The Celtics, or at least some assorted might-bes, could-bes, and who’s-hes?, open Summer League Saturday against the Heat. It should be a fairly satisfying basketball fix for those of us that need one, if only to get a look at speedy second-round pick JD Davison and to track Sam Hauser’s progress in his reasonable quest to become the next Max Strus.
But you know what I really wish for? That the Celtics varsity had a game right now.
I know, I know, that’s not plausible, a little more than three weeks after their season ended in a six-game loss to the Warriors in the Finals. Jayson Tatum and friends deserve a few more weeks of hibernation before beginning preparation for training camp, which begins in late September.
But tell me you didn’t feel the same way I did when word broke last week that the Celtics had acquired multitalented guard Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers and would sign sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari once the Spurs followed through on their intention of releasing him.
Tell me you didn’t wish they could resume the season right then and there. Say, get the Warriors back to TD Garden, and play a Game 7, then tack on a Game 8 and 9, just for the fun of it.
The Warriors would get to keep their championship, of course. That was claimed fair and square, by the more deserving team. But we’d get to see what the Celtics would look like with two players whose skill sets are exactly what the Celtics were missing in the Finals.
Oh, fine, I’ll say it. If the Celtics had Brogdon and Gallinari back in June, the Celtics would have an 18th banner, and we’d still be finding bits of confetti scattered along Boylston Street.
The daydream of what they might have contributed to the 2021-22 Celtics can be nothing more than that, obviously. And I’m fairly sure the Warriors, who lost Gary Payton II and Otto Porter to free agency not long after their parade, wouldn’t go for our Hey, Why Not Resume The Series For Fun? plan.
But as far as consolation prizes go, having Brad Stevens acquire two players who appear to be perfect fits, with no one essential departing, is remarkably enjoyable.
Brogdon has been coveted by Celtics fans pretty much since he entered the league as a second-round pick, No. 36 overall, in 2016. The Celtics had three first-round picks that year, spending No. 3 overall on Jaylen Brown before adding, to considerably less benefit, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic later in the round.
They also had a handful of second-round picks, which yielded Demetrius Jackson, Abdel Nader, and Ben Bentil, and made a trade in which they acquired a future Clippers first-round pick via the Grizzlies for two other second-round selections, Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac.
Zagorac, who has never played in the NBA, was taken with the pick before the Bucks selected Brogdon, a four-year star and ACC Player of the Year at Virginia. When Brogdon won the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year award, Celtics fans couldn’t help lament missing out on him.
Brogdon is an easy player to covet. He’s not an electrifying athlete, but he’s good-to-excellent at just about everything. Last season, his third with the Pacers, he averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds. He can run the point, or play off-ball (he’s a 37.6 percent career 3-point shooter, though he shot just 31.2 percent last season), and he’s a willing and able defender.
Brogdon could start at the point for the Celtics, and Marcus Smart’s stubborn detractors are hoping for that, but that’s not the best use of him. With his versatility, Brogdon is ideal to revive the Celtics’ tradition of superb sixth men. Besides, the Celtics’ identity will continue to be their ferocious switching defense, and Smart should remain at the forefront of that. Brogdon isn’t Smart’s replacement. He’s the perfect complement.
When the Celtics acquired Brogdon, I initially wondered whether that meant Derrick White was on the move. I suppose that is still possible, but I hope it doesn’t happen. Brogdon does have a long injury history. He fell to the second round because of medicals that brought to mind the concern around Brandon Roy when he came into the league, and he played just 36 games last season because of hamstring and Achilles’ issues.
The Celtics have diverse, quality depth in the backcourt with Brown, Smart, Brogdon, White, and Payton Pritchard. It should remain that way. They’ll all be needed over the long season.
As far as Gallinari goes, does anyone dispute that the Celtics had a dire need for someone with his toolbox as a 6-foot-10-inch shooter of high percentage (38.2 percent from three in his career) and absolutely no conscience?
Yeah, he tends to view defense as an annoying interlude between jump shots, but as a scorer off the bench who can give Tatum and anyone else along the front line a breather, Gallinari should score more than he gives up. He can be the Scott Wedman of this group. And can you believe he’s listed at an inch taller than Robert Williams? Talk about players with opposite skill sets.
There’s really not much else for Stevens to do between now and training camp, beyond the formality of letting Brown know that they would like to sign him to an extension. The Celtics could use another big behind Williams and Al Horford, but it’s not essential. And it’s fine to let the $17.9 million traded-player exception acquired when Evan Fournier went to the Knicks expire. The Kevin Durant rumors? Talk-show fodder.
The hangover of what-ifs from the Finals lingered for a few weeks. But then Stevens got down to business, and now Brogdon and Gallinari are coming to Boston to reinforce a team that was two wins from a championship.
That right there is a master class on how you turn the disappointment of one season’s ending into the anticipation of a new season’s start.