Three predictions for 2019 for each of the Big Four, some more facetious than others . . .
■ Gordon Hayward, whose perimeter shooting was inconsistent during his return season from a horrible ankle/leg injury, finds his stroke in the playoffs and punctuates the Celtics’ seven-game victory over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals with an 11-for-11 performance from the field. Celtics fans are perfectly fine with Hayward emerging as the second coming of Scott Wedman.
■ Despite president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s more talent-laden offer, the New Orleans Pelicans trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers in July for a package including Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Chuck Nevitt, and Mike Smrek. Suspicions of tampering by the Lakers are furthered when Davis shows up on LeBron James’s barbershop show for a hair and eyebrow trim two weeks before the deal is consummated.
■ Al Horford averages 15.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, shoots 56.3 percent from the field, 44.2 percent from 3-point range, and 80.8 percent from the free throw line, never makes the wrong pass, and plays superb all-around defense as the Celtics advance to face the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Sports radio hosts proud of their mastery of simple alliteration still refer to him as “Average Al.”
■ Brad Marchand, vowing to be on his finest behavior now that he’s a mature adult at 30 years old, goes the entire 2018-19 season without drawing a suspension. But when he is not chosen as a Lady Byng finalist, Marchand falls off the best-behavior wagon and goes on a six-state face-licking spree.
■ David Pastrnak scores a pair of goals in the regular-season finale against the Lightning, giving him 51 for the season. He is the first Bruin since Cam Neely in 1993-94 to score 50. Somewhere in Alberta, Peter Chiarelli tells himself Boston really ought to give him some credit for not trading Pastrnak, too.
■ For the second straight season, the Bruins are eliminated in five games by the Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Jaroslav Halak struggles in net, allowing 14 goals in the four losses. Bruins fans blame Tuukka Rask anyway.
■ The day after the Super Bowl, the Packers announce that they have hired Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their new head coach. McDaniels confirms this by actually moving to Wisconsin and not returning to the Patriots after three days. Upon meeting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, McDaniels asks the question everyone has been wondering: “Is your agent really as much of a moron as he’s portrayed in those State Farm commercials?”
■ Rob Gronkowski catches eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ 34-31 win over the Texans in the divisional round. Gronkowski will sign with the Texans in the offseason after the Patriots release him for salary-cap reasons, ending the tenure of perhaps the most likable Patriots superstar they’ve ever had. Wish I had a punch line to this one, because if anyone deserves a happy ending in New England, Gronk is at the top the list.
■ The Patriots’ season ends with a 43-40 loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady immediately announces his plans to return for his 20th NFL season. He will go on to break Warren Moon’s single-season record for touchdown passes by a 42-year-old quarterback (11) before the September schedule is complete.
■ At age 35, Dustin Pedroia hits .293 with 11 homers and 29 doubles in 126 games to win the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. He also triggers a bench-clearing brawl in April when he spikes Yankees shortstop Manny Machado during a close play at second base, a play Pedroia calls accidental but everyone else calls justice.
■ The Red Sox suffer some understandable decline from their record-setting 2018 season. J.D. Martinez’s homer total dips to 36, Chris Sale makes just 25 starts because of extra caution in his handling, the post-Craig Kimbrel bullpen takes time to get sorted out, and Alex Cora’s team slips all the way from 108 wins to 101. Despite that regular-season disaster, the Red Sox do become the first team since the 1999-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back World Series, beating Theo Epstein’s Cubs in the World Series.
■ Mookie Betts turns down the Red Sox’ nine-year, $300 million offer of a contract extension in March, and his bet on himself continues to pay off when goes on to win his second straight batting title while becoming baseball’s first 40-40 player since Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Perhaps I should save this one for the 2020 predictions, but we might as well reveal it now: Betts will accept the Red Sox’ eight-year, $400 million offer in spring 2020, and we’ll all feel good about it.