The first year of being in rebuilding mode generally is the worst part without any clear-cut direction most teams go through. The Celtics are looking for a brighter 2014-15 season with a well-rounded head coach, a savvy front office and a healthy Rajon Rondo playing the full season without any restrictions. The Celtics finished last season with a 25-47 record and tied with the Utah Jazz for the 4th worst record in the NBA. Despite the poor record, the Celtics were still being competitive every game and are showing signs of great promise.
Rajon Rondo returned from his ACL injury last January and still put up solid numbers despite he was on minutes restriction and couldn’t play the 2nd game of back-to-back nights. Rondo averaged 11.7 points and 9.8 assists per game in 30 games played last season. If he played enough games to qualify, Rondo would’ve ended last season 2nd in the NBA in assists per game. Additionally, his supporting cast in Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger took big strides to improve their game last season as well.
Brad Stevens will have his hands full in now trying even harder to push for the playoffs this season with some new faces and higher expectations, but I still believe that it’s not out of the question and the Celtics can have a really strong season this year. I’m very excited for the upcoming basketball season and I’ve come down with a list of games that I’m most looking forward to seeing.
For the first time in since the 2010-11 season, the Celtics will play their opening game of the regular season at home against the Brooklyn Nets after spending their last few years opening the season north of the border in Toronto. Last season, the Celtics had to wait until late January to face the Brooklyn Nets at the Garden for the epic return of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. This year, we won’t have to wait as long assuming Kevin Garnett returns to the Nets this season. Recently acquired Marcus Thornton will face his old team in a Celtics uniform as well on the season opener.
Who doesn’t like a Boston-New York rivalry in the northeast? I sure love that rivalry no matter what the sport is. On December 12th, the Celtics will host the New York Knicks at the Garden. Although both franchises have struggled last season, they will both be better now that Carmelo Anthony decided to return to the Knicks. The two teams will likely be jockeying for the playoffs come February and March, so expect both teams to be competitive early on.
On December 7th, the Washington Wizards will make their only visit to Boston this season in a matinee showdown. I personally feel that the Wizards are capable of being the top team in the east this season challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. It will be an exciting matchup of the duo guards in Rajon Rondo-Avery Bradley versus John Wall-Bradley Beal combinations in that game. Paul Pierce will be returning to Boston as well in his 3rd teams uniform and will have another emotional return without question. Kris Humphries will make his return to Boston as well, but expected to be coming off the bench.
The Celtics aren’t given a fair chance to hang Banner 18 this season and only 6 teams have a worse chance to win the championship heading into the season. Winning one game at a time is going to be more important for the Celtics this season rather than jumping into the mindset of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. Head coach Brad Stevens discussed the challenges of balancing winning and developing players at the same time:
“I mean everything’s better when you win. The plane ride is better, the food tastes better, everything. And losing is miserable. There’s no two ways around it. But at the same time, it is also fun to see progress. You can’t always see it day-to-day. You can’t always measure it day-to-day. But you can feel it when it’s happening, and when you take a step back and watch, I feel like we’re making good strides.”
The positive outlook is that the Celtics do have a lot of talent on the roster to make a significant improvement this season. If Stevens continues to ride his course and get the most out of his players, the Celtics have a good shot at making the playoffs this season in a weak Eastern Conference with the demise of the Miami Heat and a freefall of the Indiana Pacers. I’m looking forward to the training camps and preseason soon because that just means that the excitement of the regular season is just around the corner.