Regardless of what happens in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics have validated their season and accomplished all that could have reasonably been expected of them.
Advancing two rounds in the playoffs, only to potentially get slaughtered by the defending champions, isn’t exactly the end-goal of a franchise hanging an NBA-best 17 title banners in the rafters. The Celtics have much grander dreams and goals, but their journey to reach this point from where they were four years ago is a major accomplishment in itself.
In the summer of 2013, Boston parted ways with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and pushed the button on a full rebuild that led to a 25-57 record in the first season under Brad Stevens. Isaiah Thomas showed up the year after and ever since, they have ascended to becoming one of the top teams in the league, culminating in a 53-29 record and top seed in the East.
Despite the success, Boston remain one rung below LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers and with little hope to challenge for the crown.
And that’s okay for now. With even the rosiest of preseason expectations reached, from here, the rest of these playoffs are gravy.
The Boston Celtics are busy this week... pic.twitter.com/FixCt22Zi1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2017
Boston have a long-term plan, of sustained contention, which still has a way to go to be completed.
This was never going to be the year where they had to capitalise on a championship window. That’s further down the line; maybe even next season, depending on summer activity.
And yet here we are, imagining the heights the Celtics could achieve in the future, while in the present watching them win Game 7 of the second round, land a draft pick and host the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals across three consecutive days.
Danny Ainge was criticised in the wake of standing pat at the trade deadline, failing to pull the trigger to upgrade the supporting cast or add a star. As unstoppable as Cleveland look, would any trade have moved the needle for Boston? Ask Toronto how much the short-term acquisitions for PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka helped them against the Cavs. And that’s not even mentioning the Golden State Death Star.
It’s odd to say about a team preparing for their most important games of the season, but Boston truly have no worries.