Rebooting C's is where it belongs ... on Stevens  

AP PhotoThe Celtics will have to regroup after losing prized free agent acquisition Gordon Hayward to a gruesome ankle injury in the opening six minutes of Tuesday night's season opener at Cleveland.

BOSTON -- The New England Patriots, sort of, know the pain the Boston Celtics are experiencing.

Julian Edleman, the heart-and-soul of this current version of the Patriots Dynasty, was gone before the season started on a freakish non-contact play, and, quite frankly, your Patriots don't look the same.

While the Patriots defense has looked horrid thus far, Edelman's grit is not only contagious but it's missing from this team.

Enter Gordon Hayward.

While he isn't the heart-and-soul of the new Celtics, he is one of a very small group of C's players (three or four), who can change the course of a season.

He is among about two dozen NBA players who can score with a guy in their face. It's a gift.

While the twisted ankle -- and I mean horrifically twisted ankle -- may never leave our photographic minds, his star power will be greatly missed.

But the comment from opening night that best describes the 2017-18 Celtics going forward came from head coach Brad Stevens when asked about the next night's game (last night versus the Milwaukee Bucks) and how will his team be ready.

"We will be ready because we have to," said Stevens, who might as well have dropped the invisible microphone.

This nerdy looking and sounding dude has something in common with the Great Ones. He despises losing. It's like, as our favorite former coach with the Patriots used to say, "throwing up in your mouth."

Tuesday night in Cleveland was a remarkable, bitter-sweet night.

The bitter part is the well-documented punch in the gut six minutes into the season.

The sweet part, in case you weren't paying attention, was the Celtics performance in the second half.

That game had 40-point loss written all over it, like the embarrassing one in early April at the T.D. Garden, and nobody from New England would've complained.

Instead the Celtics fought back. Not only did they fight back, but they did it thanks to two players, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum, who probably would've been benched by any respectable coach (or fan) after their combined 0-for-14 shooting in the first half.

And the 20-year-old Jaylen Brown isn't just an intelligent, mature young dunk-master, his defense and soft shot from 25 feet, is light years ahead of where it was when he was 19.

Al Horford appears to be embracing his new role as Celtics grandmaster, after only one season, countering the "quiet" guy he had been his entire career in Atlanta.

Last, but definitely not least, is Kyrie Iriving. If he hadn't yet gotten a feel for being a Celtic in Boston before last night, well, it shouldn't be too much longer.

Irving, as a talent, is as good as advertised. His dexterity and his willingingness to make a big play when it really matters is right there with the big boys named Kevin Durant, LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry and Russell Westbook.

The Patriots are, as of now, in the mix with about a half-dozen other teams. Trust me, that is not a compliment.

But Oct. 19 is not Nov. 19 or even Dec. 19.

Does anybody doubt that the Patriots, warts and all, won't be in Minneapolis the first week of February?

Well, I could say the same for Stevens' Celtics, but that's probably asking too much with LeBron James around. This team, under his rule, may not be championship-bound, but more importantly they are championship-driven.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

 

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