The Boston Celtics finished with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, but things are different this year. Not necessarily worse — just different.
How different? Well, they enter camp next week with possibly a whopping 11 new players. That’s just life with Celtics general manager Danny Ainge running things.
Like all GMs, Ainge is constantly looking to make the team better. But unlike all GMs, Ainge is willing to take big risks to get the franchise where he wants it to go.
“This isn’t any sort of plan like we wanted to make a whole bunch of changes — part of it is just managing payroll and getting guys to fit on the court, just building a team,” Ainge told The Boston Globe. “It’s not about getting rid of somebody or bringing new faces in, but in the world we live in today you have a salary cap and a luxury tax and there are short contracts that are attached.
“When I played, I signed a six-year contract. Now, most contracts are four years [at the longest]. It’s just the nature of our business and it’s not ideal not to have continuity. But there are rewards for a freshness. What really matters is how well they play and as I said, time is our judge.”
As Gary Washburn pointed out in the Globe story, the Celtics’ lineup could feature four new starters — prized newcomers Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, forward Marcus Morris, and second-year man Jaylen Brown.
Added to the list of fresh faces: Forwards Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye from the draft, and center Aron Baynes, forward Daniel Theis and guard Shane Larkin in free agency.
Other key returnees include center Al Horford and guard Marcus Smart.
Can this group of Celtics finish the regular season as well as the previous version? Maybe not. But maybe, too.
“I’m excited, no question, as I said, you can feel it,” Ainge said. “You can feel the energy here at our practice facility, you can see it in guys that are trying out for the [G-League], guys that are going to play major roles on our team this year, young and old, you can just see the energy that exists around here and it’s good. It’s exciting. I’m excited to get the season started and see how it all works.”