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Two pictures, five years and a world of difference

One image from Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari’s introductory presser brought back memories from five years earlier

The Boston Celtics introduced Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari on Tuesday. The veterans were the Celtics two big offseason acquisitions. Brogdon came from the Indiana Pacers via trade, while Gallinari was signed as a free agent.

There was a moment in the press conference where Brogdon and Gallinari recreated a moment from Celtics introductory presser history. Presumably, the two new players did so unknowingly. Yet, the similarity was stark, even if the circumstances are so very different.

In the above picture, Brogdon and Gallinari looked at each other and shared a smile during the presser questioning. It harkened back to two other big offseason acquisitions doing the same thing, nearly five years prior.

That day in 2017 was a day full of hope. Gordon Hayward had famously chosen to sign with Boston after holding 4th of July barbecues hostage for most of the holiday. A couple of months later, the Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving.

On that introduction day in 2017, Irving called Hayward “a bad dude” and famously said “It’s about to be crazy G” when talking about their upcoming partnership.

As we all know, the initial phase of that partnership lasted all of 5:15. The second phase wasn’t a whole lot better, as the 2018-19 Boston Celtics suffered from too many guys wanting, needing and deserving too many minutes and too many shots.

That team never came together as dreamed of, and after two rocky seasons, Kyrie Irving was off to Brooklyn. A year later, Hayward left Boston too. He cited wanting a bigger role as part of the reason he left.

And that’s where the similarities between the Brogdon/Gallinari photo and the Irving/Hayward photo end.

It’s five years later and instead of hoping two new additions can carry the Celtics to Banner 18, Boston hopes two new additions can help push the team over the finish line.

Irving and Hayward came to Boston to be the pieces the team orbited around. Brogdon and Gallinari join the Celtics wanting to fit in and enhance what the team already has.

When Hayward agreed to sign with Boston, he did so with the expectation of playing with Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, a young player brimming with potential in Jaylen Brown and a recent high draft pick in Jayson Tatum. When Irving was traded to Boston, it hurt to see IT go, but this was Kyrie Irving. Banner 18 seemed so close.

And then it wasn’t.

That team started to crumble before the foundation was even set because of injuries to Hayward and Irving. Then, oddly enough, it was their returns that finished the demolition. The shaky foundation couldn’t bear the weight of the stars being added on top. Everything collapsed in a cloud of frustration, anger and resentment.

But, like the picture of Irving and Hayward smiling at each other, that’s ancient history now. The rubble from that collapse has long-since been cleared away. It took a few years, and a few different iterations, but the Celtics have rebuilt. Banner 18 again seems close.

And this time, the foundation is rock solid. It can support the addition of two veterans. Especially when those veterans are coming to Boston to help lift Banner 18 as support vs trying to raise it from on high.

By the time the Celtics played in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, it was pretty clear the team had something special in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Four years later, that’s been cemented.

Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka often refer to Brown and Tatum as the team’s “pillars”. Those pillars will lift Banner 18, but not by themselves.

Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard were already a solid foundation. Now, Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari firm up that foundation even more and help push those pillars even higher.

When the 2018-19 Boston Celtics took the floor for training camp, a common comment was “We have so many good players. There’s so much talent here.” But that talent never really fit. Players like Brown and Tatum had bigger-than-planned-for roles in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals run. They weren’t going back to being role players.

Role players like Smart, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris all were keys when Irving and Hayward went down. Their roles reduced with the return of the stars. Tatum and Brown were now just parts of the offense instead of being focal points. It was the epitome of having too much of a good thing.

When the 2022-23 take the floor for training camp, a common comment will probably be “We have so many good players. There’s much talent here.”

The same words but said differently and with a much different meaning.

Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari are joining Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s team. They aren’t taking the team back from them. Both veterans understand their role is to push this team to the two wins they couldn’t get in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Push, not pull.

Irving and Hayward were going to pull Boston to Banner 18, and they ended up letting go of the rope when the burden got too heavy.

Brown and Tatum will do the pulling for the Celtics now. But Brogdon and Gallinari, along with Horford, Smart, Time Lord, Grant, White and Pritchard will be doing the pushing. That’s the effort it will take to raise Banner 18.

When introducing Brogdon and Gallinari, Stevens said the word “fit” at least 10 different times. If we go back nearly a year to Ime Udoka’s introductory press conference, the words of the day then were “foundation”, “enhance” and “pillars”.

The Boston Celtics are betting that Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari fit in quite well to plug some of the small cracks in the team’s foundation. And when those cracks are filled in, that will help enhance the team’s pillars.

Pulling and pushing together vs against each other. No individual agendas. No comments about how “It’s about to be crazy”.

Just fit in and get to work. That’s who the 2022-23 Boston Celtics are five years later. And they’re so much the better for it.