Jason Tatum and Ceylen Brown embraced each other just minutes after the 7th game of the Eastern Conference finals last month.
“They said we couldn’t play together,” Tatum said with a wide smile.
This was the most pressing issue facing the Boston Celtics after 24-year-old Tatum and 25-year-old Brown were handed over to the team before the 2019-20 season. That year – Tatum’s third and Brown’s fourth in the NBA – led the team to two victories to reach the final. Since then, they have faced questions about whether Boston could be a championship-level team built around them.
These questions were the loudest at the beginning of the year – dominating TV panels and podcasts – the Celtics were 18-21 and were in the pace of missing the playoffs. Instead, the Celtic reached the final with Golden State for the first time since 2010.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said in an interview, “We’ve been thinking and talking about trading with a number of big players who have definitely been around for the last 10 years.” “It would be wrong to say that we have never traded with an X, Y or Z player.”
However, he added, “we seemed to value our boys more than the market.”
For the past 15 years, the trend in the NBA, though not then, has been to pursue the creation of super teams through the development of sustainability and the training of young players. The Celtics, who joined the team in the 2007-8 season with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, completing Paul Pierce with a blockbuster trade and winning the championship.
Since then, several teams, like the Celtics, have emptied their closets and young players to get big-name stars in the league-wide arms race to fight for the mercenary championship. This coincided with a move to increase the powers of players who were trying to be exchanged for teams with other stars of the best players.
This put aside new teams of players, don’t give up all options and wondered if young players were worth it.
The Celtics tried to get on the trend – they traded with Kayri Irving and signed a big free agent contract with Gordon Hayward after developing Tatum in 2017 – but today’s team is the result of years of investment in young players. The Celtics are on the verge of a championship in the NBA, contrary to the traditional wisdom of team building.
In recent years, all the stars Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Ben Simmons, James Harden, Enthony Davis and Paul George were among those who traded in engineering. Irving forced a trade from Cleveland to land in Boston.
Almost every time there were rumors that a star wanted to get out of his situation, the Celtics were associated with trade negotiations. Several teams could offer talented young players like Boston, or many draft options, some of which Boston acquired in 2013 as a result of a deal with the Nets for creating their own super team.
Grousbeck declined to comment on what deals Boston was approaching. At least in one case, the star decided for the Celts. Davis’ father, Anthony Davis Sr., has made it clear that he does not want his son to play in Boston – a sign that even if Davis is transferred to Boston, he will not re-sign him after his contract expires. The Celtics will leave in agreement with the best players.
Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations in Boston from 2003-21, said, “I think if you get the right deals and feel close enough to win, you want to trade in project capital.” Recently described. “None of us know what will happen in different circumstances.”
In some cases, super team gambling worked – at least for a short time. The Toronto Raptors won the 2019 Leonard-led championship; The Lakers won the title in 2020 with Davis. But the Nets won just one playoff series with Harden before trading with the Philadelphia 76ers in February. To get Hardy from Houston, the Nets turned down 24-year-old center Jarrett Allen, who formed his first All-Star team with Cleveland this year.
The Nets’ series win over Harden saw Boston face off in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, with Brown injured. The Celts, who were left behind in the super team’s armament race, seemed to be moving away. Some of their recent first-round picks, such as Romeo Langford (2019) and Aaron Nesmith (2020), seemed to have been missed. Irving and Hayward were absent. Former All-Star Kemba Walker, with whom the Celtics signed a maximum deal to replace Irving, was injured and playing poorly. Suddenly, unlike the Boston, Raptors and Lakers title teams, it looked like a team that kept its young players for a very long time.
A day after the Celtics were eliminated from last year’s playoffs, Boston announced at the same time that Ainge was stepping down as team president and that Brad Stevens would replace him. Stevens was the team’s head coach for eight seasons, but he had no front office experience.
Grousbeck said he offered to replace Stevensie Ainge, referring to Stevens’ time on the team and the “personal turtle” associated with ownership. At a press conference announcing the move last June, Stevens said he had discussed the possibility of taking the position with both Ainge and Grousbeck and told Grousbeck: “I love the Celtics. I want to do my best for the Celtics.
One of Stevens’ first steps was to hire Ime Udoka as a coach, Udoka’s first leading role as an assistant after nine years. Grousbeck said he was not worried about Stevens and Udoka being inexperienced in their new jobs.
“Before the start of the season, I went to Ime and Brad and said personally, ‘I’m not stressed about how this season started,'” Grousbeck said.
There are countless examples of professional sportsmen promoting patience but failing to do so. As the season progressed, the Celtics mainly believed they could win with Tatum and Brown.
“Now, I started to worry in the first half? Yes I did. But I kept it to myself, “said Grousbeck.
After an 18-21 start, the Celtics went 33-10 and won 1st place. 3rd place in the playoffs of the Eastern Conference. Most of the players in the last rotation were drafted by the Celtics and are 25 and younger, including Tatum (24), Brown (25), Robert Williams III (24), Grant Williams (23) and Payton Pritchard (24). Marcus Smart, 28, was selected by the Celtics in 2014 and was named Defensive Player of the Year this season.
This seems to put the Celtics in strong shape for years to come. They are in the final and many of their players did not come out on top. But championship windows can be subtle. After this year, the NBA will crown at least five different teams as champions in seven years. If the Celtics don’t win the title this year, they may regret not trading under Davis or another big name. After all, just a year ago, when the Celtics seemed locked in the middle, the Phoenix Suns won two championships, only to run in the second round of this postseason, despite the fact that the West is number one. 1 seed.
But if Boston wins, when the next Harden or Simmons tries to force a trade, maybe the next team will think twice before signing. The Celts aren’t an example of patience – luck seems to have stopped their superstar trade talks – but they seem to be working well.
Grousbek is not interested in winning.
“I don’t think anyone needs our advice on building a team, “Grousbeck said.