The Countdown marches on!
Its only eight (business) days away! Can you feel it? The NBA season is set to tip off and we here at Next Impulse can barely contain ourselves. That’s why we’re breaking down the 10 Most Interesting Storylines for the upcoming season. Incase you’re just joining us, the full breakdown as well as #’s 9 and 10 are linked here.
Clocking in at #8 (and out of respect to the greatest Employee #8 of all time[i]) is a storyline that may get overlooked this year–but it shouldn’t. The Boston Celtics are proud franchise with a long and storied tradition. But they’ve also been known to be just awful.[ii] And their GM, Danny Ainge, has shown he’s not afraid to take bigger swings than Big Papi in the playoffs.[iii]
Ainge’s biggest swing isn’t that he traded away the faces of the franchise KG and Paul Pierce. It’s not that he worked out one of the most bizarre
trades (not officially a trade because the league doesn’t allow it) moves of all time by letting Doc Rivers go to the Clippers. And it’s not even when he….
…wait, should we make a list of all of Danny “Big Papi-style Swings” Ainge’s moves?!
It feels like we should. How many screenshots can we get of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘500 Days of Summer’ to help explain the emotional roller-coaster Celtics fans have gone through since April? Someone call Buzzfeed!!![iv]
#8: The Celtics Second Coming: Brad Stevens
For so many reasons Brad Stevens was the golden boy of basketball. He was the coach who took small, relatively unknown program and brought them to national prominence.
But it wasn’t just what he did, but how he did it, that made him special. He was fresh-faced, with a 12-year-old’s haircut and so above falling to the trappings of his profession. He was above shady recruiting, above cheating the system and above using hair gel.[v]
After that magical season, where he and Butler came a rimmed-out half court shot away from returning Cinderella’s slipper on time, Steven’s did the impossible: He did it again.
A slightly different group of unknown players (this time without Gordon Hayward), yet the same result. Stevens had now coached in back-to-back National Championship games before the age of 34.
How’s your 10-year-plan working out?
With all the success he had, a lot of people came calling. Stevens didn’t answer.
In fact, not only did he turn down bigger offers from bigger schools, he did the unthinkable in the coaching game; he committed for the long haul. Stevens pledged his allegiance to the Butler Bulldogs by signing a 10-year contract that would have him on the sidelines of Hinkle Fieldhouse until 2022.
Yet, here we are in 2013 and Stevens can’t be found in the Hoosier state.
There is a saying, “Every man has his price” and for the boy wonder of college basketball, his price involved a great deal of green. But it wasn’t the money that brought or bought him out of the college ranks; it was the Celtics.
To coach college basketball in Indiana, anywhere but Indiana University, is like being Hercules. Yes, you’re related to the Gods…but you’ll never be allowed on Olympus.
But in the basketball universe, the Celtics are the ultimate mountaintop. The storied franchise with the most championships, that was built by the legendary Red Auerbach, on a parquet floor that featured almost 1/5th of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players at one time or another, holds a place like no other in the basketball world.
Stevens came to coach in that legacy.
“Its an honor and a privilege to be here. I am absolutely humbled to be in this room and (to see) the banners hang.” Stevens said at his introductory press conference.
Make no mistake; the college kid knows he’s not in Indiana anymore.
But this isn’t the first time the proud Celtics franchise has gambled on a college coach looking to extend their legacy. Rick Pitino seemed to have the perfect pedigree to usher the Celtics into the future. Success at Providence College and then a National Championship at the Celtics of college, Kentucky, with a stint in the NBA in between, he appeared to be the ideal fit.
But ego is an ugly thing in the NBA and Pitino tried to recreate what he had at Kentucky, by literally bringing his Kentucky team with him to Boston. Apparently he knew long before he told the rest of the world, Larry Bird wasn’t walking through that door.
It would take almost 10 years before the Celtics would truly recover from the mess Pitino got them in. But as the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that darkness was the 2006-07 season.
Boston would win only 24 games and they were practically giving tickets away. On a team that featured a former college hero (Wally Szczerbiak) and kids who never went to college (Al Jefferson and Sebastian Telfair) it wasn’t the best basketball.[viii]
But then Ainge pulled off the impossible. Two of the biggest gambles in Celtic history paid off immediately. Kevin Garnett brought back the best defense in Boston since Bill Russell, Paul Pierce finally became the player he was destined to be and basketball’s second Jesus (Shuttlesworth) would save the season over and over again.[ix] And for the first time since Larry Legend was in the Garden, the Celtics would raise another Championship banner.
Basketball in Boston, was back.
Ah, but then like so many times in life, the good times came to an end. Ray and Rondo had beef. Doc became disenfranchised and Ainge pulled out the Big Papi bat again; this time sending Pierce and KG to Brooklyn for a bag of broken parts and a Kardashian castoff.[x]
So now the man who has made a career of doing the impossible will be asked to do the impossible: Wait.
The Celtics don’t want to win this year. They want to play (lose, tank, quit, whatever) themselves into the deepest lottery in a long time. There’s only one problem, Brad Stevens makes miracles happen.
Against all odds, he might find a way to turn a ragtag group better suited for the Island of Misfit Ballers into an 8th seed in an aging Eastern Conference, especially if Rondo decides to show everyone he is in fact an alien and never needed the Big 3.
There is little doubt the coach with little ego will succeed in Boston, the question is, how long will he wait to do it. Ainge has literally created one of the worst teams in the league but that might not be enough. Brad Stevens only knows one thing: Winning against all odds.
Sure, Larry Bird isn’t walking through that door. But Boston’s second coming, just might be.
::::Check Back Tomorrow for #7::::
Want to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or favorite Buzzfeed lists, hit Scott at [email protected]
Scott Christopher is a comedian and writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him @ScottC47
[i] Dear Haters: Antoine was amazing. Anyone who can repeatedly take bad 3’s and make a fat man shoulder shimmy cool, is fantastic. He was the start of the revolution that was Tracy McGrady, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. That a player of his size and skill level routinely decided he was better on the perimeter than in the post was still a relatively new concept. Not to mention, he did win a championship with Miami. The fact that MJ swallowed him up and he had to eventually hawk that championship ring to help pay off debts… no one is perfect. Antoine made it cool for guys to get buckets (and ignore conventional ideas like taking high percentage shots to do it) and just completely embrace their bigness. The game was better because thanks to Employee #8.
[ii] Shout out to the 2006-07 season. More on this later in the column.
[iii] And you can’t blame him. Its worked out in the past. He redefined the careers of Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Not to mention he basically gave Glenn Davis a career. Oh wait, did you think this was going to be a baseball footnote? Unlikely. Though I did appreciate the Dodger fans who took issue with my comments yesterday. But when you have a do-or-die game and you have parts of your stadium looking like this:
You don’t get to say anything. That’s awful.
[iv] Once could be an accident. Twice is just a mistake repeated. But three (3!!) times in three columns. Yup, we’re entering full on hip-hop beef status. Btw, currently on Buzzfeed is a list of 100 “Parks and Rec” GIFs to help celebrate the show’s 100th episode. Congrats Amy Poehlr, you’ve finally made it. You’re on the same page as “The 27 Best Animal Snapchats of All Time”! Let’s get waffles.
[v] John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Steve Lavin…the list could go on, but let’s be real, Lavin had the best hair in the game. Pitino just looks like he could’ve been an extra in Casino.
[vi] Matt Howard is the reason I refuse to watch college basketball. He was a poor-man’s Psycho T and one of the most overrated players of all time. John Wallace is so mad that he took that title too.
[vii] The youngest: The General. Robert Montgomery Knight.
[viii] That’s putting it lightly. I lived in Boston during that season. It was almost as if the Celtics didn’t exist. Between the Patriots and Red Sox you would’ve thought Beantown didn’t have a basketball team. The Celtics were so bad, that when my college basketball team had tickets to see the Spurs play the Celtics (compliments of a certain Emerson Alum and at the time Assistant General Manager) I left the game at halftime. It was just too painful to watch. It felt dirty being in a place that had so much tradition and history, watching Sebastian Telfair take contested jump shots where Larry Bird once redefined scoring and shot-making.
[ix] Ray Allen should’ve been MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals. He was the one who, time and time again, saved the Celtics season. The first round series against the Bulls would’ve been enough to rest a career on. And then games 4 and 6 of the NBA Finals happened. In Game 4 he played the entire 48 minutes and would make the game winning layup in the biggest comeback in Finals history. In Game 6 he would tie an NBA Finals record, making 7 threes en route to the Celtics championship.
[x] All things being equal, it wasn’t like they were thrilled to be in Boston either.