Many people were very disappointed with how the Boston Celtics‘ 2018-19 NBA season came to an end. Despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league during that time, the Celtics have failed to live up to expectations and didn’t even manage to advance to the Western Conference Finals. In a recent interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge revealed one of his biggest regrets regarding Kyrie Irving‘s final season in Boston.
“I think that in hindsight, we should have cleaned out the roster a little bit to make it easier for [coach] Brad [Stevens], more joy for him to coach,” Ainge said.
The Celtics were indeed considered to be a legitimate title contender last season. When they entered the 2018-19 NBA season, two NBA superstars — Irving and Gordon Hayward — returned from injuries to join the Celtics’ core — Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford — that almost eliminated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, having too many talented players on their roster did more harm than good for the Celtics.
“It just didn’t mesh,” Ainge said. “You know, it just didn’t, and I knew, and we talked about it.”
The Celtics’ 2018-19 NBA season was filled with drama and frustrations, mostly involving Irving. Often, when the team lost, Irving had been pointing most of the blame for their struggles to his young teammates. Had Ainge known that his core players wouldn’t mesh well, he admitted, he might have made a different decision before the last year’s February NBA trade deadline.
Since the 2019 NBA offseason, Ainge and the Celtics have tried to do their best to bounce back from their dismal performance last year. Though they lost Irving in the 2019 NBA free agency, the Celtics managed to find his replacement after acquiring Kemba Walker via a sign-and-trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Walker may not be as good as Irving on paper, but he seems to be the type of veteran superstar — and leader — that the Celtics need to succeed.
Walker is still working on improving his chemistry with the Celtics’ core players, but they are already doing very well in the 2019-20 NBA season. The Celtics have won seven of their last 10 games and are currently tied with the Toronto Raptors at the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite their strong start, Ainge and the Celtics still continue to find ways to improve their current roster. Though they have Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams, rumors are circulating that the Celtics are actively searching for a defensive-minded big man who will be available on the trade market before the 2020 February NBA trade deadline.