How could anyone forget the talent the 2018-19 Celtics had, mixed with the expectations that were never met, when it comes to arguably the best roster in the Brad Stevens era.
Though lack of chemistry seems to be the main culprit that led to the demise of a second round knockout to the Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge thinks last season's team being over confident might have been another reason for the C's inconsistencies.
Ainge, along with Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca recently sat down with NBC Sports Boston's Michael Holly and detailed one exchange he had with Jaylen Brown last season in the team's lunch room that might have been a sign that the C's were in trouble.
"He came and sat behind me, and he said, 'Do you think we're as good as the 1986 Celtics team?' " Ainge said on The Michael Holley Podcast. "And I went, 'Oh my gosh. He's so young.'"The 1985-86 Celtics were coming off an NBA Finals loss to the rival Los Angeles Lakers on their home floor in six games the previous year. That season they won 67 games on their way to a 16th championship behind the leadership of Hall-of-Fame players Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
Ainge, a young 26 year old at the time on that very team, remembered what it took to get back to the Finals in 1986 and today they are considered one of the best teams in league history. While the 2018-19 Celtics were nothing reminiscent of that 1984-85 roster that suffered defeat at the hands of the Lakers and used that grueling loss as motivation the following season to win it all.
Instead, the surprising postseason run in 2018 without All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, where the Celtics made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and loss to LeBron James and a weak Cavaliers team, only confirmed Ainge's suspicions that those young group of guys may not have been ready to take that next step based on Brown's comparison.
"I mean, I just don't think they could even grasp that 1985 loss to the Lakers and the torture of that series and what that led (to), and Larry Bird was in his prime, one of the greatest Celtics of all time," Ainge said.
"But it was just fascinating. (Brown) was looking at it like matchup to matchup to matchup, like you're doing a video game. That was a real awakening to me -- just the perspective of guys."Ainge also noted that another problem for the Celtics last season were younger players such as Brown and Jayson Tatum fighting for minutes on a crowded talented roster, while looking to have a breakout year respectively.
"Certain guys thought they were going to be All-Stars this year," Ainge said. "And they work hard all summer to reach these individual goals, but we just had too much individual goals. We didn't have enough guys that winning was the most important thing. And when you have 21- and 22-year-old kids, that's gonna happen. So, I like them and I understand where every player is. I was that player."Despite Brown's question about the 86' Celtics and of course, his preseason remarks that the C's would be crowned as champions around this time a year ago, Ainge believes Brown made strides last season and powered through a tough year more so than anyone else on the 2018-19 roster.
"Jaylen is, you know, he might've handled a difficult situation better than anybody our team last year," Ainge said. "Very mature kid. Wants to be great. Knows that his time is coming. It's hard for him to be patient, but he has been patient. And he continues to work. He finds guys — right now he's working out with Donovan Mitchell, last year I think it was Jimmy Butler. He's trying to find ways to get better and I think Jaylen's going to be a very good player and has a very bright future."Though Ainge understands the mindset of someone like Brown, he also understood the end goal was to win as a team when he was apart of those Celtics rosters in the 1980's, something last season's squad never realized.
Listen to the full episode of the podcast below:
Picture used courtesy of NBA.com