The Boston Celtics were represented quite well at the NBA Awards. Hall of Famer Bill Walton, Aron Baynes, and Jayson Tatum made up the bulk of the Celtics table. Tatum, Brad Stevens, and Kyrie Irving were each nominated for awards.
Irving won handle of the year, Tatum lost ROTY to Ben Simmons (who he outplayed in the conference semis), but the worst of all was Stevens.
The mastermind who's improved the Celtics record every year, who lost 11 players from last season and guided them back to the conference finals despite losing their top two players prior to the playoffs even beginning lost the Coach Of The Year award to Dwane Casey. Yeah, the same one who was fired after being swept by Cleveland. Blasphemy.
#Celtics Brad Stevens third in #NBA Coach of the Year voting with Danny Ainge 4th as Executive of the Year.
Let's look a little deeper at what the Celtics did this year with Stevens at the helm.
Boston’s incredible run ended with heartbreak in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, it’s impossible to damper the effect that Stevens brought throughout a season filled with bad luck.
The Celtics dealt with remarkable adversity during the 2017-18 campaign. After entering training camp as one of the favorites to win the 2018 championship, Boston saw one their top players, Gordon Hayward, go down with a serious leg injury just five minutes into the season.
I still remember that feeling of wondering where the Celtics would go from here. Would they slip to the edge of the playoff race? Would they miss the postseason entirely?
No, instead of folding in the face of monumental pressure, Boston stepped up and surprised the entire NBA. After starting 0-2, the Celtics would go on to win 22 of their next 24 games, including 16 straight, to announce their presence to the league.
Boston continued to overcome challenges throughout the entire year. They battled for 48 minutes every night and even allowed overcoming double-digit deficits to be their signature all season. In the wake of some awful injury luck, the young C’s stepped up and delivered no matter the place, no matter the time, and no matter the roster.
Hayward missed all but five minutes of the season, Irving missed 22 regular season games and the playoffs, Daniel Theis missed 19 games and the playoffs, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris both missed 28 games with Smart returning late in the first-round of the playoffs.
How many NBA teams without Brad Stevens would have made the playoffs with this much talent missing games? How about winning a career-high 55 games and securing the No. 2 seed in the playoffs? Despite playing their best basketball as underdogs, many NBA analysts pegged Boston-Milwaukee as a sure upset in the first round of the playoffs. When will they ever learn?
The Celtics ousted the Greek Freak in seven games before stifling The Process in five games to set up a matchup with The King. Boston led 2-0 and 3-2 in the series before falling admirably in seven games.
Would Casey have taken Boston this far? I don't even think it's argument. The Toronto Raptors were swept by Cleveland despite arguably having more developed talent than the Celtics right now. Sure, Casey's team won 59 games, but they've been performing close to that level over the past three years. Toronto won 56 games in 2016, 51 last year, and upped it to 59 in 2018. Boston won 48 games in 2016, 53 last season, and 55 in 2018. But the circumstances are much different. Toronto has developed around the same players as they've grown into stardom. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas were all at the top of the Raptors scoring column during those three 50+ win seasons. Players like Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Kelly Olynyk all were instrumental in the Celtics success during recent years. They were swept in the first-round, then lost in six, before surging to the conference finals last year. GM Danny Ainge then turned the league upside down when he dealt Thomas, Crowder, and more to bring in Irving. He traded Bradley for Morris and opted not to re-sign Olynyk. What would Boston do with 11 new faces a year after losing in the ECF to Cleveland in five games? Do it all again and get even closer to the championship. Shame on the NBA, because it's clear this award was decided before the playoffs were even over. Why have an award show based on regular season accomplishments if you're not going to broadcast it until over two months later? If the Awards Show doesn't happen until after the season is over, then every part of the process should be considered when deciding who wins the award. If that was the case, Stevens and Tatum would've won tonight. The Raptors obviously didn't think Casey was the Coach Of The Year. That's why they sent him packing to Detroit. His teams didn't perform when it mattered. Winning in the regular season is virtually meaningless for a team full of veterans if a banner isn't hanging in their gym once the playoffs are over. Stevens will be humble in defeat as always and most likely compliment Casey if he's asked about the award. Despite not winning the Coach Of The Year in the eyes of the league, Stevens will always hold that title in Boston. Photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Follow Dustin Lewis on Twitter for more coverage and news on the Celtics.