The new-look Celtics are closer than ever to an 18th title

Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images) /
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“Unfini18ed Business.”

That’s what read across the Boston Celtics’ warmup gear during the 2023 NBA Playoffs—their battle cries all season. The demons that the team’s core spoke of elevated a championship-caliber season to title-or-bust status. Boston was heavily favored to end their 15-year spell but lapses and mistakes led to misapprehension. It caught up to them throughout the postseason.

A historic Miami Heat team, yet again, held the Celtics at the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals. The downfall caused them to implode, going down 3-0 as they almost made history by rallying to game 7. If anyone was not letting that happen, it was Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and the Heat. One of the NBA’s most famished, prominent, and desperate franchises faced excessive questions.

Last year was a perfect chance for Boston, but they dug themselves into too much of a hole time and time again. It had to leave one thinking: Will there be any changes at the helm for the core at all? And after years and years of lingering rumors, it finally happened. The Celtics traded Marcus Smart.

Smart went to Memphis as the Celtics completed their lasting pursuit of Kristaps Porzingis over the years. Handshakes almost came to completion with the likes of a separate three-team deal involving Malcolm Brogdon going to the Clippers. Instead, at the buzzer of Porzingis’ opt-in deadline for the final year of his $36 million deal, it was Smart who was shipped.

The setter of the foundation with Brad Stevens after Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett left in 2013. He was nearing a decade in green.