When LeBron James left Cleveland last summer, the East was ready to catch – and it was obvious who would take it.
The Celtics entered this season as the envy of every team outside the Golden State, possessing a dynamic and young core that brought James & # 39; Cavaliers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston had almost finished the reign of Cleveland for four years in the East without an injured Kyrie Irving, despite having obtained five minutes from the first year of the maximum contract of Gordon Hayward, who suffered a terrible leg injury in the inaugural race of the team.
Both All-Stars will be back this season. The young nucleus would only improve. The next half decade, or so, it would be them.
Somehow, the Celtics ended up being whistled out of their own building before the next all-Star break, after missing a 28-point lead over the Clippers on Saturday night. Two days earlier, the Celtics gave the Lakers an 1
"If [this is who we are] we will not last long," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think I need to look at myself first and understand what I can do to help this not happen … If that means we have to play different rotations, call different things, start differently in the quarters than we are whatever the case, there's an answer out there and we need to find it. "
Veteran Marcus Morris explained why the most talented East team has the fifth best record of the conference; an answer that produces only more questions.
"For me, it's not really about the loss, but about the attitude we're playing with," Morris said after Saturday's loss. "The guys are upside down, it's not fun, we do not compete at a high level, even if we're winning, it's not funny yet … I do not see the joy in the game."
"I watch all these other teams throughout the league and guys are on the bench – they are jumping on the pitch, they are enjoying the success of their teammates. They are enjoying everything, they are playing together and playing to win. And when I look at it, I see only a group of individuals. "
Several people contributed to the problem.
Hayward, 28, did not return as a player who was before the injury, averaging 10.8 points, while 31.7 percent recovered from perimeter In his final season in Utah, Hayward averaged 21.9 points, and hit 39.8% of the 3 points.
Irving, 26, leads the team in scoring (23.6) and assists (6.9), but seems to be going back into his preseason's commitment to re-sign with the Celtics (35-21) this summer and has not easily been turned into a leadership role. , Irving called his younger classmates calling James, apologizing to his former partner Cavs for creating problems at the beginning of his career.
"I did a bad job giving an example to these young guys as it is get something from your teammates, "Irving said later." Going forward, I want to test these youngsters the boys, but I can not do it publicly. It was a learning experience for me, realizing the greatness of my voice and what I mean by these guys. "
The young and nostril core did not have the same weight as expected Jayson Tatum, 20, has not yet reached fame and has seen his shooting rates decrease, Jaylen Brown, 22, and Terry Rozier , 24, their key keys to the great playoffs in Boston, have seen their minutes fall with the return of Hayward and Irving, Stevens struggled to find the ideal balance in the team's formations and brought together an undivided locker room, but let's face it is not unified
With two months from the start of the playoffs, the Celtics have time to meet each other, the talent remains as impressive as any team in the East, but a race towards the finals has become harder, with Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee all took their toll on the expiry of trading, while Boston was quiet.
The future is much more uncertain than ever before.
"It is difficult to win four victories c onsecutive and lose three straights, "said Morris a few weeks earlier. "I would be lying if I said I knew our identity because the identity of a good team does not."