Gordon Hayward is a star. Kyrie Irving is a superstar. And what do they say about the NBA? It’s a star-driven league. Due to injuries, the current Celtics should be aimless by that logic.
Yet as the Boston Celtics navigate the 2018 NBA playoffs, the guys at the wheel, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, have not earned a star moniker. But they’re still winning, and this team is still fun.
It isn’t just Irving and Hayward. The current iteration of the Celtics is missing Daniel Theis, a Swiss (German?) army knife of a big who played valuable minutes and Marcus Smart, a rugged energizer who defines the clichés of grit and grind. That’s four players– four bodies– head coach Brad Stevens has had to work without.
To say the Celtics don’t have a star is facetious. Stevens is a star. President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is a star. And Al Horford, as subtle and nuanced as he may be, is among the league’s best, Boston Sports Radio be damned. Their flaw is a lack of dynamism, a lack of a certain in-your-face oomph. Those are supposedly the core of the NBA.
Their first-round opponent the Milwaukee Bucks has one of those guys, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has become so good, so fast, that even casual fans can finally pronounce his last name. He is the specimen of all specimens; incredibly long and agile, but also strong and forceful. No bones about it, he is a pleasure to watch and has imposed on the Celtics this series.
But as things move to Milwaukee, Boston is up 2-0. Terry Rozier ostensibly won Game 1 with an elite and comic breakdown of Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks were lucky Khris Middleton sent that game to overtime. He (Rozier) followed that up with a spectacular Game 2. The main bucket getter in Game 2 wasn’t even Rozier: it was Jaylen Brown going off for 30.
Marcus Morris has played well, and always brings his attitude. As Jeff Goodman said on Twitter, one thing he is not is Fake Tough. Horford has been solid, and Stevens has embarrassed Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty.
It would have been reasonable for this Celtics team to accept a miserable existence faced with their losses. Instead they have taken the opportunity to rise and elevate their profiles (people in Boston have been aware of “Scary Terry” all season). They are playing well, and while they should still fall short of their original ceiling, they are going to go out trying their best. Win this series and Smart could be back. The Cavs are broken, the 76ers raw and the Raptors still fighting their numerous stigmas. You still never know. As a fan, I’m here to watch them compete; they haven’t disappointed so far and it doesn’t appear to be in their plans for the future.