The Miami Heat are the biggest surprise in the East, but the Boston Celtics are a close second. After a disappointing season and Kyrie's departure, this was supposed to be a regrouping season in Boston. What caused the failer last season? Too much success.
It sounds weird, but it's true - especially too much success too soon. Danny Ainge explained in his interview with Rachel Nichols. The first season with Kyrie and Hayward, the Celtics lost Hayward after 5 min of the regular season. Kyrie started great but was then also sidelined due to injury. The plan changed to a developmental season for Brown and Tatum. Next thing you know, it's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics are going blow for blow with LeBron and the Cavs.
Then last season came around the corner, the young players felt they established place, Kyrie and Hayward returned, and it was time to win some rings. Well, that turned out to be too much for Brad Stevens to handle (and objectively, Kyrie didn't help with that). The Celtics always preach giving up a good shot for a better shot - but when you have to give up a great shot for an even greater shot, that can be difficult. Especially when your minutes are down, and you need to show you deserve more.
No-one knows this better than Danny Ainge himself, coming in as a rookie to Boston and playing with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Ainge may have been the 31st pick in the Draft, but he was already an active MLB player for the Blue Jays. The Celtics had to go to court to buy him out from the MLB team. So Ainge knew he was wanted and could play. He still needed to understand his place in the pecking order.
When I'm a rookie coming off of a down screen, and I catch the ball, and I shoot it. Shots I've taken my whole life. Coach pulls me over, and he says, "What's your shooting percentage?" I said, "Like, 50%" He goes, "Yeah, that's really good. What's their shooting percentage?" And I looked at McHale and Bird and went "Like 60%" The coach said, "Yeah, let's get the ball inside. Let's quit taking those shots."
Danny Ainge on The Jump
When your coach tells you to stop taking a "really good" shot, a shot you make 50% of the time, that is a challenge. That is why Ainge felt like Hayward's hand injury was an opportunity for Brown and Tatum to use the minutes they would get to develop more and gain valuable experience. The thing is, in today's story, Hayward will have the "Ainge" role. Brown and Tatum have been playing exceptionally well, and it will be up to Hayward to pass up a good shot for an even better shot.
The reason this shouldn't implode the Celtics season this year is, Hayward has been doing that his whole life, unlike certain woke players in Brooklyn.