Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck watched his team win five consecutive playoff games, then unspool in four straight losses to the Milwaukee Bucks — a playoff exit that capped a frustrating season and left him searching for explanations.
“I felt like it just wasn’t knitting together, and then it did knit together for five games in a row, and then it fell apart again,” Grousbeck told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Mazz.”
The reasons for the Celtics’ struggles all year and postseason collapse were not readily apparent, but Grousbeck hopes to have a clearer picture when general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens present their findings from a two-week-long study next week.
“We’re all annoyed and upset and disappointed,” Grousbeck said. “I feel like there was a mismatch between the talent that we had on paper and the way that it was expressed on the court. The actual and the potential, there was a gap.”
That gap made the 2018-19 season a “tough year for everybody concerned.”
“It was one of the hardest teams to love from my standpoint,” he said.
Grousbeck noted Stevens has strived to take responsibility for the team’s failings, and shouldered his share of the blame as well.
“I start by looking in the mirror and saying what could I have done better,” he said. “Did we, meaning those of us responsible for putting the team together, led by Brad [Stevens] and Danny [Ainge], but signed-off on by me — so also responsibility here — did we construct it correctly, did we course correct it? No we didn’t, we went right through the trading deadline.”
The owner compared the questions the Celtics faced before this season to 2007-08, when people wondered if Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce would mesh together. The chemistry on that team worked, to the tune of an NBA championship, if not forever.
This season, the Celtics returned Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals. Grousbeck expected the additions to boost the lineup.
“It’s not like we said ‘To hell with chemistry, we know this is a mess, but we’re going to try to get out of it with talent.’ We didn’t know it was a mess. It turned out to be, at times, really good and, at times, more of a mess,” he said.
Grousbeck took the blame for not speaking up over the course of the season in favor of making some changes. The joint decision to stay the course with the roster intact led to disappointment. Now, as Boston faces an uncertain offseason with a potential Anthony Davis trade and multiple free agents of their own, the team’s brass has decisions to make.
“We’ve got some layups, and we’ve got some 3-point shots and we’ve got a half court shot or two to try to hit,” Grousbeck said. “In other words, there’s some easy decisions and there’s some harder decisions and we’re actually going to have to take the time to decide in a sense what the roster looks like.”
The owner did not comment on the team’s discussions with Kyrie Irving, but offered that the point guard has “given [the Celtics] two years of strong effort. He’s going to decide what he’s going to do down the road.”
Grousbeck added that much of the NBA offseason rumors can be sourced to agents, and not necessarily the agents of the players referenced. He pegged the amount of “made up” info out there before free agency begins on July 1 at “at least 50 percent.”
The Celtics, and their owner, will be busy this summer.
“We’re really just going to go through the roster, the 15 guys, and say who’s here, should we move some of the guys, should we re-sign these people, what are we going to do?” Grousbeck said.
“It’s really like a new movie, with a new script, and in some cases a new cast. And hopefully a new ending.”