Last season, the Celtics had “Unfin18hed Business.”
This season, it’s “Banner 18 . . . Or Else.”
“Wait Until Next Year?”
Not this time.
The 2023-24 Celtics are the Tom Brady-in-his-prime Patriots.
The expectation shared by everyone within the reach of Mike Gorman’s voice is universal: Anything less than a title equates to failure, shame and humiliation.
Doc Rivers had “ubuntu.”
Atmospheric anticipation has carried Joe Mazzulla’s Celtics toward “seppuku.”
If the Celtics aren’t going to win 16 games this postseason, they might as well move the franchise to Las Vegas during the All-Star Break and spare us another stress-filled springtime.
The Celtics have done everything this offseason within their authority to build a team they believe will, er must, snag Banner 18.
Wyc Grousbeck gave Brad Stevens the Green Team’s American Express Black card. Stevens spent lavishly on Jaylen Brown’s max contract, an extension for Kristaps Porziņģis, and Jrue Holiday’s moving expenses.
Stevens went full “Extreme Makeover” on the roster. Among the departed: Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart, Grant Williams and Robert Williams.
Celtics fans are going to miss Grant Williams’ toughness, the inside play of Robert Williams, and the wide-open 24-foot bricks launched by Smart.
But how is the view from 35,000 feet? Or from the inside emails and DMs from the NBA inner sanctum?
NBA insider Shams Charania, the chief scoops competitor to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, has also earned one-name status.
Shams bio on X nearly maxes the character count. “Senior lead NBA Insider for The Athletic and Stadium. FanDuel Partner and co-host of Run It Back on FanDuel TV.” He boasts 2.2 million followers on Elon Musk’s social platform. And another 629,000 on Instagram.
The Herald chatted with Charania for 15 minutes the other day. His perspective is unbiased, if not actually informed.
Does he believe the Celtics have done enough to win a championship?
“They’re right on that doorstep,” Charania said. “Getting Kristaps Porziņģis, obviously they went for more offense getting another big man, but losing Marcus Smart, that was a major dent to that team. What Marcus provided for them from an intangible’s perspective, leadership perspective, his presence was beyond stats. That was a very tough loss. It could be seen as a step back, but then you see the Damian Lillard trade happened, and they end up getting Jrue Holiday. That was something that they did not expect. Getting Jrue Holiday makes up for the Smart loss, at least a little bit, at least on the court. Now I think they’re right up there. They should go into the year with championship expectations, no question.”
Charania believes the perception around the league was that the Holiday acquisition was pivotal in closing the circle on the defensive end.
“Holiday, that’s a guy that’s been a multi-time defensive, all defensive team, the contender for Defensive Player of the Year (an award that Smart has won.) Holiday is up there for top defenders. He obviously brings some offense as well, so I don’t think it’s as big of a loss. But from the perspective of being and embodying Celtics leadership, that voice and that toughness that they have in the locker room, we’re only going to see how that plays out. Because if there’s one guy that can have those real conversations with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, it is Smart,” he said.
Are the Jays feared and/or respected around the league? Underrated? Overrated?
“Everyone has their opinions, but I think they’re among the two elite wing players that we have in this league,” Charania said. “Optionality is so important to the league today and having star power at that position. But again, you’ve got to win in the playoffs. That’s what builds a championship legacy. That’s what those guys are lacking, is that. Every year is going to be, are they going to be able to break through and get that ring?”
Just 29, Shams has texted, called, emailed and posted his way into the internal machinations of the NBA in just a decade. He broke news of a potential deal for Porziņģis by the Celtics on June 21.
Charania is diligent about separating church and state in terms of gambling in lieu of his ties to FanDuel. His Tweets have moved betting markets. He says he does not bet. Given the multiple interruptions during our chat, it’s unlikely he has time to do so.
When asked for a 2024 NBA Finals winner, Charania deferred by saying, “I don’t make predictions.”
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Shams makes a distinction between the deal that brought in Porziņģis and the one that resulted in Holiday becoming a Celtic.
“They had targeted Porzingis for sure for several weeks. That was on their board,” Charania said. “I don’t think trading Marcus Smart was on their board. After the Brogdon deal fell apart with the Clippers, they had to move Smart. I don’t think that that was totally in the cards, but then they had to go that route because they wanted to extend Porziņģis. There was a sense around the league that the Celtics would have some level of retooling because that was a disappointing end for that team,” he said.
Retooling is one way to put it.
“Even on Joe Mazzulla’s staff, getting Charles Lee, getting Sam Cassell, those are big time additions to what was a younger coaching staff,” Charania said. “Anytime you don’t live up to expectations, there’s going to be changes.”
Bill Speros (@RealOBF and @BillSperos on X) is a senior betting analyst for Bookies.com when he’s not writing here. He can be reached at email@example.com)