This year’s Boston Celtics are many things, but the words “contender,” “stability,” and “expected,” do not apply to this year’s team. In order to survive this year’s NBA season, here are a few possibilities for Celtics fans to consider:
- Believe in the lottery. Even if the Celtics win more games than Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando and Utah, they could still win the lottery. Over the last ten years, the average lottery winner had only a 10% chance of winning the lottery. By comparison, the team with the worst record is given a 25% chance of winning. As long as the Celtics win less than 26 games or so, they should be in the bottom 6. Don’t forget that this draft is not just about Wiggins. It’s possible that the top 5 or 6 picks can be legitimate future cornerstones of a franchise. Bookmark this page: http://www.draftexpress.com/nba-mock-draft/2014/ 6’6″ shooting guard Dante Exum, aka The Inferno, gets me excited. From all descriptions, if he continues to develop his outside shot, he could become the next Paul George.
- Rondo’s absence means the Celtics should rack up losses, which is a blessing in not-so-subtle-disguise. It also means they can legitimately try and win games and build a new culture and chemistry when Rondo returns. With such a busy November schedule (19 games) and a more relaxed December calendar (13 games, including only 6 games over the last 18 days of the month), it seems likely that Ainge, Stevens, and Rondo have internally discussed it’s best for the team if he miss somewhere between 25 and 30 games. Best case scenario: the Celtics go 1-24 without Rondo (for Stevens’ morale they need at least one win), and then go 24-33 with Rondo. Game 26 is December 16, when Minnesota visits the Garden.
- Until Rondo returns, only watch Celtics games for three quarters. Save yourself from the agony of acknowledging the losses. Watch to see how Stevens patrols the sidelines, and to see the developing players develop. Remember, a loss is a win and a win is not exactly a win. Ideal scenarios: the Celtics play great defense and lose close games. Creating a culture of good basketball habits with such young players is the most important thing. The fact that the Celtics won’t be able to score will show up when good teams decide to turn up the defense in the second half. By eliminating the fourth quarter, you don’t have to fully absorb just how woeful the offense will be without Rondo.
- Pick one of the following five teams to follow closely in 2013-14: Golden State, Brooklyn, Washington, Minnesota, or New Orleans. Each of these teams offers great reasons to temporarily root for. Golden State has Stephen Curry, whose electrifying shooting can make any game exciting. The Warriors have all the pieces to contend in the Western Conference, and will be shown on national television 27 times this season (set your DVRs for those west coast games). Rooting for Brooklyn means the complications of seeing Garnett and Pierce in a new uniform, and accepting the change. Rip off the band-aid, as painful as it might be. For this year only, we can cheer wholeheartedly for KG and Pierce to take down the Heat and the Knicks. Andrei Kirilenko’s defense is also fun to watch. The Brooklyn Celtics? Yes. Washington and Minnesota fall strictly into the “underdog” column. With mesmerizing point guards (Wall and Rubio) both teams will be fun to watch. And both have hopes of making the playoffs. Each regular season win will mean more to the Wizards and Wolves than to most other teams. Why not cheer for them? New Orleans has a collection of young and talented pieces (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon) and will be starting former Celtic Greg Stiemsma. A team of Pelicans will be teetering on the edge of the playoff picture as well. If you’re feeling especially obsessive, root for all five of these teams, in addition to following the beloved Celtics.
- When watching the Celtics, cover the score and watch for little things. Instead of focusing on the score, you might cover the place where the score shows up (the bottom corner of your television/laptop) with a piece of dark paper. Instead of watching the score, watch for the progress of these things: Avery Bradley’s passing, Kelly Olynyk’s rebounding, Jared Sullinger’s shooting, and everything about Vitor Faverani. Over/under for Tommy points for Faverani: 150.
- Count down the days until the draft lottery. June 5 is only seven months and two weeks away.
- Enjoy a year away from serious basketball obsession. Read. Away from the internet. Remind yourself that there is a bigger world out there than the sports world. Or, if you prefer to stick to roundball, read about basketball history, culture, and the impact of hoops on society.
Here are a few hoops-related books to dive into:
FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball.
The history of basketball has always belonged to champions like the Celtics, the Lakers, and the Bulls. Yet the game’s history cuts much deeper than that. The bottom line, the record books and retired jerseys, can never fully do justice to this wild, chaotic, and energetic game.
King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, by Aram Goudsouzian
Bill Russell was not the first African American to play professional basketball, but he was its first black superstar. From the moment he stepped onto the court of the Boston Garden in 1956, Russell began to transform the sport in a fundamental way, making him, more than any of his contemporaries, the Jackie Robinson of basketball.
Forty Million Dollar Slaves, by William C. Rhoden
From Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe, African American athletes have been at the center of modern culture, their on-the-field heroics admired and stratospheric earnings envied. But for all their money, fame, and achievement, says New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden, black athletes still find themselves on the periphery of true power in the multibillion-dollar industry their talent built.
Every advance made by black athletes, Rhoden explains, has been met with a knee-jerk backlash—one example being Major League Baseball’s integration of the sport, which stripped the black-controlled Negro League of its talent and left it to founder. He details the “conveyor belt” that brings kids from inner cities and small towns to big-time programs, where they’re cut off from their roots and exploited by team owners, sports agents, and the media. He also sets his sights on athletes like Michael Jordan, who he says have abdicated their responsibility to the community with an apathy that borders on treason.
Play Their Hearts Out, by George Dohrmann
Eight years of unfettered access, a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths, and a genuine compassion for his subject allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars. Hoop dreams aren’t just for players. The fever that grips college basketball prospects hoping to strike big-time NBA gold afflicts coaches, parents, and sneaker executives as well. Every one of them has a stake in keeping America’s wildly dysfunctional, incredibly lucrative youth basketball machine up and running—no matter the consequences.
Pacific Rims: Beerman Ballin’ in Flip-Flops and the Philippines’ Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball by Rafe Bartholomew
Welcome to the Philippines, where the men are five foot five, the everyman’s Air Jordans are a pair of flip-flops, and the rhythm of life is punctuated by the bouncing of a basketball.
Contact Jonah Hall at email@example.com. Twitter @darkoindex