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Boston’s four main pro sports teams are known for their stars. The Red Sox have David Ortiz. The Bruins have Zdeno Chara. The Patriots have Tom Brady. But the Celtics? Not so much.
The team opens its season Wednesday night, beginning its third season since trading away aging Boston icons Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Since their departures, the Celtics have been rebuilding, acquiring younger prospects who were still in their teens when Boston last won the championship in 2008.
"We have a young team," said David Lee, a veteran forward the Celtics traded for in the offseason, "so you’d expect to have some practices where coach comes in at the end and says, 'We didn’t have a good day today but let’s be better tomorrow.' We haven’t had that at all."
At 32, Lee’s the only player on Boston’s roster in his 30s.
Rebuilding can be tough on fans, and it's meant more losses. In their first season without Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics dropped nearly 70 percent of their games. Last year was better — but the team still lost more than half its contests.
Entering this season, though, some Celtics fans are optimistic.
"I think they’re going to have a good year," said Greg Helms, who attended a home preseason game last week. His hopes are as high as the Garden rafters — where he wants to see an 18th championship banner.
"I think that they could definitely be raising that in June," he said. "So we’ll look forward to it."
Much of Helms' confidence comes from the Celtics' leadership, chiefly, Brad Stevens, who is now in his third season as Boston’s head coach. The Celtics took a gamble on Stevens back in 2013. At the time, he was only 36 years old, making him the youngest coach in the league. He had never played in the NBA and his only head coaching experience was at Butler University.
But in just two years, Stevens has developed a strong reputation: Last season, in Coach of the Year voting, he finished fourth. Coming into this season, Stevens says he still sees room for improvement.
"We’ve really wanted to put a lot of emphasis on learning each other and playing together and being organized yet unscripted," he said after a preseason game.
We’ve really wanted to put a lot of emphasis on learning each other and playing together and being organized yet unscripted.Brad Stevens, Celtics coach
Under Stevens’ direction, passing has become a hallmark of the Celtics offense, something the team worked on during the preseason.
"I think good teams do that, and it requires a great deal of maturity on the players’ part, and they’ve shown that," Stevens said.
That success moving the ball has helped the Celtics stay competitive against teams with star-studded rosters. In the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Celtics were swept by four-time MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Boston managed to keep all four games respectable.
Celtics fan Harrison Sims likes the strategy.
"In the NBA in the last 10, 15 years, it’s been about get the superstar and try to get as far with that superstar, but now it’s like we’re going back to old ways," Sims said. "Five guys on the floor. Use all five. Like the team concept, and that’s why I think Brad Stevens is perfect for the job."
Still, Sims is more realistic than some other Celtics fans when it comes to the team’s chances this season. After all, James and the Cavs still loom as the heavy favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
"Yeah, this year it’s going to be tough," he said. "But, I mean, definitely two or three years from now when these guys are developing and you have all these young guys coming in and you still have that veteran leadership...with Brad Stevens as the coach — it’s literally the perfect scenario for a championship run."
Until then, Sims and other Celtics fans can hope that a young coach and an old style of play will keep the Celtics competitive against the NBA's top stars.
This segment aired on October 28, 2015.
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