A lot people — including their own top personnel man — seem to think the Celtics are not going to be very good next season. Three members of the Celtics’ young core are not among those people.
Speaking with reporters at the Orlando Summer League, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger bristled at talk of the Celtics “tanking” or “rebuilding” in the near future. Acknowledging that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who has used the “rebuilding” word multiple times this offseason, may not be done making moves, the three members of Boston’s young core rejected the idea that the Celtics are lottery-bound.
“We’ve definitely [got] something to prove,” Lee told ESPN.com. “A lot of people counted us out, but that puts that chip on our shoulders. You know the underdog always fights hard, and that’s what we plan on doing.”
Brad Stevens‘ hiring, which many observers took as a sign that the Celtics were gearing up for a long-term rebuild, sent the opposite message to Green. Stevens has experience winning with a bunch of players outsiders may not recognize as premier talent at Butler. Green wonders if Stevens can do the same in the NBA.
“I’ve seen him at Butler, how he shocked the world,” Green told reporters. “I was happy with the decision. I called him right after I found out. I think he’s going to do what he did at Butler, take that ‘rebuilding’ word out, and we’re going to be the Celtics again.”
If anybody knows about tanking, it’s Lee. Just one year after serving as a key piece on an NBA Finals team in Orlando as a rookie, Lee started 66 games for the New Jersey Nets team that won 12 games in 2009-10. He knows what “bad” looks like. He insists that’s not how these Celtics look.
Rajon Rondo has yet to be traded, after all, and Avery Bradley was expected to become the fourth young veteran to join his teammates in Orlando to watch the summer league games this week.
“I’ve been a part of rebuilding teams, and the talent we have on this team is a lot better,” Lee said. “We still have an All-Star in Rondo. We have a forming All-Star in Jeff Green. And then you have key role players like myself, Jared and Avery, so I think it’s all going to be a matter of everybody stepping up and contributing and playing at a high level to support the two that I mentioned. I think we’ll be fine.”
Sullinger, who spoke with reporters earlier in the week, echoed Ainge’s comments in the wake of the trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
“When you have Celtic pride, you don’t have time to rebuild,” Sullinger said.