2019-20 Previews: Boston Celtics

Losses: Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, Guerschon Yabusele.

Additions: Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards.

Likely Starters
Guard: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart
Wing: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (Gordon Hayward?)
Big: Enes Kanter 

Predicted Record: 51–32 | 6th in NBA* | 3rd in East

Love. Who can know its mysterious corridors, its secret, locked rooms, its vaulted chambers full of light and fragrant air? Just when it seems most familiar, it changes again. You’re dreaming of a future with Kyrie Irving and some even better, as-yet-to-be-named superstar, and then one day he feels differently, and then you feel differently, and one dream turns into another. It’s a different future, but it’s in the future, so you don’t have to do anything differently in the present. Or anyway, you can’t. It’s all in your mind. Isn’t that strange?

It has been a weird couple of years for those of us who love the Celtics. We had a glorious future ahead of us, full of possibilities, and over time those possibilities eroded into a clearer present moment. That’s how time works. Every day you live is a day in which you could have done something else and didn’t. You did what you did, and having been done that, the doing becomes a solidified past; and since you are going to die someday, every day the future gets a little smaller, a little more narrowed down.

And so all those possibilities—all those hypothetical trade packages for Anthony Davis, Mike Conley, etc.—have become a core of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward. There are some more future assets—that pending pick from the Memphis Grizzlies still looms large—but fewer than there had been. Any growth that happens is likely going to be internal.

What that means, more than anything, is that this team is going to go as far as Jayson Tatum can take them. That’s a scary thought if you are a C’s fan. Tatum seems to be largely getting a free pass for last season. Specifically, it is alarming that he went from getting to the line with some regularity as a rookie to getting there hardly at all. He didn’t compete; he didn’t improve. Still, you can see the talent. It’s right there, on the surface.

On the other hand, there’s a comfort in knowing what you’ve got. For the first time in a few years, I know what I’m rooting for as a Celtics fan. I’m not focused on trades or on salary cap mechanics. My thoughts are all about basketball.

Last night, the C’s played their first preseason game against the woeful Charlotte Hornets. The C’s eked out a win despite their starters all finishing with negatives in the plus/minus column. Still, I found myself thinking about player development and strategy. Robert Williams was really hitting people as opposed to slipping screens. Jaylen Brown was using his strength to bully his way to the rim and finishing with control when he got there. The C’s struggled when Charlotte blitzed their high pick-and-rolls, and then, especially with Carsen Edwards in the game, they ran some stuff to adjust. In previous years, I might have been thinking: who cares? All of this is moot until we trade for AD. Things are different now. I’m living in the moment with this team.

Of course, it remains to be seen how good they’ll be. The frontcourt defense is a joke. There’s still a logjam at the forward spots, and possibly too many mouths to feed on offense. Jaylen Brown is playing for a new contract, and that’s going to get complicated if he feels marginalized. Nevertheless, I love the C’s, and for the first time in a while, I know who they are. They’re not going to win the championship, but they’re going to play basketball. It’s gonna be great.

*I know the C’s aren’t better than the Warriors or the Rockets, but playing in the East this year is a major boon to a projected win total.

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