Civian: These Celtics are awesome, let's respect that and stop acting surprised

Sara Civian
May 14, 2018 - 4:19 pm

David Butler/ USA Today Sports

Full disclosure: I hopped on WEEI’s Celtics coverage the day after the Bruins’ season ended. 

With several established basketball reporters already carrying the beat, that isn’t something I need to hide. I’d look like a complete idiot if I even tried. I know no one cares about my 30 for 30 worthy path to basketball reporting, but it’s why I feel I can admit something.

I’ve covered precisely three (3) Celtics games so far, I've authored just four (4) Celtics stories, and I’m already sick of the Gordon Hayward-Kyrie Irving storyline.

Even for someone who stumbled upon these Celtics with images of Brad Marchand’s tongue still haunting her nightmares, it’s not hard to figure out how “the team without its stars” storyline emerged. The Celtics entered this season already starved for an identity with only four returning players. When the two players best suited to become the stars suffered season-ending injuries, there was no conceivable identity except a rag tag group of rookies and chip-on-the-shoulder veterans.

It remains incredible that these Celtics have done what they’ve done, but can we please just get a few things straight about how they've done it?

Hayward and Irving are both bonafide NBA stars. No disrespect to either of the men who will almost definitely emerge as that for the Celtics once they’re consistently healthy. Irving was starting to -- we'll get to that.

But the narrative that they were these Celtics’ stars from day one just doesn’t sit well with me.

Maybe it’s..

*shuffles cue cards*

..the fact that Gordon Hayward has played literally five minutes of basketball for the Boston Celtics?

Before the Celtics’ “depth” straight up dummied LeBron James in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, James had a great point.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘How can they succeed like this without Gordon Hayward?,’” he said. “He’s been out since the first quarter of Game 1, so it’s like do we even know who they would have (become)? He’s not even, like, been on the team. We can talk potential, but he’s been out since the first quarter of Game 1 in Cleveland.”

James didn’t even need to call on his photographic memory for that one.

Irving is a different beast, as he actually played and started in 60 games this season. He led the team with 24.4 points per game, and again, it’s incredible that the Celtics are succeeding at such a high level without him.

But they succeeded when his season ended, then they succeeded themselves into the Eastern Conference finals, then they held LeBron James to one of his worst-ever playoff performances.

"Our young guys are special, man,” Marcus Morris said postgame, after fielding probably his thousandth question about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown this season. “They've been showing it all year. Me and Al (Horford), I know for sure that we don't expect anything less...we’re not really surprised at whatever they do.”

The idea that the Celtics are better off without Irving and/or Hayward is a completely absurd notion created by the mayor of Bananaland. At this point, though, we do need to consider that the team allegedly orphaned by its stars isn’t just scraping by on adrenaline and the love of the game or something.

Its offense has only improved in the postseason with a net rating of 114 in Game 1. Small sample aside, that’s 8.8 more than its regular season average. The defense-oriented team has improved on the other end of the court throughout the playoffs in general, and this is just one tangible example that the team is, in fact, good.

I’m only asking for two things.

First, can we stop looking like the Hillary Clinton confetti GIF every time we’re presented with facts that suggest the team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals is actually good?

Second, can we give the Actually Good Guys on the Actually Good Team with the Actually Good Coach some respect? When you look back on this season, don’t think they got where they did without the core of their team. Hayward had a solid five minutes there, but the players on the court have now become the core of the Celtics.

They are the stars. So is head coach Brad Stevens.

Don't get me wrong -- the narrative was once warranted. I, too, remember how it felt watching Hayward's season end and hearing Irving wouldn't return. 

It's just that at this point, we've realized Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. These Celtics were always going to make it.

 

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