The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.
The Celtics made one of the most daring and unexpected coaching hires in recent memory when they plucked Brad Stevens from Butler.
Illinois, UCLA and Oregon couldn’t pull Stevens from his mid-major lifestyle. Born and raised in Indiana, Butler seemed perfectly content remaining in the Hoosier State.
But the Celtics came calling – offering a six-year, $22 million contract – and Stevens listened. Considering by some a prodigy in the profession, Stevens skipped a rung or two on the coaching adder when he went to Boston.
Intrigue was high. Butler always looked extremely prepared, and their offensive and defensive schemes were sound. Could that translate to the NBA?
His first Celtics were… nothing really. They were blandly bad, posting below-average offensive and defensive ratings on their way to a 25-57 record.
That’s not really Stevens’ fault. Boston traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce before the season, and Rajon Rondo spent most of the year injured. The coach was trying to win with too many replacement-level players.
But patience in the NBA is not as strong as in college. Another down season, and people around Boston will begin to wonder Stevens is just another college coach who couldn’t hack it at the next level. Stevens is not on the hot seat, but he must reverse course before he lands on.
The adjustment from the Atlantic 10 to the NBA must have been huge, and it’d be excusable if Stevens needed a season to learn the ropes. Luckily for him, the Celtics seemed fine to lose and land a high draft pick, anyway.
But slowly, expectations will rise. The 37-year-old Stevens must grow with them. That starts this year, his first chance to show his NBA bona fides now that his feet are wet and his roster – like any roster outside Philadelphia – is talented enough to contend for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.