No Kyrie, No Problem: The New Look Celtics Are Back

Jack Cote, Sports Editor

A new year, same expectations. The Boston Celtics look to capture their 18th championship. They have had a strong start to the 2019-20 season, finding themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings. The expectations heading into the 2019-20 season didn’t change from the previous season, or the season before that, because in Boston, and being a part of the Boston fanbase, they expect championships. 

Last year’s team had more than enough talent to win it all, but locker room issues prevented the team from reaching its full potential. A big factor, both on and off the court, was all-star point guard, and NBA champion, Kyrie Irving. After the Celtics traded away fan favorite, Isaiah Thomas, to acquire Irving, things didn’t go as planned. 

In Irving’s first year with the team, the former Cavalier was putting up MVP numbers. A recurring knee injury sidelined Kyrie for the whole second half of the season, including Boston’s hopeful playoff run. Thankfully, Terry Rozier, a third-year point guard out of the University of Louisville, was able to step into a starting role and produce at an all-star level immediately. Rozier, as well as young forwards, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, were the core of the young Celtics lineup that eventually was knocked out of the playoffs in game 7 by Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Being one game shy of making it to the NBA finals, the Celtics knew that with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy, they were the favorites.

Fast forward a year, the 2018-19 NBA season, a season that was predicted as the next Celtics championship season. The Celtics were heavy favorites after Lebron James, the dominant king of the East, left for the West to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Not so fast Boston. Unfortunately, young talents, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier were so successful in last year’s playoff run, that there wasn’t enough room on the court to feed everyone. It was a good problem to have in the eyes of head coach Brad Stevens, but challenging decisions, regarding the offense, were ahead for the former Butler coach. 

As the season aged, drama sparked in the locker room, and everything fell apart. Reports of players being unhappy, were all because of THE Kyrie Irving. It became clear to the fans of Celtic nation that Kyrie Irving wanted to be playing for another franchise, the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks, the first seed in the East, led by MVP Giannis Antetokumpo. A disappointing season for the Celtics, but a season that all Celtics supporters knew needed to end rapidly because of the hatred between teammates in the locker room. 

A long-awaited offseason for all teams in the NBA, but especially the Boston Celtics, was the most entertaining offseason in NBA history. Some of the most well known NBA players of today’s game were moving on to different franchises. Kemba Walker, a former Uconn Husky, and Charlotte Hornets point guard for the beginning of his NBA career, was a free agent and ready to move to a winning culture. Boston was in need of a point guard after Kyrie Irving decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. This was an easy decision for Kemba to join the Celtics, and help the team get back to its fun, and entertaining winning ways. 

Kyrie Irving wasn’t the only player the Celtics lost this offseason. Centers, Aron Baynes and Al Horford, two of the most beloved Celtic players of the decade, were moving onto different franchises. As the Celtics inch up on the midway point of the 2019-20 season, it’s safe to say that the one piece they are missing is the center position. During the offseason, they were able to acquire Enes Kanter, a solid offensive force, but Kanter is no Al Horford when it comes to the pick and pop of the ball screen. These two big men, never shy of the big moment, will always be remembered. But it was time to move on, the Celtics would need to find a way to compete without Baynes and Horford. 

Heading into the 2019-20 season the Celtics were on a revenge tour. Now that Kyrie Irving was out of sight, it was time for Jayson Tatum, a third-year forward out of Duke University, to show the basketball world what he can do as the go-to guy. The Celtics weren’t shown in the pre-season discussions to be the heavy favorite that they normally are. Competition in the East and West are finally back to normal, after 5 years of dominance from the Golden State Warrior super team. 

At the end of the day, when a team has as much talent as the Celtics do, not winning it all should be considered a disappointing season. 

When reviewing the NBA to make predictions about the outcome of the entire season, think about this. Do the Celtics have the talent to win the NBA finals? Yes. 

How’s the fanbase? The Celtics fanbase is the best fanbase in the world and Boston Sports have been leading that category for quite a long time. 

Where does the front office stand among all other front offices in the league? Danny Ainge is a genius, who flipped a horrific, and old Celtics team, to a contending roster for the next decade. Brad Stevens is the best coach when you need to get one bucket at the end of the game. 

These three questions are the three most important categories for any NBA franchise. The Boston Celtics are on their way to an 18th title. The road to that 18th championship won’t be easy, because of all the talent in the league this year, but this Celtics team has what it takes to shock the world and take over the NBA.