Will Gordon Hayward and the new look Celtics shift the balance of power in the East and deliver Boston back to the NBA’s Promised Land?
By Tyrone Eddins Jr.
At the conclusion of every NBA season, after the newest champ has been crowned, after the trophies and awards have been handed out and the ticker-tape has fallen on the parades, the league’s second season begins. Some may argue that the NBA’s offseason is more exciting than the season itself, especially the annual free agency period when the league’s most coveted free-agents are wooed and courted by multiple suitors hoping to acquire their services for the upcoming season. July 1st marks the start of this annual no hold-barred, free-for-all. And thanks to new collective bargaining agreements, more flexible contracts, and max and even supermax deals, we are almost assured that every free agency period will yield the move of at least one major star to a new team.
This year’s “mega mover and shaker”? Gordon Hayward, 6-8 swingman formerly of the Utah Jazz and now the newest member of the Boston Celtics – last season’s Eastern Conference runner-up. But this move wasn’t a surprise was it? I mean we knew this would happen, right? I know I did. Gordon Hayward to Boston seemed like a natural fit from the very first rumor and the only surprise was that it took him so long to decide.
Lately, it seems that the Celtics truly do exist under a rainbow and have their very own leprechaun along his pot of gold to boot. Not only did the Celtics make it to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, they also managed to snag the #1 pick in this year’s draft, which they parlayed into the #3 pick and chose rookie Jason Tatum out of Duke. Yeah, things are definitely looking up for the Celtics. I can’t deny it, even as much as I would like to, seeing as how I grew up as a Lakers fan.
Danny Ainge, often criticized for hoarding his treasure trove of draft picks like a squirrel preparing for winter and consequently missing out on the big name free agents, should be lauded now for his patience and execution of a very well thought out game plan. Yes sir, he passed on Jimmy Butler. He pulled out of Paul George sweepstakes when Indiana rebuffed his draft night trade proposal. But in the end, ol Danny-boy got his man in Gordon Hayward, didn’t he? Hayward represented this year’s top prize and possibly just the piece Ainge’s Celtics need to conquer the giant looming large in Cleveland known as Mt. LeBron. Well, maybe it will be enough. Just maybe.
Sure, it all looks good for the Celtics right now in July after winning this year’s offseason championship. But putting it together into a winning formula from November to June is a whole other animal all-together. But, I do like Boston’s chances. Pairing Gordon Heyward with his former college coach Brad Stevens and with a talented core of a healthy Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and newcomer Jason Tatum as well as Jalen Brown and Jae Crowder makes for a potentially fearsome foe for the rest of the teams in the East. However, I can’t help but wonder how the loss of Avery Bradley, an excellent two-way player, will affect this team, even with the addition of Marcus Morris.
The NBA offseason is still young and the regular season is still months away, but Toronto, Washington, Miami, and even Cleveland haven’t done much to get better thus far. Meanwhile, Boston is like a kid in candy shop with plenty of money to spend. Heyward’s addition puts them heavy at the small forward so now Boston can afford to move another asset and get even more in return. I can imagine that the rest of the East is looking at Boston and are not only a feeling a little green (green, get it?) with envy, but they may also be harboring a little fear in their hearts.
Of course, this is all speculation. Maybe it will amount to nothing more than superb hyperbole because none of this will matter until shoes begin to squeak across hardwood and the ball starts to swish through the net. Then and only then, will we find out if Danny Ainge is truly the mad scientist genius some say he is; or if the Celtics, for all of their shiny new toys and Lucky Leprechauns, will do nothing more than continue to come up short when it counts the most and allow another team to steal that pot of gold called the Larry O’Brien trophy.