After finishing with a 25-57 record last season the Boston Celtics will be looking for a dramatic improvement when the new NBA campaign gets underway next week.
Just four years removed from winning the NBA title, the famous franchise ended in twelfth spot in the Eastern Conference last season in what was Brad Stevens' first year as an NBA head coach.
With the injury status of key man Rajon Rondo overshadowing much of the offseason it is fair to say the majority of Celtics fans are not expectant of a deep playoff run this time around either.
Rondo however, currently recovering from a broken hand suffered last month, is backing the former Butler coach to bring back the good times to Boston, and believes the franchise can shock onlookers in the process.
"Even though it's a different level, he's had success at the college level," Rondo said of Stevens when speaking to David Aldridge of TNT NBA.
"I think the thing for any successful team is to buy in. He has us all believing in what his plan is. If we continue to do that, I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."
The Celtics certainly didn't look like a sleeper team as they capitulated towards the end of the last campaign, but they have at least had a solid, if not spectacular, 2014 offseason.
Adding point guard Marcus Smart and sharp shooter James Young in the draft, the Celtics will be hoping their young stars do not fall foul of a disappointing rookie year.
Still in the midst of rebuilding the Celtics also added several effective role players led by Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton but will need some good fortune if they are to truly be in the reckoning come the end of the regular-season.
Much of that good luck will revolve around Rondo himself. If the franchise decides to keep him around they will be hoping he can come back strong from an injury-hampered 12 months.
Early projections did not look good on that front. Just a few weeks back it seemed like Rondo would be out of action for the early part of the new season.
Comments from both player and coach this week however suggest the veteran point guard could suit up for the season opener against the Brooklyn Nets.
"“He won’t do any contact before the end of the week,” Stevens said, “but there’s a chance he could be cleared to do some stuff by the end of the week," said Stevens.
A fit Rondo on opening night would certainly be a boost for the Boston Celtics but there are a lot more games to be played beyond that.
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