At the beginning of the season, the Boston Celtics were one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. They hovered around .500 for the first few months of the year, leading the fanbase to question whether or not major changes were needed.
Some brought up the idea of trading Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart while others suggested parting ways with newly-signed head coach Ime Udoka. No matter where you looked, everyone was trying to figure out a solution. It wasn’t until the beginning of February that the Celtics earned the trust of their fans again.
But one person saw the change before anyone else – Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens. On the April 7 edition of the View From the Rafters podcast, presented by the Celtics, Stevens explained how he knew the Celtics had turned a corner before their record began to improve:
I knew when I saw us get healthy in January and we started that run even before the trade deadline. It didn’t look the same. It looked, even though we were playing teams that were beat up and didn’t have all their guys, we looked different. We looked more dynamic, we were playing every possession, we were executing, we just looked different. And you could see something that clicked there.
Marcus Smart missed six games from January 12 to January 21, but after that, the Celtics were at full health. Then, a little over a week later on January 29, Boston went on a nine-game win streak. That was the run where everyone began to believe, but Stevens had already hopped on the bandwagon.
Health Before and After of Celtics’ Turnaround
Last season, the Celtics finished the year 36-6 and got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets. Those same struggles carried into this season, as Boston was 24-24 on January 23. They had been a .500 basketball team for nearly a year and a half.
However, at the same time, the Celtics just couldn’t get healthy. Whether it was Brown’s wrist injury at the end of the 2020-21 season, Boston’s issues with COVID, or the multitude of ankle sprains that rained down on the Celtics this year, they just couldn’t all stay on the court together. From the start of the season up until January 23, their regular starting lineup of Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Robert Williams had only played in 13 games together, totaling 160 minutes.
Since then, those numbers have skyrocketed. That same starting five has appeared in 21 games together, notching 282 minutes. The Celtics have won 19 of those games. For Stevens to have seen the vision before they kicked things into high gear says a lot about his confidence in Boston. But he should be confident in the team, as he’s the one who built it.
Stevens’ First Year as President of Basketball Operations
When Danny Ainge retired this past offseason, Stevens stepped into a front-office role. There was no grace period for Stevens, though, as he was immediately tasked with finding a new head coach. In the end, he landed on Ime Udoka, who has turned out to be a great fit. Udoka won Coach of the Month in February and has implemented a defensive scheme that has helped the Celtics become the number-one defense in the NBA.
However, that wasn’t even the first move of Stevens’ tenure. Before he could even find a head coach, Stevens traded Kemba Walker and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Horford. That ended up being a huge steal for the Celtics, as Walker is no longer playing for the New York Knicks, where he signed after getting bought out by the Thunder, and Horford is having his best season since his last stint in Boston.
Stevens didn’t stop there, though, signing Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson in the offseason and subsequently trading both of them at this year’s trade deadline. In return, the Celtics received Derrick White and Daniel Theis, both of whom have become a part of Boston’s regular rotation.
Boston’s General Manager did a phenomenal job of putting together this Celtics roster. When things were rough, Stevens was ready to make changes. And then, when there was merely a glimmer of hope, he was the first one to notice the improvements.