Are the Boston Celtics destined to take a backward step in 2021?
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps on Monday offered an ominous prediction about how the Celtics season will unfold. The Celtics are off to a 4-3 start, and their performances in the first two weeks of the season have convinced Bontemps they lack what it will take to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth time in five years.
“Boston’s uneven start to the season continued this week, which included barely surviving being swept over the weekend in Detroit by the lowly Pistons,” Bontemps wrote. “Yes, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — the latter, in particular — have been outstanding. But if we have learned anything over the course of the season’s first two weeks, it’s that Boston as constructed isn’t nearly deep enough, with or without Kemba Walker, to make the kind of playoff run the Celtics have had in recent years.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart said Friday he expected Boston to endure some ups and downs early in the season as they try to integrate new players into their system. Head coach Brad Stevens said Sunday the early inconsistency Boston has shown is “exactly” what he expected from a group that contains 14 players with fewer than five years’ NBA experience.
How long these growing pains last will be a key question in the Celtics’ season. If they can overcome them sooner, Bontemps might have to revise his prediction. If Boston struggles through the winter and into spring, the Celtics will have to temper their expectations.