One didn't make the leap, another wasn't the MVP talent he thought he was, and our expectations
were too high for the third to return to his former self this soon.
Remember the talk as soon as last season ended? We were one win away from the NBA Finals and we were adding all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the team. We were the unanimous favorites in the East and were going to give the Warriors a run for their money. Then this season happened.
Watching Charles and Shaq after our loss last night, they rightly pointed out that while stars get the credit when you win, they get the brunt of the criticism when you lose. Kyrie Irving wanted out of LeBron's shadow in Cleveland. He wanted to lead his own team. Well when that team underperforms, prepare for the avalanche of finger pointing at you.
We'll start with Kyrie. Numbers wise, Kyrie had a fine season. He just didn't elevate his game to superstardom. He more or less proved he's a great 2nd star on a team, but he's not in the LeBron, Giannis, Harden, Curry class. He'll likely go team up with Kevin Durant either with the Knicks or Nets in July. They'll say there's no Batman and Robin, that both will be the leaders, but let's be honest, we'll all know that Durant will be the star and Kyrie will be the sidekick. Kyrie is a joy to watch and it's a shame he didn't take to Boston like all-stars before him, Horford, Isaiah, Pierce, Rondo and KG.
I said at the time of the trade that I feared Danny gave up too much for Irving. And hindsight being 20/20, I think Ainge would have been better off using those assets of Isaiah, Crowder, Zizic and most importantly that valuable Nets pick elsewhere. And even if you kept the pick, our young core would have looked even better with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Colin Sexton on the squad.
Ainge might have wasted a nice asset that fit with Tatum and Brown's timeline when he traded the last Nets pick to the Cavs
We're still better off re-signing Kyrie this offseason than losing him for nothing. We can always trade him down the road, but it appears he's gone unless we win the next 3 games.
We probably shouldn't have had as high hopes for Gordon Hayward as we did this season. Hayward went from an amazing signing in the Summer of 2017 to everyone feeling bad for him when he suffered that gruesome injury on opening night last season, to a favorite whipping boy of fans this season when (as should of been expected) he didn't perform like his former all-star self one year removed from said injury.
Expecting Hayward to be an All-Star again this soon was premature
I don't blame Brad Stevens for giving Hayward minutes this season. He needs the reps and minutes to eventually regain his game. It took Paul George a couple seasons. Too early to write off Hayward. I think our expectations for him in 2018-19 were too high. We weren't adding two stars back in Irving and Hayward this year. We were adding one and one rehabilitating player.
Remember this guy?
Now what really hurt us is that the reason we were one win away from the Finals last year is because our teenage rookie came on like gangbusters the end of last season and the playoffs. Everyone had him penciled in as a surefire future All-NBA player. Possibly as soon as this season. He was supposed to be the Celtics 1B star to Kyrie's 1A. Tatum did not make a leap this year. In fact he looked more like a rookie. You could argue that bringing back Kyrie hurt Tataum's game, but there were plenty of games and minutes without Kyrie on the floor, and Tatum did not look like 2018 playoff Tatum in those minutes.
It's WAY too early to get too down on Tatum. He could still one day become that Paul Pierce player for the Celtics. He could still one day become an All-NBA player, but his future looked much brighter a year ago. And I fear that his play this season will mean that in addition to Tatum, we'll have to also include Jaylen Brown to have a chance at Anthony Davis. If Tatum had a better year, I believe we could have kept Brown. And this is a real pity as Jaylen seems to really be coming on of late.
So plenty of blame to go around, but this is still a stars league. Kyrie wanted to lead his own team so he deserves a fair share of the blame. Not really sure how you can blame Hayward after his injury, but I guess we can blame ourselves for having too high expectations for an immediate return to his former stellar play. You could maybe blame Stevens for giving him too many minutes, but maybe Danny and Brad decided or knew that the only way for the Celtics to win a championship with this roster is if Hayward was a big contributor and we either ride or die with him. The alternative of not playing him his minutes would have still ended in us not winning a championship, while also delaying Hayward's rehab.
Tatum is the player I think that is really the key to why we are on the verge of elimination. If he continued where he left off last playoffs this year, we are the #1 seed in the East. We are the team preparing for the Eastern Conference Finals. Great players should be able to coexist with other stars. Tatum should have been a star with Kyrie. Even if it meant the ball in his hands a little less or less shots, he should still have had a better season. Also Kyrie's presence had nothing to do with Tatum's defensive lapses.
It's a stars league and our stars just didn't shine. Kyrie wasn't the MVP type player and leader he thought he was. Hayward wasn't who he once was. And Tatum not only didn't take the next step, he regressed as a star. This is why we are where we are right now.