There are two types of Boston sports fans: those who yell about firing or trading everyone after any loss — and those who, in a quieter voice, call for firing or trading everyone after any loss.
So the Boston Celtics losing in six games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals — a series that Boston was favored in — was not ideal for the blood pressure of either kind of fan. It was Boston’s best chance to get to the finals since the 2011-12 season, when the Celtics also lost to Miami, in seven games. But in that case, the Heat, led by LeBron James, were by far the more talented team.
Let’s remember, though, the expectations for the Celtics entering the season: They had just lost Kyrie Irving (Nets), Al Horford (Sixers) and several other key players. Of the 17 players on the Celtics this season, seven were rookies. Yes, they added point guard Kemba Walker — a solid replacement for Irving, but last fall they were not expected to make much noise in the playoffs.
Instead, the Celtics went on a surprisingly strong regular-season run, going 48-24 for the third-best record in the East. They overachieved.
“It was a fun run,” Walker said after Sunday’s loss. “A tough finish, obviously, but we fought hard and that’s all you can ask for. You want guys to compete at a really high level, and I’m just proud of all these guys.”
Even with a disappointing playoff loss, the Celtics washed off the stain from last year’s torturous campaign in which they lost in the second round amid whispers that Irving was unhappy. Now, they have one of the youngest rosters in the N.B.A. If all goes well, they are equipped to make deep postseason runs for years to come.
If all goes well.
You cannot help but wonder whether they have enough to get over the hump. For years, Danny Ainge, the president of the Celtics, has resisted trading players or picks for stars like Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Anthony Davis; the trade with Cleveland for Irving in 2017 was a notable exception.
The Celtics have not won a title since 2008. At what point does a rebuilding team bec