The Boston Celtics season isn’t over, it just sort of feels that way. I processed my grief my own way earlier in the week. And like any diehard fan / glutton for punishment, I’m already ready to start looking on the bright side.
Recent events, especially news of Jaylen Brown’s surgery, considerably lowers the expectations for this season. The good news is that means less stress. I didn’t feel the second loss to the Heat quite like I did the previous one, because who cares anymore? That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop rooting for the team and hoping for the best. There’s still some small chance that the team could go on a miraculous run like they did in 2018. But nobody is counting on that and nobody should be terribly shocked if they don’t.
So the big picture is that the pressure is off now. There are some other silver linings as well:
Losing Jaylen Brown forces Evan Fournier into a starting role but it also gives us a larger sample size of him playing on the first unit and with most of the core of this team. Considering how late in the season he joined the team and how much time he missed after the trade, that’s going to be key to understanding his fit here long term, which of course will play into how much the team is willing to commit to him in free agency.
The trickle down impact also means more minutes for Aaron Nesmith and potentially Romeo Langford as well. They could get playoff rotation minutes which is good early experience for their career progression.
It is likely that the team will take a very conservative approach to Robert Williams’ health, which could mean more minutes for Luke Kornet and Grant Williams. The team will have some decisions to make in the offseason and the more data they have with those guys the better.
Next Year Might Be “Normal”
All the excuses this season were completely valid, but they also muddied the water in terms of evaluating the team and pinpointing issues. There wasn’t enough time to rest and recover between games. There wasn’t any time to practice. There wasn’t enough time with our core players playing together.
Next year the NBA should be returning to a more normal regular season schedule. There should be a full offseason to recover from this marathon. The team will have a full training camp to implement any changes and tweaks to the system. Most years the Celtics defense gets better as the season progresses. That didn’t happen this year but next season there will be more time for practices to adjust and teach as the season goes on.
If Kemba Walker is still on the team the team might elect to continue his load management on back-to-back games but there should be fewer of those. Jaylen Brown could miss the first part of the season but honestly giving him a little extra rest might be a good thing for him long-term.
Next year Pritchard, Nesmith, and Romeo will all have a full NBA season under their belts. We will probably have some fresh faces on the team as well, including a draft pick that will be higher than we had expected. The roster is going to look different, perhaps significantly so.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate losing and I hate that this season appears headed for an abrupt end. I don’t like “wasting” a year of the Jays’ prime. But league-wide, this was a weird year and the Celtics were a casualty to it. I’m just happy to grasp onto those silver linings to make myself feel a little better about it.