This season for Brad Stevens features the best opportunity at winning the east and maybe more. Since becoming the Celtics 17th head coach in franchise history the team has appeared in back to back conference finals and have made the postseason in each of the last five years. Stevens has seen a wide range of teams in Boston since having Kris Humphries and Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup year one.
Since the 2014-15 season there have been players on the Celtics that have achieved much more than projected. Players like Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and Avery Bradley were put into the right spots by Stevens and would give everything they had until the final buzzer. In the first few years of the Stevens regime there were the players that people passed on and that seemed to be the rallying cry. The first two times the Celtics made the playoffs under their new head coach it was only to get eliminated in the first round.
The interesting thing in the NBA is how Stevens was perceived in his first couple of seasons. Although he had the basketball IQ that would challenge the ultimate hoop head, it was the drive that he instilled in the players that propelled the team out of irrelevance in the association.
The 2016-17 season was the year that really propelled Brad to one of the most talked about coaches in the league, including being named head coach of the Eastern Conference All Star team. The team drafted Jaylen Brown 3rd overall and picked up a high caliber free agent in Al Horford, which before then was difficult for the Celtics to do. This season was very important for Stevens because there was now a balance between youth and talent, all he had to do was make sure everybody was in the right spot. The Celtics made it to the playoffs that year and lost in convincing fashion to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an Eastern Conference Finals that saw IT injure his hip.
Before the start of the 2017-18 season the team traded their point guard for Kyrie Irving and drafted Jayson Tatum. They also signed their second big name free agent, Gordon Hayward, who got injured five minutes into the season. That injury, along with Kyrie’s lengthy absences, pushed Stevens into mixing and matching which almost resembled the 2014-15 campaign. Players like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and a rookie Jayson Tatum carrying the Celtics flag to Game 7 of the eastern conference finals.
The following season saw the return of the vets and eventually a dividing line in the locker room. Shoving matches in huddles and numerous closed door meetings made this the most difficult year for the team. From a win standpoint, the 2018-19 season was the first time Stevens and the Celtics didn’t see an increase in their win total. This was the first time Brad might have lost control of the locker room, but it looks to be nothing more than a hiccup.
This year’s team has a new point guard in Kemba Walker, homegrown talent in Jaylen Brown and perhaps a future MVP caliber player in Jayson Tatum. Stevens coaching, along with the roster, shows that they have the fire power to hang with the “Greek Freak” and the Bucks in this year’s playoffs.
Earlier this season Brad Stevens moved his way into the top four in Celtics wins. It’s interesting to think that this was an NCAA coach at Butler, and now he continues to leave an indelible mark on a team rich in history. Through the years the Celtics are about giving your best for 48 minutes, and now that includes the coach.