Before last night’s win over the Jazz, the Celtics had started out 0-4. In a normal year, that would be extremely disappointing. But under the circumstances, is it such a bad thing?
On one hand, there is talent on the roster and a promising new coach. On the other, that talent is extremely young and their superstar is still recuperating from a torn ACL. Last year, with more or less the same roster (oh and two Hall of Famers), the Celtics were ousted in the first round. The Celts certainly could try their best to win every game this season and bring the injured Rajon Rondo back as fast as possible, but where would that leave them? As the 7th seed and a date with Chicago or Miami? No thank you. The team clearly doesn’t have the horses to compete for a title, so should they even try to win at all?
Under the current format, the blueprint for NBA teams is very simple – be the best or be the very worst. The middle ground is NBA hell, with little to no opportunity for upward mobility by virtue of drafting in the teens year after year. Some teams are content just making the playoffs, but that will not cut it in Boston. In Boston, a first-round exit will barely make a wave. In Boston, championships are the one and only goal.
More than any other league, you need superstars to win in the NBA. The Celtics franchise does have great tradition, but that is not enough to lure a superstar to Boston in free agency. Houston was able to acquire two superstars in a span of 15 months, but they have a lot to offer in terms of nice weather and lack of a state income tax – neither of which Boston can boast. With free agency out of the question, that leaves building through the draft as the best course of action.
For that reason, as a Celtics fan, I am rooting for losses.
Rooting for losses is an excruciating experience for a fan of any team. It feels almost dirty. It may be smart long term, but in the short term, for lack of a better phrase, it sucks. Sport is about winning and losing. You want to win. However, under the current lottery structure, hoping for losses is a necessary evil.
Rooting for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was easy. Those guys had unmatched loyalty and green blood running through their veins. It seemed like they would be Celtics forever. I don’t exactly have the same sentiments about this year’s Celtics. I’m not even sure who will be on this team two weeks from now. Danny Ainge proved everyone is on the table after his willingness to say goodbye to Doc Rivers, Pierce and KG. Anyone on the roster could be dealt if the right deal presents itself.
I wouldn’t mind seeing management or even new coach Brad Stevens aid the cause, but I certainly don’t want to see players actively trying to lose. As a fan, I still want to see a team that competes night in and night out and guys who work their butts off. I want to see Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley prove they can be key cogs on a contender moving forward. I want to see Jeff Green take another step towards being an upper echelon scorer and defender in the league. I want to see guys like Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries play well, so they can be traded for picks or cap space and given a chance to chase a championship.