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What we learned from the Bucks: failure is part of the process

Marcus Smart and the Jays have been through a lot. Let’s use their experiences as building blocks instead of reasons to give up.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The blueprint for a championship winning roster hasn’t changed much, but the process of building one is never the same. The Bucks have an MVP, a killer defense, role players who stepped up, and a whole lot of luck.

Boston’s championship checklist isn’t looking so hot right now, but things can turn around quickly with a franchise player like Jayson Tatum.

  • Killer defense

Al Horford is back, so maybe? I’m not so sure, given his minute restrictions, but it’s possible with him and Marcus Smart paired together.

  • Role players who can step up

This has been the Celtics’ calling card for a while. I’m optimistic that Ime Udoka can keep it going, but recent draftees like Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, and Payton Pritchard

  • A whole lot of luck

Haha. No.

  • An MVP


NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The checklist is a fun thought exercise, but the important thing here is that it shouldn’t be Boston’s goal to recreate the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship formula. Nor should they aim to recreate the Lakers’ (yuck), Warriors’, Raptors’, or frankly anybody’s blueprint.

All things considered though, Milwaukee’s path to a championship might be the most realistic formula that any other team can aspire to. They drafted Giannis, snagged Middleton for a bag of chips, signed Brook Lopez on the cheap, and pushed all the chips in to get Jrue Holiday.

If the Celtics were to replicate this, who is our Brook Lopez? Our Jrue Holiday? These questions often teeter more towards wishlists than checklists, which is why even the most standard rebuilds are too unique to be duplicated. The common line of thinking I’d like to see people avoid is: “the thing that happened five minutes ago sets the standard for all future things.”

2018 NBA Playoffs: Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The part of the Giannis story that really matters is how much failure was a part of the journey. The 60-win Bucks got knocked out by the miracle-run Raptors in 2018-19. Then, the bubble Bucks got bludgeoned by the Heat in four games. Even this year, Kevin Durant was one shoe size away from putting the Nets ahead with one second remaining in Game 7. The difference between a title and another second-round loss came down to about two inches.

Not every basketball player follows this tortured path, but I think the ones that do are better off for it. Marcus Smart and the Jays have already been through more adversity in a few years than most players experience in their entire career. If you see the glass half empty, you can just as easily point to Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, who’ve been through about as much without any big payoff. If you want to live in Magical Christmas Land, you can cling to the instant gratification of the Kevin Garnett trade forever. Even then, that team never comes together if Paul Pierce isn’t fed up with losing. I mean, look at LeBron’s career path. Losing the 2011 Finals might be a stain on his career, but it’s still a part of the process towards winning.

This isn’t to say failure = good. Failure is inevitable. Carrying a team to a championship before hitting your prime is nearly impossible, and Giannis is cutting it really close at 26. I’ve written several times that it isn’t fair to hold the Jays to championship standards yet, and this season is precisely why. Giannis has been in the NBA for twice as long as Tatum, so buckle up folks. This thing might take a while longer.

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