By Nick Mulligan
The Celtics have been a premier franchise in the NBA over the past few years and have seen tremendous success since trading for superstar Kyrie Irving. Danny Ainge, the current general manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics, has been given the nickname, “Trader Danny,” as he has made numerous risky trades over the past decade, one being the Kevin Garnett trade that helped the Celtics a championship in 2008. His aggressiveness has shown to be worth it, as the Celtics have some of the brightest young talent in the NBA, as well as, current assets that should make them a top team this season. After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last year without two of their stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics had high expectations coming into this year and were pegged by many as the favorite to reach the NBA Finals where they were expected to compete with the Golden State Warriors.
This season, the Celtics have not met these high expectations so far, sitting on a 7-5 record and losing three of their last four games. Last year, the Celtics had the top defense in the NBA, as their coach, Brad Stevens, is an excellent defensive coach and they have elite athletes who make a point to stop teams from scoring. This season, however, their defense has posed as their greatest area of concern because they have given up at least 100 points in their past six games.
The Celtics returned a bulk of their roster from last year and a few Celtics have spoken out regarding these defensive problems. After the loss to the Utah Jazz, veteran guard Marcus Smart said, “We’re letting guys that we know are going to do certain things do those things. That’s a slap across Brad’s face and this coaching staff who spends countless hours, countless days, preparing us and giving us the tools that we need to go out there and to cut that off.”
With a team that returned majority of their roster with much of the same personnel, this should not be the case for this Celtics team. Gordon Hayward, who signed a max contract with the Celtics last summer, is working his way back into the rotation after missing last season due to an ankle injury. The team is working to develop chemistry with Hayward as he played only seven minutes last season and is now playing regular minutes and is in the starting lineup. Many expect the Celtics to figure out their defensive problems, as they have an outstanding coach who has countless capable players and slow starts have not been uncommon for this team. They have three all-stars and the most promising young player in the league in Jayson Tatum, who many expect to develop into a star. It will be interesting to see how, and when, the chemistry develops with this Celtics team, but fans are hopeful they will figure it out soon and be able to reach the NBA Finals come June.