Photo credit: Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston
On Monday, Celtics Nation took a deep breath as it took its first step towards an uncertain future.
No one knows what to expect from the Boston Celtics in the upcoming 2013-2014 season, least of all the players and staff. The clear lack of media coverage for the season suggests that experts are already writing off Brad Stevens' young team.
Despite this, when Media Day rolled around comparisons were made to the Boston Red Sox, a team that took the AL East crown despite being considered to be in transition. Could it be that the Celtics emulate this and make the playoffs this season?
Danny Ainge is playing it safe.
“Baseball is such a different sport. I think baseball and football, you have so many more players, and in baseball, one player doesn’t dominate the game as much,” Ainge said. “In basketball, I don’t think there’s really any correlation we can draw from that situation. They’ve had a terrific year and I’m really excited about the postseason, watching the Red Sox play. I actually thought the Red Sox would have a better year this year just because they have a really good pitching staff and expectations were lower a little bit. I think they have some terrific players on that team, but I’m not surprised by their success this year.”
It's hard not to see the similarities. A team that has strength in particular areas. A team with low expectations. And a team with a new head coach.
When training camp opened, Brad Stevens took to the court for the very first time with the Boston Celtics. His Boston Celtics. It's a position some of us wish to have, while others would rather be doing anything else. When the 36-year-old stood at center court, surrounded by a roster of professional players that included an NBA champion franchise player, he spoke to them calmly. He didn't go in all guns blazing. He didn't look nervous. There were no butterflies fluttering away in the pit of his stomach.
It's okay of course if he did. He's only human after all. But there must have been some form of first day jitters. Surely.
“I hate to say this, but no,” Stevens said. “I like [practice], it's a fun part of the job for me. I enjoy it. I enjoy getting back on the court. But the only thing I'm thinking about right now is that we have practices three and four [on Wednesday] and I've got to go back and write them up.”
And so one of the youngest head coaches in the NBA leading his first training camp started day one like he'd been doing this his entire life. Calm and rational. Fear or worries are nothing but a distraction to him, so he gets rid of them. There is only one thing on this intelligent young man's mind – getting the Boston Celtics ready to play ball.
“That's all I'm thinking about,” Stevens said. “That's just the way it goes. I don't know when I lost my fandom and it became more of a job, but it did at one point.”
Media Day continued like this. Instead of an uncertainty lingering around the halls, the tone was more about reassurance. Particularly when it came to the relationship between Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo.
When Stevens was unveiled as head coach, the columnists and experts all said that same thing. He can't work with Rondo. He'll walk all over Stevens. He's too stubborn. They're both too smart, they're bound to clash.
The pictures of Rondo and Stevens chatting on the sideline during a training camp in Kentucky didn't help in stopping the experts mouthing off. And so Rajon Rondo took to the mic for the first time since last season ended and laid out clearly what his relationship with his new head coach is like.
“Me and Brad have become best friends,” Rondo said. “We talk every day, we laugh and joke, we just had dinner the other night. I’m going to help him, he’s going to help me. He has my full support and I told him from Day 1 when he came to my [summer] camp [in Louisville in July for their first in-person meeting], I'm 100 percent behind him.
“His communication lines have been great with me, ever since he became the coach. He came to my camp the following week, or the same week he was hired. We spent some time together, about an hour and a half down at Kentucky. And ever since then he’s been texting me, he’s given me a couple books to read, he’s emailed me some things I should look up on YouTube. We’ve had lunch. We’ve had great communication so far.”
So the veteran star player and the young inexperienced head coach who were supposed to be at each others throats are texting, having lunch, loaning books and watching videos on YouTube. This must have ruined a the day of many a headline writer.
It shouldn't be surprising really that Stevens has approached his relationship with Rondo in this way. He knows that he's inexperienced and needs help, and he knows that the only way Rondo can hope to achieve anything as a Celtic is if he works with his new head coach. They're both intelligent people and are both leaders. Together they can achieve much more than they could fighting each other while going alone.
Their relationship is a logical one. That's Brad Stevens all over.
With training camp finally kicking into gear, a few of the smaller questions have been answered. The bigger ones are waiting on the horizon for Brad Stevens and his team. Not that he'll be bothered by that.
They could be battered. They could be bruised. But one way or another, the Boston Celtics will be ready.