Mercifully, the Boston Celtics season is over. It was a rollercoaster ride that everyone expected to be a bit rough at first, but no one predicted that it would be chaotic from start to finish.
Everyone deserves blame for this disaster; management, coaching, and the players. This roster featured far too much talent and it was blatantly obvious that there was enough shots to go around. The pace and space offense from years past was replaced with isolation ball which usually resulted in a poor possession. Even with all of the time to iron out these issues, practically nothing was resolved and it showed when the season ended on a whimper in Milwaulkee.
Danny Ainge must have thought he had a winner. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were returning, this team just came off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the best part about it was that the young players were behind that unexpected push. It should have been easy, Brad Steven’s is one of the best minds in basketball and should have figured out how to create successful rotations.
Instead, the complete opposite happened; Kyrie struggled as a leader, Gordon struggled to regain his form, and Brad struggled to settle the team into their roles. While Al Horford and Marcus Smart acted as the teams anchors, the rest of the team looked uncomfortable. Terry Rozier was an emerging star last season, but failed in running the second unit. Marcus Morris, who was the most consistent presence on the team, publicly voiced concerns regarding the teams lack of connectivity and fun.
These concerns were on display all season. When the Celtics clicked, it was beautiful, the ball movement was crisp and the defense was intense, but when it was bad, it was sloppy and borderline unwatchable. Poor body language coupled with a lack of effort on the court contributed to the rising frustration that was frequently voiced by fans and members of the media.
While the on the court issues could be masked with a winning streak or two, the off the court issues was the primary reason the Celtics found themselves in the national spotlight. At the heart of it was Kyrie Irving, whose presence was once celebrated as before the season began he verbally committed to being with the team long term, but when things went south, his attitude quickly changed. His responses to the media were hostile and pretentious, far from the leadership that he wanted to convey when he was first traded.
It was non-stop drama and it ultimately effected how the Celtics played. This was evident in the playoffs as Kyrie struggled mightily with decision making and shot selection. His body language was awful and the team had possessions where they looked away from their beleaguered star. If you watch Game 5 of the Milwaulkee series, you’ll see Kyrie gave little to no effort that was found during the regular season. It was perplexing, but if you watched the playoffs, Kyrie didn’t light up any game, instead he looked indifferent and the Celtics miraculously ended up with a first-round sweep and then after a strong performance in Game 1 of Milwaulkee, he didn’t show up for the rest of the series.
Kyrie shouldn’t be blamed for all of the troubles, but as the self-proclaimed leader, he needed to set the example for everyone else. This was a team with Championship expectations that squandered the opportunity because of their individual egos. If there was any good that came of this season, it was that Marcus Smart improved as a shooter and playmaker, which helps bode well for the future.
Next season may see a vastly different Celtics team. Kyrie might find himself on a different team and a number of players may be packaged in a trade for a superstar player. Danny Ainge has his work cut out for him, but if it gets the Celtics back on track with players willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, then the fans will support whatever decision he makes.
The hunt for Banner 18 continues.