The Celtics are gearing up for the futile task of trying to stop LeBron James. They have themselves to blame for this misfortune, and would almost certainly do it again.
It’s hard to remember now, but just four years ago, the Celtics were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Coming off a 25-win season, they were far more interested in gathering assets –– draft picks and expiring contracts –– than winning immediately. That’s why Danny Ainge agreed to acquire Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller from the Cavaliers in July 2014 for the sake of securing a future first-round selection. The three-way trade also involved the Nets, who took on Jarrett Jack’s money. Shedding those salaries allowed the Cavaliers to clear cap room for James.
Later that month, he came home.
Now James is looking to beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. So far this postseason, James is averaging 34.3 points per game to go along with 9.4 rebounds and 9 assists.
The fact that the Celtics are matching up against James for the second time in the ECF since he returned to Cleveland is a testament to their astonishing rebuilding process. Boston only sunk to draft lottery once in the post-Big Three era. Brad Stevens has led them to the playoffs for four straight seasons, beginning with a shocking 40-win campaign in 2014-15 where they faced –– you guessed it –– James in the first round.
One of the reasons the Celtics have risen so quickly is that fist-round pick from Cleveland. Ainge flipped it for Isaiah Thomas, who was shipped to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving. Not a bad haul.
Even though the Celtics have only missed the playoffs one time under Stevens, they’ve drafted at the top of the first-round for the last two years, thanks to the surplus of lottery picks they received from the Nets for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2013. Those selections, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have propelled them on this most recent improbable run –– which, in case you haven’t heard, is happening without Irving and Gordon Hayward.
There are lots of ways to measure the Celtics’ success over the last few years. But their role in the three-team trade that helped James return to Cleveland might be the best. It shows how quickly they’ve rebuilt, and the brilliance of their operation.
Full article @ Remember, Celtics helped pave way for LeBron James to return to Cleveland
Source: GreenStreet Blog