Who would have thought that twenty-two games into the regular season that the new look Boston Celtics would be leading the Atlantic Division while sitting comfortably in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference? There is a good chance that not many fans would have predicted this team, who was supposed to be tanking for a high draft pick, would be playing like a playoff contender in the past few games. What’s even more surprising is that Boston is accomplishing all this without their star point guard Rajon Rondo, and are playing like a team who has been together for years.
In the last two games the Celtics have started the first quarter very well, scoring the first 14 points of the game against the Denver Nuggets, and then two days later throwing the first punch in New York to lead by 23 going into the second quarter. Over the past two seasons, Boston struggled in the first half, finding it difficult to start a game on a good note. So far that hasn’t been a problem for Brad Stevens’ team who has been dominating offensively as of late. Every player is making a contribution and getting involved early, which sets the tone later on in the second half. It has been a pleasant surprise, but something no one expected from a young team looking for an identity.
What makes this young, vibrant team so dangerous and unpredictable is that it isn’t one player carrying the load. On a nightly basis this season there have been three to six players scoring in double figures, making the opponent’s defense have to worry about all five starters. Jordan Crawford has evolved into an offensive threat, playing more under control this year (if that’s possible) than he has his entire career. In the front court, Jared Sullinger is proving to be the steal of the 2012 draft, while Brandon Bass has become a solid player on both ends of the floor for this team. Avery Bradley continues to get better every game, becoming a threat on offense in Brad Stevens’ system, and continuously playing stifling defense against his opponents. Lastly, Jeff Green appears to have settled in a role as the long, athletic forward who causes matchup nightmares for the defense, and is finally playing the type of offensive game that suits his body by being aggressive and taking the ball to the hoop.
All the pieces are in place for this team. They’re beginning to believe in themselves and are realizing how good they can become. The talent is there and Brad Stevens is slowly but surely building a winning team with the pieces he has. When Stevens was first hired as head coach, many questioned how he could transition from the college level to the NBA. But a quarter of the way into the season, Danny Ainge might need to promote him to being a part of the front office as well. It’s very early into the season and Stevens career, but unlike in the latter days of the Doc Rivers era, the team is listening to the coach, buying into his system, and proving everyone wrong game in and game out.
In the midst of the Big Three era, we all forgot how Celtics teams were built in the past. Concerns remain pertaining to the lack of a superstar on the roster, but the teams of the 60′s and 70′s didn’t have a superstar per say. Red Auerbach believed in the team instead of the individuals, and this is exactly what we’re seeing with the 2013 Celtics team. They play for each other, the extra passes, the hustle plays, the help defense, and the fine tuned offense is showing that this is a real team, something that has been lost since the 2009 season. What we’re witnessing is the new era of the Boston Celtics, the new way of how this organization is presenting itself. It was apparent early on that the Celtics felt that the old traditions needed to return, and with legends such as Dave Cowens and former players like Walter McCarty being a part of this team, Celtics Pride is returning.
The Big Three era was great, and it revitalized a storied franchise that needed to win sooner rather than later. The Celtics of 2013 are pulling off something no one expected, creating their own reputation instead of living off of the identity of the 2008 team. Twenty-two games into the regular season, and it could be said that Brad Stevens arrival in Boston may be the greatest thing that has happened to this team in 40 plus years.