By Patrick McAvoy ’19
In what some might say is the most anticipated season for the Boston Celtics since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2008 season, the team has yet to reach many’s expectations. The Celtics are 5-5 on the season and coming off of a heartbreaking 106-105 loss to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans Monday.
The media has already began counting on this team and are speculating about blowing up the team to rent a superstar.
Take your feet off the gas pedal. Take a step back and relax for a second.
The Celtics are 5-5 on the season and this is before four of their top players (Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford, and Jae Crowder) have been healthy at the same time. Smart missed the first three games of the season, Olynyk missed the first six, Horford has missed the last seven, and Crowder has missed the last six games.
These injuries aren’t anything to balk at. Ever since returning from injuries, Smart has been averaging 12.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 3.6 assists per game, while Olynyk has been averaging 10.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 2.3 APG. To stats nerds, like myself, these really aren’t that eye-popping, but in reality, these two are having a significant impact on the team itself. Ever since these two have entered the starting lineup, the defense has begun to become what we expected out of them. The Celtics have gone from last in the league in defensive rating to currently being 26th. This isn’t great, or where they should be, but they are also missing two of the best defenders on the team and in the league overall. The defense will be just fine.
The Celtics are still seventh in the league in points per game, which is astonishing with the amount of injuries they’ve already faced this year. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are both playing out of their minds right now and are both looking like All-Stars if they can continue to play the way they are. Both are averaging career-bests in scoring with Thomas who is averaging 26.9 PPG and Bradley at 18.5 PPG.
Before they went down with injuries, Horford and Crowder were also both putting up solid numbers with Horford averaging 12 PPG and Crowder averaging 13.5 PPG. What this means is that once the injury bug clears (potentially this Friday) this team is going to be a completely different team.
Another positive on this young season thus far has been the number three pick in last year’s draft, Jaylen Brown. He has been called on early and often since game one and hasn’t backed off since. The rookie out of California has been averaging solid numbers of a rookie at 7.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, while also having a significant influence on the defensive end and putting up highlight reel worthy dunks. Thus far he has been exactly what we expected out of him except for the fact that over the summer, he even learned how to shoot a little better. A huge positive.
Brown also had a lot on his plate when Crowder went down with injury and was forced to have his first career NBA start much sooner than expected. It also didn’t help that his first start was coming against the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, who he had the assignment of guarding for most of the night. The rook didn’t back down and had his best game of the season by scoring 19 points with 5 rebounds and keeping LeBron in check for most of the game.
Although the Celtics ferocious comeback effort ended up not being enough, this game showed what these young Celtics can do and the potential that a healthy Boston Celtics team has. Brown proved what he can do in this game and even earned the respect James who said, “I think he’s a really good talent and that’s why he was drafted so high. He’s a strong kid. You can see he knows how to play the game.”
The Boston Celtics are going to be a very good team and are poised to compete in June this season. There have been some early-season jitters but what else is there to expect? This is the Boston Celtics. This team loves making things hard on themselves but they will be fine. They will get their first chance to bounce back from the tough loss to New Orleans Wednesday night versus the Dallas Mavericks. Jae Crowder is out Wednesday night, but Al Horford may be making his return from his concussion. If he does not return against the Mavericks, it is almost certain that both him and Crowder will return Friday night when the NBA-villains, Golden State Warriors, come to town. What a perfect game to return from injury to. Today might be a very good time to hop on the Celtics bandwagon before they take down Golden State Friday night at the Garden.