The Boston Celtics finally dumped salaries while watching their distinguished head coach bolt for the opposite coast of the country and the opposite conference. A season of profound transitions ushers in a new era for professional basketball’s most storied franchise.
2014 NBA Championship Odds: +21000
Key #1: Jeff Green needs to be healthy and effective
The health problems endured by Jeff Green don’t seem so threatening right now. A scary set of incidents put the Georgetown star’s career in jeopardy, but Green looked very solid in an immensely encouraging 2012-2013 season. Now, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce out of the picture, Green must become the consistent every-game scorer this team needs him to be. If Green becomes a thoroughly reliable go-to option at the ends of games, the Celtics will attain a measure of stability that a lot of experts currently don’t think they can find.
Key #2: Rajon Rondo and Brad Stevens need to work well together, growing closer and more in sync with each other as the season moves along
The Celtics can’t be all about Rajon Rondo – that’s why Jeff Green is the biggest key on the team – but in a larger context, it’s undeniable that the relationship between Rondo and new head coach Brad Stevens will become a very big deal. Stevens comes from Butler University, where he led the Bulldogs to two straight NCAA tournament national championship game appearances. In the pro game, Stevens will face substantially different kinds of challenges, specifically the art of relating to multi-million-dollar athletes. Can Stevens hit it off with Rondo, the gifted point guard whose relationship with the team has been contentious at times? If harmony enters into this specific pairing, the Celtics can potentially gain one of the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, a good season from Stevens and Rondo would lay the groundwork for better days in future seasons, when this team can make a run at high-priced free agents yet again.
Key #3: Kris Humphries has to grow up and become a lot tougher
The Celtics have been such a genuinely tough team over the past six years. They squeezed every last ounce of production out of an increasingly old and frail roster. The Celtics came within one win of upsetting the Miami Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, in what would have been one of the great upsets in the history of playoff basketball. Former coach Doc Rivers maxed out on the bench, coaxing a supreme level of effort from his players. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were crafty players who hit a lot of big shots, but more than anything else, Garnett and Pierce were tough players who never backed down from a fight. This level of ruggedness served the Celtics well and made them so hard for opponents to play. Humphries, sent to the Celtics from Brooklyn in the offseason’s big blockbuster trade, was soft against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of last season’s playoffs. If Humphries can man up and find a level of toughness that never existed as a Brooklyn Net, the Celtics will become a better team in the paint at both ends of the floor.
Click here to get a full list of NBA futures for the 2013-14 NBA season.