Al Horford gave Celtics fans reason to smile this past summer.
The Boston Celtics open their 2016-2017 season October 26th against the Brooklyn Nets. Both Jordan Martins and Christian Williams couldn’t be more excited (for the C’s chances and the #NetsPick watch alert!). This year we’re two Celtics fans who have shifted from impatient to optimistic. Although general manager Danny Ainge didn’t knock it out of the park by nabbing prize free agent Kevin Durant, he added serious talent to the roster with the acquisition of Al Horford and drafting Jaylen Brown. Boston’s moves this summer were not the grand finale fireworks owner Wyc Grousbeck once promised, but we are definitely satisfied.
Despite all of Ainge’s additions to the team, the biggest change may be the added expectations around this Celtics squad. This post-rebuild group of Celtics have real expectations for the first time ever. It’s not enough to simply make the playoffs anymore. Many fans would be disappointed if the C’s fail to make the Eastern Conference Finals this year. Jordan Martins and Christian Williams are optimistic about how this will all shake out. Continue on for our preview of the upcoming season, complete with a breakdown of an insane draft (6 picks!), free agency (Hamptons! Tom Brady! First big time free agent!), and, of course, predictions on how this year will pan out (Don’t sleep on us Cleveland!).
I was super happy with the roster additions, and the fact the C’s protested during the National Anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s protest (centered on police shootings of black people).
Jordan predicts the rotation for this upcoming season. Danny Ainge struggled to cut this team down to a 15 man roster, Brad will have fun trying to get a deep team playing time.
Top 8 Guys:
 Isaiah Thomas
 Avery Bradley
 Jae Crowder
 Al Horford
 Amir Johnson
 Marcus Smart
 Jaylen Brown
 Terry Rozier
Starting line-up solidified: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Amir Johnson
Notes: There’s definitely an upgrade to the rotation talent/athleticism-wise with Horford and Brown, and some younger guys who have added to their game. Rozier had a great Summer League/pre-season and is going to get a lot of the minutes that used to belong to Evan Turner (like he vowed to). The Horford + Johnson pairing is okay for small ball, but is vulnerable against big line-ups (good thing they’re pretty much extinct). Christian and me agree that Smart needs to move to the 2, and maximize his slashing ability to be effective.1
Rotation Worthy Guys
 Jonas Jerebko
 Kelly Olynyk
 Tyler Zeller
 Gerald Green
Notes: Olynyk is still hurt, and will slip out of rotation. He will lose a lot of minutes to Horford. Jerebko can be effective at the 3 or the 4, and may also eat into Olynyk’s minutes as Kelly recovers from injury. Matchups will determine who will see more floor time for the Olynyk, Zeller and Green group.
 Jordan Mickey
 James Young
 Demetrius Jackson
Notes: Out of this group Mickey has the most potential, and if a big man collects a lot of fouls he will get some burn. Both of us were truly surprised that RJ Hunter was cut from the team. James Young made the roster by the skin of his teeth, showing life in some of the late pre-season matchups.2
Notable additions: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green
Lost: Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger, RJ Hunter
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) June 24, 2016
C’s fans booed Jaylen Brown until they saw his highlight reel athleticism in action.3
Christian Williams breaks down Celtics Nation’s Draft Day #mood
June 23, 2016. Draft night. This was it. Finally the payoff that the Celtics brass had promised us three years ago when we shipped off our Hall of Fame past to Brooklyn4. No, we didn’t land that ever elusive first overall pick, but we landed the third—still a major chip at the trade table. At long last those long-awaited fireworks! And even if the rest of the league refused to be fleeced again by Mr. Daniel R. Ainge, #3 should still be good enough for a solid player.
As I wrote in last year’s season wrap up, I had my eyes squarely on guard play. My heart was set on Providence’s Kris Dunn, but my brain liked the idea of Jamal Murray5. The Celtics were pretty awful behind the arc last year so Murray just made sense. Or Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, whose draft stock rose all year only to watch it fall after a woeful performance in the Final Four. Regardless, I thought this was as in the bag for Boston. Then it happened. “And with the third pick, the Boston Celtics select….Jaylen Brown!” Wait…what? Who?!? I thought Ainge was going to make the mistake of drafting Dragon Bender… but Jaylen Brown? BRO.
I wasn’t alone in my perplexity. At the draft night event in TD Garden, fans booed when Brown’s name was called.6 After shock came denial. “This has to be for another team, right?” Then reality hit. Brown didn’t get traded. Trader Danny didn’t make a move. In fact, the Celtics didn’t trade any of their picks, electing to use all of them in the draft.
Rumors flew around the web all night linking big time players like Jimmy Butler or Kevin Love to Boston, but nothing materialized. Ainge said they were asking for too much. I personally think that Ainge overvalued his cornucopia of draft selections. This isn’t the NFL where having a lot of draft picks means having more able bodies to fill out a roster. In the NBA you need to have the right pick, not many, and thus another draft with the promise of fireworks turned into sparklers.
Up until this past June, the casual Celtics fan didn’t know Jaylen Brown from a hole in the wall—leaving fans puzzled that we drafted him as high as #3. To be fair, only the most diehard college hoops fan stays up to watch games being played on the West Coast where Brown played his lone collegiate season. Adding to that general disinterest was the fact that he played for California, a university that has a respectable athletic program, but has never been known for its basketball prowess. Many were hoping that Ainge selected New England native Kris Dunn out of Providence, and were in disbelief when he opted for Brown instead (myself included).
Upon further review though, it looks like Danny was absolutely right with the pick. Like many Boston fans, I immediately went to watch the highlights of Jaylen at Cal to see what I had been missing during the Ben Simmons college tour last year. Within the first 30 seconds of the highlights the first thought the came to mind was that he was just another hyper athletic youngin’ that couldn’t actually play ball. That was until I noticed his frame. The kid had an NBA-ready body. Still though, this was PAC-12 hoops.
Fast forward a few weeks later during summer league play and I’m beginning to become more impressed. It wasn’t so much that he was taking over games with his play, but more so his confidence and aggression. He played without fear and without smiles. There is a sort of “eff you” about his game that fits in perfectly with already established teammates such as Smart, Crowder, or even Thomas. Brown isn’t here to whip and nae nae during the introductions with his veteran teammates. He’s not here to sit at the end of the bench and waive a towel, nor is he here to rat you out on Snapchat. Brown is here to play and his mark is already being made on the defensive end of the ball. If he doesn’t hit the rookie wall by mid-season, expect him to log serious minutes spelling Crowder from off the bench.
Danny Ainge pulled out the big guns for pursuing KD. Enlisting the help of Hall of Fame quarterback, hometown hero, G.O.A.T., Mr. “So Fucking Classy” himself, Tom Brady.
FREE AGENCY MADNESS
Jordan Martins on an Insane Boston Sports 4th of July
“This is the most Boston shit ever.” I said in disbelief, from my room at the Sheraton Hotel in the Prudential Center. I had gone back to Boston for the weekend to celebrate the 4th with some college friends, one of them happened to be a Warriors fan.7 That Saturday afternoon, the infamous image of Danny Ainge and the greatest quarterback of all time leaked, and I had to triple check to see if it was real. I show my diehard Dubs fan buddy the image, “no fucking way.” he responds. We were both in shock that Danny Ainge really brought Tom Brady to the Hamptons for the Kevin Durant recruiting pitch. At that point I’m drinking the green juice, and my irrational thoughts convinced me that KD could be coming to Boston.8
Two days later I’m aboard an NYC-bound Lucky Star bus, frantically refreshing my Twitter feed—anxiously awaiting a Woj bomb. Then, boom! The news hits and the crippling reality crushes me. Then selfish anger washes over me. Followed by disappointment. We all know how it played out. Durant went to the Warriors, shifted the NBA landscape, added to a historically great team, and everyone had their opinion. Regardless of the end result, The Celtics pursuit was impressive, and a testament to the winning culture and bond between sports franchises in Title Town.
Oh, are we forgetting someone? The Celtics got a pretty nice consolation prize that weekend as well. Prior to meeting with KD, the team flew to Atlanta to meet with 4X-Time All-Star Al Horford. They ultimately convinced the gifted forward/center to join the squad, leading to the biggest free agent signing in Celtics history.9 The C’s sold Horford on their winning pedigree, promising young core—and, of course, max cap room helped. I have to keep it 100 though. I was happy Horford inked a splashy 4 year/$113 mil max deal with Boston in July. But I was frontin’ on him back in June. My take on Al during our 2016 season wrap-up…
“Horford was expected to be moved at the February deadline this year. The big man didn’t have a great series against The Celtics, and he turns 30 this summer—I’ll pass. I hope Danny does too.”
I was wrong. Horford has looked amazing in early action, I saw him live at MSG for pre-season. After seeing him get this chase down block against Kristaps Porzingis, I am all in. He’s one of the missing pieces for a young Celtics team. Horford’s versatility at both ends is (a major) key. The 9 year veteran has the ability to shoot, pass, and defend, and has stabilized a team short on both size and scoring.
- Brad should stop making Smart a PG. That was kind of forced onto him out of necessity, and him coming in to replace Rondo’s shoes. [↩]
- I texted Christian, “James Young is going to burn out the league. JR Giddens vibe.” He responded, “James Young is not worth a roster spot! This dude will be a regular in China by 2019.” Safe to say we were not fans of the decision. [↩]
- Jaylen Brown got far from a warm welcome, but let’s be clear—it was not as bad as Porzingis [↩]
- In exchange for the next 10 years of the Nets’ future. Thanks Bily King, “you da real MVP!” [↩]
- I think with time Dunn will become a light calorie version of D-Wade [↩]
- Christian had tickets to attend, but had to work that night. He could’ve joined the chorus of boos. [↩]
- That same friend was heart broken from the Warriors historic Finals collapse and vowed to stop watching sports for awhile. He said he would focus on stocks and investing instead, because sports is too much heartbreak. That sure changed quickly after they got KD though. He was texting me throughout the Olympics and during lopsided pre-season GSW blowouts about how great Durantula looked. [↩]
- It just made sense right? Team on the rise, you can avoid the juggernaut Western Conference, and the C’s matchup relatively well against Cleveland. [↩]
- Calling the most winningest franchise cursed is far from the truth (see what I did there?). But Celtics fans have always felt slighted by the draft (Pierce instead of Tim Duncan, the fate of Len Bias), and prior to Summer ’16 the C’s had only brought in big name players via trade. The (second) Big 3 era happened via crafty trades, and KG was hesitant on Boston at first—The Bean is far from a free agent destination. [↩]