It’s not all bad news in Boston
New Orleans Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez, left, and Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9). AP Photo/Elise Amendola
The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA’s landmark teams, a cornerstone in terms of brand and performance record.
With 17 NBA Championships – the most of any team in the league – the Celtics are a universally respected organisation.
But the 2013/14 season is shaping as a challenging one.
The C’s are entering the definition of a rebuilding phase. The departure of superstar duo Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets this past off-season has left a dint.
Let’s not talk about Ray Allen taking his talents to South Beach last season. The Boston Big Three are now just a fond memory for Celtics Nation.
Rajon Rondo remains, but there’s still no date for his return from a serious knee injury. A pass-first maverick at the point, he’ll add an instant and much needed injection of proven class and experience.
With all of that said, I want to be very clear – this season won’t be all doom and gloom for those who bleed green.
Despite a zip-and-four start, these young Celtics outfit are not easy beats. They’ll make opposing teams earn the ‘W’.
The general lack of expectation surrounding the 2013/14 Celtics could be a blessing. They are young, athletic and ready to play.
First-year head coach Brad Stevens brings ‘college style’ energy to Beantown, not unlike Seattle Seahawks evergreen Pete Carroll in the NFL.
Stevens almost looks like he could pull on the green and white and step onto the floor himself.
It’s not just a fresh-faced coach for C’s fans to get excited about. There’s plenty to look for on the court as the season progresses.
Pre-season was all about first-round Gonzaga pick Kelly Olynyk, an athletic seven-foot scorer with great athleticism and length.
The big surprise has been rookie center Vitor Faverani. The 25-year-old Brazilian was scouted from the Spanish Leagues and has played pro ball since he was 15.
His early season performances have pundits asking how he slipped through the system until now. Blocking shots and snaring rebounds are his game, but the big man has a mean stroke from outside the perimeter.
He ranks first among rookies for blocks (2.8 per game) and rebounds (7.3 per game) and fourth in points (9.5 per game).
But Olynyk is there and thereabouts. He’s only 22 and is coming off the bench, unlike Faverani, who has started the first four games in the middle. Give Kelly time, sports fans.
Second-year power forward Jared Sullinger was raw in the early days, but is quickly becoming a strong performer off the pine. His big body makes him a menace on the boards even against taller opposition.
Of the Celtics’ established talent, this is the year for Jeff Green to prove himself as an elite player in the league.
Having played second fiddle to the likes of Kevin Durant and Pierce in his career, it’s time for him to be number one – physically, through consistently high-level performance, and mentally.
He’s started the year inconsistently, but he’s working into a new role as team leader. Having managed just seven points against the Pistons at the weekend, he’s learned a lesson.
You won’t see him score less than 10 points in a game for the rest of the season. I’m calling that now.
Avery Bradley has provided a more than acceptable option at guard in the absence of Rondo. His defensive prowess and ability to create turnovers have and will continue to be invaluable.
Former Washington Wizard Jordan Crawford is an aggressive scoring machine. Be it a pull-up jumper from three feet outside the arc or a running three-on-one circus shot, the man can get it in the hoop and that’s cool to watch.
My tip for unlikeliest hero through this tough season is Phil Pressey. The 5’11” guard has been backing up Bradley for a few minutes here and there, but he’ll get more time as we get deeper into the schedule.
Pressey was solid in the pre-season, coming heartbreakingly close to single-handedly leading the Celtics to a come from behind win over the Knicks.
Keep an eye out for the 22-year-old out of Missouri; at the very least he’s got an awesome name.
Yes, it’s going to be a long year and yes, Celtics fans may need to prepare themselves for a smaller number in the ‘W’ column. C’s Nation may as well find some positives.
The above are just some of the things the Celtics faithful can look forward to. Remember that farm of high draft picks you guys are sitting on?