New Era of Celts Basketball Begins Tonight
TORONTO – And so it begins.
This day has been looming since June 25, the day Boston allowed Doc Rivers to head to Los Angeles.
Media Day was one thing. The first preseason game was another. But this, Opening Night in Toronto, is when it truly begins.
Tonight marks the start of a new era for the most storied franchise in the history of basketball. The Boston Celtics no longer operate under the premise of a Big Three. They’ve moved on to an intriguing era that will be led by a coaching prodigy and an all-world point guard.
Brad Stevens was tabbed as the 17th head coach of the Celtics on July 3, 2013. Ever since then, he has been working to mold his team together for this very night. Leading the team into a new period of its history is a daunting task, but the rookie head coach is eager to get things rolling in Toronto.
“I’m excited to get a chance to coach,” Stevens said on Tuesday. “I’m excited to get a chance to coach these guys and coach this team. It sounds cliché, but to me tomorrow is one of 82, and you approach it that way and you have to try to be the best you can be on those 82 nights.”
Stevens likes to look at the big picture. He talks openly about the process. The process of taking this team to the playoffs relies greatly on the return of Rajon Rondo. Boston's rehabbing point guard is the NBA’s most elite passer and this team is now his.
Rondo is currently sidelined as he rehabs from a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. That rehab, however, hasn’t hindered Rondo’s ability to lead this team into its new era of basketball.
“It’s really helpful (to have Rondo around),” said Stevens. “I’m glad he’s traveling with us and I’m glad he’s around us because he’s been very good. He was very active in practice [Tuesday] and talking and asking questions. I just think that raises everyone’s attention to a different level.”
The All-Star’s presence makes this team legitimate. He holds teammates accountable. He teaches them the nuances of the game. Without him, this team might not have the confidence and ambitions that it has.
The Celtics, from the players to the coaches to the front office, aren’t dwelling on the fact that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren’t here anymore. They’re looking forward to the future, because they believe it’s bright.
“We’re really excited,” said Avery Bradley. “We know that a lot of people count us out. As long as we work hard we can control our destiny and we know that, and we know that we’re going to have to put the work in and we’re willing to. We have a lot of young guys that want to prove everybody wrong, so that’s the key for us. Like I said, I know we can do it.“
Confidence certainly isn’t lacking for the Celtics under the leadership of Stevens and Rondo. It also doesn’t hurt that right across the city, there’s a team in another sport that is doing exactly what the C’s strive for.
“The Red Sox for the past couple of years – they’re my inspiration,” said Jeff Green, who knows that the Sox can close out the World Series tonight in Boston. “I watched them the last couple of years. Nobody would think that they’d be at the point they’re at right now with guys who just came out of nowhere and play together and are all on the same page and they’re getting the job done. Now they have a great chance to win the World Series.
“I think we’re in a similar position where we have guys that not a lot of people know. Rondo will be our Ortiz and we’ll just follow his lead. We have to go out there and play hard and give it our all.”
That’s what Boston has been doing for most of the preseason, according to Danny Ainge. Ainge has watched from his perch above the practice court as this team came together over the past four weeks.
“I think they have great spirit and great enthusiasm,” said Ainge.
He spoke more about the team moments later, saying, “Our coaches have worked extremely hard, and our players have worked hard in training camp. We’ll see against real competition how they pan out. I’m really excited for this year and for the Opening Night [Wednesday] night. It should be fun.”
That might be an understatement. Basketball is finally back. A new era is in store. Green, for one, recognizes how unique and intriguing this particular Opening Night is.
“I’m excited about Game 1, for myself, for this team, for the guys that we have and for coach Stevens,” he said. “We’re going to try to do whatever it takes to start off on the right foot.”
Whichever foot the Celtics are left standing on, we know that the first step of their new era begins at 7 p.m. tonight. Let the games begin.