On Tuesday, the Celtics received a huge boost on their uphill climb towards banner #18. Gordon Hayward signed with the C’s to a four-year deal giving them a legitimate NBA All Star who, at 27 years old, is entering the prime of his NBA career. Hayward is a great fit for the Celtics and their veteran nucleus with young potential stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. He can create his own shot, he’s a great shooter, and he’s a solid perimeter defender. Last season, Hayward averaged 21.9 points per game while shooting .471 from the field and .398 for the three-point line. He also had a .844 free throw %. In the Celtics offense, Hayward fits right in, not only because he knows Brad Stevens system, but he has the skill set to thrive in it.
When the Celtics signed Hayward on the 4th of July, the “fireworks” that were discussed for two years were finally in flight. Granted, this is not the same as the potential of signing Kevin Durant last offseason, but landing Hayward certainly does put the Celtics on the map after finishing as the runner up in the Eastern Conference last season. Let’s be clear. This does not make the Celtics the favorites in the NBA or even the Eastern Conference. But, make no mistake about it. It does get them a step closer. A big step closer.
One would never know it if you listened to or read the national media outlets the last few days. The general consensus is to downplay the signing as if it’s not a big deal. It’s even been suggested that they are no closer and have not closed the gap between themselves and Cleveland. We’ve heard this a lot.
The Celtics will now just lose to the Cavs in six games rather than five.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss the three reasons why the Celtics aren’t getting the credit they deserve outside of Boston.
1. The national media is sick and tired of Boston sports teams being successful. The Patriots just won their 5th championship since 2001. The Red Sox have won three World Series since 2004. Even the Bruins and Celtics have managed to win a title in the past ten years. In the four major sports, Boston teams have accounted for ten of the last sixty championships (17%). That’s a ridiculous number for one city of a fifteen year span. Naturally, the rest of the country despises Boston sports teams. So, anytime one of these teams improves or does something well, the first reaction is to dismiss it.
2. The national media doesn’t want the Cleveland – Golden State rivalry messed with. The major sports networks want to play up Cavs – Warriors as if it’s the Celtics – Lakers 1980s level. It’s not…and it never will be. With that said, three straight years in the Finals is impressive and the reality is that when these two teams match up, people watch. Now, the Celtics are threatening this. Maybe not next year, but they’re coming any everyone knows it…and they’re in complete denial about it.
3. Gordon Hayward isn’t a well known superstar…yet. Sure, the NBA experts who have watched Hayward play consistently certainly know what he’s capable of. However, how many times have the Utah Jazz been on national TV at a reasonable hour? Few and far between. This was a team that missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons prior to last year. Hayward may just be a name to the casual sports fan right now, but that’s about to change in a few short months.
The Celtics still have more moves to make. The reality is that they’re still not quite there yet to beat the Cavs or Warriors. However, they continue to inch closer and, with Danny Ainge in the king’s chair, this upward climb is going to continue.
It won’t take long.