Coming into this season Boston Celtics fans had reason to worry. The Celtics lost Al Horford to their rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers, via free agency. They also lost the game-changing talent of Kyrie Irving, who took his talents to Brooklyn and was joined by Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan. After those changes it started to look all rosy for the Nets, and The Cs were suddenly facing an uncertain future.
An opening day defeat at the hands of the 76ers, 107-93, didn’t help. The Cs seemed destined for a poor season, but the opposite is happening. The Celtics are actually winning, and seem to have found their footing. They even look like a lock for the postseason. There is reason to believe that the Cs can also get a home court advantage — at least for the first round.
Ironically, losing Irving may have been more helpful than hurtful. Gone is the dark cloud that seemed to trail the Celtics for most of last season, ostensibly due to Irving’s constant brooding. The perennial All-Star was at his disruptive worse in the Cs postseason self-destruction against the Milwaukee Bucks. Irving was ineffective, and seemed indifferent to both the losing and his poor play.
“Who cares?” Irving blurted out in a post-game press conference when asked about his 7-22 performance in the Celtics’ Game 4 loss. “For me, I had 22 shots, I should’ve shot 30,” he added. “Really, I’m that great of a shooter.”
That “great shooter” has left Bean Town and he was replaced by an equally great shooter in Kemba Walker. Himself an All-Star, Walker has filled in admirably in Irving’s stead. And as if on script, the ex-Hornet delivered one of his best games — 39 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists — this season against the team that signed the ex-Cavalier. A preview by bwin Basketball on the early season Celtics-Nets matchup details how the Cs have not missed a beat despite losing Irving, and that’s mainly due to Walker’s impressive play and steady leadership. Both were on display in that highly-charged home game against the Nets, which would’ve been Irving’s return to the fabled parquet. But he missed the game due to injury, and conveniently stayed home in Brooklyn (a team that, perhaps not coincidentally, is struggling at the moment).
Helping out Walker are Jayson Tatum (21.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and Jaylen Brown (19.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG). Both look comfortable playing out of Irving’s looming shadows, and are having fine seasons. Celtics Wire’s comparison between Walker and Tatum makes a case that the third-year forward has been Boston’s best. He has been a force at both ends, and is making progress after suffering a case of the sophomore slump last season. Brown, who signed a $100 million contract extension this offseason, is proving worthy of that massive extension as the Cs do-it-all third wheel.
All told the Celtics are unlikely to be this season’s worst. They may have lost Irving, but they sure don’t miss him. The Celtics are playing some great basketball over at Bean Town, and are, surprisingly, one of the NBA’s better teams.