Those of us with Midwestern roots are ingrained with certain inalienable virtues. And be it Rome, Tokyo, numerous careers of varying success or simply crossing the county line, these tend to travel well wherever we go. Webster’s would define these as “taking pride in hard work, maintaining a no-nonsense attitude and knowing when it’s cold enough to start using the buttons on your jacket.”So it was Brad Stevens announced in July that he was leaving Butler for the NBA and, while those close to the program were rocked to their core, the talking heads declared it one of those rare occasions where both parties involved had made a colossal mistake. For Stevens, leaving Butler appeared a disastrous move. The Bulldogs were entering a new conference which meant new opportunities and wider exposure. All of which figured to reap stronger recruiting classes and the possibility of challenging once again for that elusive national title he’d already been so close to snatching up from his tiny perch at Butler.
For the Celtics, it meant hiring a coach with no NBA experience and one that had been leading a mid-major program for only 6 seasons. His introduction to the NBA would include piloting a roster comprised largely of castaways and project players destined to wilt in the shadow of two cornerstone stars who’d bolted, chasing another ring out of town.
Stevens was walking into a meat-grinder. The NBA would slap that boyish grin from his face before he could call his first time out. He’d be a shell of his former pragmatic self by Thanksgiving. But when the Celtics took the floor last week and completely dismantled the New York Knickerbockers and their high priced roster 114-73, there they were; taking pride in hard work and approaching things with a no-nonsense attitude.
Of course all this should be prefaced by the fact the NBA’s Eastern Conference is a disaster unlike anything professional basketball, and more pointedly, professional sports has ever seen. Coming in to Tuesday night there were three teams in the entire Conference with winning records. I’ll pause to let that soak in. Still the reenergized Celtics had recorded 10 wins with what was really supposed to be a rudderless team reeling without Rajon Rondo (man, that’s a lot of R’s).
Seriously, who are these guys? Vitor Faverani, Phil Pressey, Kris Kardashian-Humphries? Bleeding 10 wins from this roster is enough for Stevens to walk away right now. Go try to hit a baseball for a while Brad, there’s nothing left to prove here. You’re obviously really good.
In fact, forget about baseball. There are far more opportunities hocking whatever pixie dust Stevens sprinkled on the Boston roster before the season began. To this point the Celtics have been that movie the wife dragged you to that you just knew would be awful and you sit down, glancing around to make sure nobody within your inner circle of most trusted man-friends sees you in the theatre, only to discover it’s a surprisingly good film.
Much remains to be seen obviously. Can Boston sustain their winning ways until April? Will the impending return of an All-Star caliber player in Rondo serve as a shot in the arm to a roster already light years ahead of the majority of the Eastern Conference? Or will the return of Rondo spawn a cancer that spells doom for the Celtics and Stevens?One thing’s for sure, if the Celtics continue to take pride in outworking opponents and approach things with a no-nonsense attitude, the sky’s the limit; well at least in the Eastern Conference it is.