If you search hard enough, you’ll always be able to find a silver lining.
Fortunately for the Boston Celtics, though, they didn’t need to search too hard. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum made sure of it.
As the Celts head toward a Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, they’ll have the good fortunate of doing so knowing that their future is brighter than the headlights on a brand new 5-series BMW.
Indeed, in every injury lies opportunity for a young player looking to make a name for himself and prove his chops. Just ask Quinn Cook.
Then ask yourself whether Brown, Tatum and Terry Rozier are not among the finest examples of young players who have made the most of the opportunities that circumstances have given them.
Somehow, it seems that good fortune always seems to find the Celtics. While it wouldn’t be fair to call the drafting of Rozier, Smart, Brown or Tatum “lucky,” the way things have broken in Boston couldn’t have been more well-timed.
The club signed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward and then used a few of the treasure trove of assets they got from the Brooklyn Nets to trade for Kyrie Irving. Over the years, other timely trades—including one for Jeff Green—vested picks that came to lay the foundation of the club’s rotation. Unfortunate injuries to Hayward and then Irving opened the door for those foundational pieces to prove what they’ve got, and they have passed with flying colors.
Meanwhile, a number of impact players—Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins, to name a few—might be in search of new scenery this summer.
With their rich tradition, the overall competence exhibited by Danny Ainge and his front office and Irving, the Celtics have a rare combination of just about everything any player in their right mind would want. The only thing missing is great weather year round, but the summer in Boston is pretty nice. Playing into June would probably make up for the parkas and snow shovels that would have to be employed during most months of the year.
While the Philadelphia 76ers have tantalized everyone and have become the best story in basketball, the Toronto Raptors have admirably built a culture and cohesion that teams in today’s NBA rarely have the opportunity to do. Above them all, though, sit the Celtics. And if there’s one thing that they’ve shown us thus far this season, it’s that they’re a team that should be taken quite seriously, especially considering the fact that they’ve been playing without some of the most important pieces of their rotation.
As Marcus Smart enters restricted free agency this summer, the Celtics will have some important decisions to make. Among them will be whether to marry themselves to the core of players they currently employ or try to package a few of their parts with some of the first round pick credits they have in an attempt to trade three dimes for one quarter, just like they did with Irving.
Currently, the Celtics are owed a first round pick from the Lakers, one from the Grizzlies and one from the Clippers. Those picks are all likely to vest as first round picks within the next two years, and certainly will be enticing to a team (such as the Spurs) that may be willing to trade away a valuable piece.
Rozier and Smart excelling with the opportunities they’ve been given only makes them more attractive chips. Although the same can be said of Brown and Tatum, it’s not known whether the Celtics would entertain trading either after they’ve done so well with the opportunity they’ve been given. In any other year, Tatum would have gotten more consideration as a Rookie of the Year candidate, and Brown has proven himself to be a star in the making.
Amazingly for Danny Ainge, the timing of their thriving wouldn’t have been more perfectly timed.
* * * * * *
As the Celtics head toward a Game 7 battle with the Milwaukee Bucks, their ability to persevere in the face of adversity shouldn’t be underestimated.
Sure, we’re witnessing the coming of age of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but, as a team, the Celtics have some traits that money simply can’t buy.
A confluence of events have made the Raptors look like the team to beat out East and the eventual champion of the conference. For the sake of those who believe in organically grown programs and the allowing of chemistry and culture to ferment, the Northerners are another one of basketball’s remarkable stories.
But the Raptors would be wise to not squander their opportunity. Because Boston is coming.
They’re already pretty good now, and although none of us know what’s coming next—whether it be retaining their core in full or swinging for the fences—by now, we should all know that it’s gonna be pretty good.
Win or lose, for these Celtics, Saturday’s Game 7 against the Bucks is really just the beginning.
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