The Boston Celtics have had a relatively quiet summer in terms of their offseason dealings but they’re still in a terrific position to compete for a championship next season.
LeBron James’ decision to depart the Eastern Conference has firmly opened the door for the C’s to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Aside from re-signing Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) and Aron Baynes (two years, $10m), they haven’t done much to bolster their squad but they really didn’t need to.
Despite having a young and largely inexperienced roster, their talent is unquestionable, which is why they’re considered the favourites to win the east.
With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning from injury, expectations are high in Beantown.
Like new signings
Boston reached the conference finals last year without the services of Irving and Hayward and seeing them get back to full health is the one major boost they needed this offseason.
The latter, in particular, will feel like a new signing as he was cruelly injured just six minutes into his debut.
The former Utah Jazz star has endured a long and tough road to recovery but general manager Danny Ainge revealed this week that he, along with Kyrie, will be at “full speed” for training camp.
“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.
“It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves.
“They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26].”
Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery in April which forced him to miss the entire postseason after an impressive campaign leading the young Celtics group.
With or without LeBron in the conference, the Celts were always going to be considered the best team in the east due to the quality of their roster.
It’s not just fans in Boston who are excited for the season ahead, there is real optimism within the team too as they expect to achieve big things.
Point guard Terry Rozier recently declared that they can be “truly special”.
“We can be special. Truly special,” Rozier said, according to Forsberg. “I think you know that. I think everybody knows that.
“Obviously, we [are] good on paper, we just gotta get it together and make sure everybody comes in and has that same mindset. But I feel like it’s going to be a special group.”
Young shooting guard Jaylen Brown took it a step further earlier this month when he made the bold promise that they’ll make the finals.
“Oh, we’re getting to the Finals. No question about it,” he said in an appearance on CJ McCollum’s ‘Pull Up’ podcast.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if we’re the favourites in the East or we’re predicted to win 10 games in the East. We’ve got to come out and play. It’s simple.”
There is real confidence in the Celtics camp and they have every reason to be as they fell just one win short of competing for the title last year without their All-Star duo.
Pulling in the same direction
With so many talented players to choose from, head coach Brad Stevens could have lineup dilemmas and an issue dealing with egos.
But luckily for him, it appears that everybody is pulling in the same direction with winning being the only focus.
Rozier, who had a breakout playoff campaign filling in for Irving, is prepared to return to the bench for the good of the team and not push for a starting place.
“I’m not worried about [his role],” Rozier said. “Kinda control what I can control. We all got one goal, and that’s to win. We all get love when we win.
“That should be everybody’s mindset. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“If you want to win a championship, that’s what it’s going to take — sacrifice. … We’re all going to have one goal, and it’s going to lead us to the promised land.”
Another player who may potentially be forced to make a sacrifice is Jayson Tatum, who produced an impressive rookie season.
With Hayward likely to be the starting small forward, he could possibly be asked to come off the bench to boost the firepower in the second unit.
Like Rozier, he sees winning as the most important thing and will do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.
“I understand how deep our team is,” he said, per CBS Sports. “I just care about winning and doing what I can while I’m on the floor.”
“Everybody has a job to do. Our job is to be the best versions of ourselves and come together for a bigger goal, which is winning a championship.
“Brad’s job is to manage playing time and manage all sorts of stuff. That’s why he’s the coach.
“We got a bunch of selfless guys on the team that just want to win. We’ll figure it out.”
With the entire organisation on the same page, everything is in place for the Celtics to compete for the big prize once again.