It's literally days until the Boston Celtics open their 2013-2014 season, and head coach Brad Stevens looks ready to go.
The collective expectations of pundits, fans, and neutrals are low. Yet at the same time, no one really knows how the new-look C's will present themselves. Will they be looking to compete in every game, or will they make trades and increase their chances of a decent lottery number in the draft? Will Rajon Rondo return this season? Or next season? Or at all? And how much time exactly will Brad Stevens be given as the head coach to build a new winning team?
If Stevens wants to build for the future then wins and losses will be irrelevant to him. The only thing that will matter is the growth of his roster. Going on a five-game losing streak won't concern him. Players not buying into his system will. Getting demolished by the Brooklyn Nets would barely make him flinch. Players in the rotation not fulfilling their responsibilities will.
That may well be how Stevens plans to approach this season, but it's important that he does what he does best and keeps a cool head. Just one glance at the schedule for the opening few months of the season would make even the most seasoned of coaches sweat a little. Seven of the C's first 15 games will be against teams that made the playoffs last season. Some of the remainder are against teams that have improved and are better placed to make a challenge to reach the post-season. Coming out of this period with less than double figures in the loss column would be an extremely impressive achievement.
Brad Stevens won't be able to make the Celtics a winning team during the first 15 games of the season, so he should focus on building up some form of structure to the roster. Right now the squad has plenty of depth, to such an extent that picking a starting five off the top of your head is difficult. Stevens won't be able to keep swapping and changing the starting lineup, unless he wants to use practically every game this season as an experiment. He will need players in clearly defined roles, right down to the players who come on for three minutes to mop up.
Stevens is an intelligent man. Chances are that he will have his entire system planned a third of the way through the season. The only question will be if Danny Ainge sees enough promise in the system to stick with it throughout the season. If not, then we may expect to see some big trades. If the answer is yes, then Stevens will be allowed to truly craft the identity of the team. If he does, then the future will certainly be a bright one. The Celtics after all did secure a trade exception in the deal sending Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. This would allow Ainge and Stevens to bring in a big name that fits in well with the system.
Who knows, maybe Danny Ainge is hoping one-year turnarounds is a habit he's gotten into. Either way, if Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics want any success in the future, then right now they need plenty of patience.