The first domino fell when the Boston Celtics traded coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first-round pick. The next domino fell when Boston agreed to send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for a package of players and three future first-round draft picks in the blockbuster NBA draft night deal. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
What shouldn’t be surprising is Boston rebounding quickly. With the right moves, Boston could return to the playoffs by 2015 and be a young team on the rise.
Boston has a chance to bounce back quickly because the Eastern Conference is weak. Certainly Miami and Indiana are the cream of the conference. Chicago should be a threat again with Derrick Rose back.
The Nets will be in the mix with Garnett and Pierce joining Brooklyn’s starting lineup. Along with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, Brooklyn arguably will have the best starting lineup in the league.
As for the other playoff teams, New York struggled to defeat a severely short-handed Celtics team in the playoffs and then were dispatched by the Pacers; Al Horford is the only starter out of seven players under contract on Atlanta; Milwaukee is rebuilding.
Though Pierce Garnett and Terry are no longer with Boston, the Celtics still have talented players on the team. Rajon Rondo should return to being one of the best point guards in the league once fully recovered from surgery to repair a partially torn ACL. The rugged Jared Sullinger worked his way into the starting lineup before his back flared up and required surgery. He has the potential to average a double-double. Jeff Green was Boston’s most productive player in the playoffs, averaging 20.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. Avery Bradley is one of the best defenders in the league.
|Celtics Projected Depth Chart|
Marshon Brooks ||Avery Bradley||Courtney Lee||Jordan Crawford||Keith Bogans|
|SF||Jeff Green ||Gerald Wallace||Kris Joseph|
|PF||Jared Sullinger ||Brandon Bass||Shavlik Randolph||D.J. White||Kris Humphries|
|C||Kelly Olynyk ||Fab Melo||Colton Iverson|
Joining them are MarShon Brooks as part of the Celtics-Nets trade and rookies Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson. On paper, Boston is younger and deeper than last year. Against a bad East, Boston shouldn’t fall too far from their 41-40 2012-13 regular-season record.
Being mediocre isn’t the goal for Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. With strategic rest for key players, Ainge hopes to position the Celtics for the best opportunity to land a top selection in the 2014 draft lottery.
Add a stud prospect to the foundation and Boston has a very good chance to begin rebounding by 2014-15. As a team and individually, they will be inspired and will restore the Celtics name and their reputations.
Sullinger has to prove he’s not damaged goods. Green has to show he has the killer instinct to be Boston’s top scorer. Bradley must shore up his inadequate point guard skills that were exposed in the playoffs.
No one has more to prove than Rondo. If he was to wear all the negative labels that he has picked up throughout his career, Rondo would look like a NASCAR driver:
Coach killer. Ball hog. Stats hound. Stubborn. Mercurial. Team cancer. Not a franchise player.
Maybe none hurts more than the last one for the confident Rondo. The only way for Rondo to shed the labels is to be on his best behavior and pour his emotions into his play.
Whoever the next coach is, Rondo must work harmoniously with him. He can’t let his emotions get the best of him. Rondo must set the example for his teammates.
Most importantly, Rondo must remain positive during the rebuilding season. The 2013-14 season won’t be pretty and Rondo can’t get depressed or lash out at his teammates. He must remain optimistic and provide positive reinforcement, knowing that it’s up to him to get the most out of his teammates. Based on Rondo’s previous immature behavior, it will be the toughest challenge Rondo faces in his career.
Boston’s holdovers should have enough chips on their shoulders to open a casino. If Rivers’ abandonment wasn’t enough, they have plenty to prove to doubters.
Silencing those doubters shouldn’t take long. By 2015, the Celtics should be a playoff team. And if the additional draft selections are used right, Boston could have a young team with the potential to compete for multiple championships for a long time.
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