What a difference a week makes. The Celtics had dropped their fourth consecutive game, including two against the subpar Atlanta Hawks, and the sports talk shows in Boston were buzzing. There were whispers that general manager, Danny Ainge, was on the hot seat after 18 years in an executive capacity with the team while head coach, Brad Stevens, was on borrowed time. Controversy makes for good ratings and the hot-takes were coming fast and furious. 

But it’s amazing how much better a general manager and head coach are perceived when their team wins four straight, as the C’s did over the week leading up to the All-Star break. It’s all about optics because no one but Celtics’ personnel is inside the locker room when Stevens is talking to the team, nor are the pundits listening to him at practice, or watching game film in preparation for an upcoming opponent. 

And so, the Shamrocks are 19-17 at the midpoint of what is a truncated 72-game season and currently sit in fourth place in the East, trailing the conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by five games. But what do you expect from the Celtics when the curtain closes on the 2020-2021 regular season? Would you be shocked if they remained as the No. 4 seed? Do you truly believe they are better than the new and improved 76ers, or the Giannis-led Bucks, or the newest super team from Brooklyn? 

If you do then you must be expecting Kemba Walker to return to his All-Star form, you know like when he averaged nearly 26 points per game the year before he signed with Boston? Or maybe Marcus Smart and his defensive wizardry will be the cure that ails this team when he returns to the court? We Just hope he realizes what he does well – play lockdown defense – and what he doesn’t – shoot accurately.

But even if the moon and stars align with Walker and Smart playing to their potential, is it really enough for this team to win the East and then dethrone the Lakers for an NBA title? Hell, no! As good as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are, they are still a click below the true elite superstars of the game and that’s not a knock on them, it’s just the facts. 

How do you think Tatum, Brown, and Walker would fare against, oh, let’s just pick three out of thin air – Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce? What do you think the NBA spreads would be on a seven-game series between the 2008 championship Celtics versus the 2021 iteration? 

Before you answer you might want to consider that the ’08 squad had four-time All-Star and royal pain in the neck, Rajon Rondo, as part of their starting five while Kenrick Perkins, James Posey, Eddie House, defensive star Tony Allen, and veteran of two NBA title teams before he arrived in Boston, Sam Cassell, rounded out the rest of the team. 

And if you don’t believe this current edition of the Celtics could stand up to their championship 2008 counterparts, the question you need to ask yourself is could that ’08 squad beat the Lakers, Bucks, 76ers, or Nets as presently constituted today? If you hesitated, and you should, then how in the world do the 2021 Celtics even belong in the championship conversation?

The answer is…they don’t. The problem is that Kemba Walker will never return to his former self because he has a history of knee surgeries that nobody thought to bring up before he was signed and now it’s more of the same. Joints don’t get better when you’re on the wrong side of 30 and while Walker would be a terrific sixth man off the bench, he is no longer a starter on a championship-caliber team. 

So, what does Danny Ainge do now? He has to make a move if he wants to win a championship. Tatum and Brown are cornerstones of this franchise and they have the talent to bring home a title with one or two equally talented pieces alongside them and an improved bench. Boston needs a three-headed monster because the dynamic duo they have now just isn’t good enough to beat the elite. How does Ainge do that? Well, that’s why he gets paid the big bucks. Make it happen, Trader Danny, because if not you, then who?