The 2016-17 Celtics were a team of misfits - but they were tough and determined
The 2016-17 Celtics were like the characters on the Island Of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Aron Baynes would have fit in perfectly as Yukon Cornelius. That crew included Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebco and Gerald Green. They finished the season first in the East with a 53-29 record and then went on to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That group was tough as nails - backed down to no one - and surprised everyone with their grit, determination and winning ways.
For a guy chosen with the very last pick (60th) in his draft, Isaiah Thomas far-surpassed expectations. But it always seemed he wasn't wanted. Isaish played for two teams prior to being shipped to Boston - and has moved on to three other teams since being traded by Danny Ainge.
Scrappy bunch of rejects and I loved them— John☘️ (@JohnCrane41) January 31, 2018
Jonas played for three teams in Europe before coming to Boston and has moved on to two teams since. Crowder played for the Mavericks and G-League before being traded to the Celtics and then was traded to the Cavaliers. He is now with the Utah Jazz. Gerald Green has played for a combined 13 teams - two of them (including Boston) twice. The ultimate journeyman.
That backcourt had no size with Isaiah listed at a generous 5'9" and Avery Bradley at 6'2", but Thomas used his lack of size to elude and dazzle opponents on offense - while Avery had a defensive determination rarely seen in today's NBA. Crowder was simply strong and tough - the type you always want on your team. Jonas was the perfect backup wing. Nice outside shooter who never complained.
We had a bunch of players who were castaways/underdogs who were just happy to have a chance to win and prove themselves. This team has a bunch of players who want to prove themselves as well but mainly prove they're superstars. smh— 2019 is MY YEAR NIGGA (@thechrischuck) February 11, 2019
That 2016-17 team never disappointed us. They almost always surprised us by their tenacity and ability to come back from large deficits. Talent-wise? Not great - but it didn't matter. Cornelius (Uh- Aron Baynes) should have been with the crew. Those misfits that nobody seemed to want came together to overachieve and win games that looked out of reach.
The talent level of the 2018-19 crop of Celtics far surpasses the Isaiah troops, but once again, that doesn't matter. It is all about grit and grind - hard work - and winning tough games as a unit. Isaiah's 53-point game versus the Wizards in the 2017 post-season tells it all. I was absolutely mesmerized as I watched his performance. I honestly didn't think it was possible. But that is what the right collection of misfits with grit, determination, toughness and the letting-go of egos can accomplish. It's time for the present team to show the same. I would rather watch the video below of that Game Two than a live game where the present team blows a 28-point lead. Maybe you feel the same.
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Photos via Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Video via Chris Smoove