still experiencing growing pains. Remind me to schedule a check-up.
The Celtics are in dire need of a routine physical, if not an operation. At the end of the day, they might just need some sort of concrete diagnosis. The long list of things wrong with the Celtics is beginning to look like the Pepe Silvia meme from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: scattered, chaotic, and without clear direction. It sounds a bit like the team itself, not merely its list of issues. Smart knows it; he seems to have a bit more to say on it than anyone not named Danny Ainge.
Nevertheless, he’s as optimistic as someone in first place on “Mario Kart.” It’s just a matter of what place this kart comes in that remains unknown. The finish line is close; but where’s that inevitable Blue Shell?
“Our window is definitely closing,” Smart said. “But if anybody can do it, this group of guys, myself included, we can. We just got to figure it out and I think we will.”
The optimism tour continues tonight against Sacramento and future-Celtic Harrison Barnes (...right? I’ve been playing with the trade machine since 4 a.m. I also ordered a custom jersey. Send help.) Gametime is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.