Although the Boston Celtics lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on their home court, they have a lot to be proud of.
Losing All-Star Gordon Hayward just minutes into the season opener and then All-Star Kyrie Irving midway through the campaign, Al Horford and the team’s young core rose to the occasion and showed the NBA community what true team basketball looks like.
Under the guidance of stellar head coach Brad Stevens, they gave LeBron James a run for his money and nearly advanced to the NBA Finals. Considering the fact that many analysts doubted that the shorthanded Celtics would get past the first round, it was an amazing effort to get as far as they did.
“It was pretty incredible run by an incredible group of guys, and an absolute pleasure and privilege to be around them every day,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Sunday’s loss, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports.
“I talked about how the pain is part of the path," the coach added. "We've been really fortunate to continuously get better the last couple of years and put ourselves in better positions. But when it ends it's painful, that is part of the path. And so we have to let it motivate us.”
Although the Finals matchup between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will take place, the focus in Boston is already on next season.
Luckily, the Celtics will most likely be getting Irving and Hayward back healthy in the fall. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Horford, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis, Terry Rozier, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele and Abdel Nader are all slated to return and are under contract.
Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe are going to be unrestricted free agents. Baynes is the only one of the three that played a prominent role. Depending on the salary that he demands, he could return, but it’s worth noting that the Celtics don’t have any cap space.
The main question mark is Marcus Smart. Since he and the Celtics couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension before this season started, he will be a restricted free agent. Given his defensive abilities, many teams will likely be interested in signing him to a lucrative offer sheet. That could lead to a tough decision for Boston, who will have the opportunity to match any deal that Smart is offered by another club.
Despite Smart’s potential exit and Baynes’ free agency, it seems as though the rest of the team will almost certainly stay in tact, given the comments of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge on Monday.
Trusting the core
“You just don’t know what opportunities present themselves,” Ainge told reporters. “But I like this group of guys, and we’re not looking to make changes other than just small tweaks here and there to our roster. We really do like this core group of guys, and we have all year.”
Therefore, it’s clear that the Celtics will look to grow from their incredible success together. Since the young core clearly developed a great deal of chemistry as the season rolled on, Ainge and Boston’s front office doesn’t want to disrupt it.
While the situation could definitely change with one phone call, the Celtics’ plan is crystal-clear at the moment.News Now - Sport News