By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
The 2018-2019 Celtics season mercifully has come to an end.
Wednesday’s Game 5 loss to the Bucks was a fittingly embarrassing conclusion for a team that was supposed to be so much better than they actually were. They were run out of the gym for the fourth-straight game. They barely competed and then they quit.
It’s hard to think of many teams in recent Boston sports history that proved to be more disappointing, dysfunctional, and disastrous than this one. In fact, there’s only one that comes to mind:
The 2011 Red Sox.
If the 2018-2019 Celtics didn’t match or surpass the gold standard for failure set by the 2011 Red Sox, they certainly came close.
Both teams will be remembered for not only falling short of their lofty preseason expectations, but crashing and burning in spectacular fashion in the process.
The Boston Herald infamously touted the 2011 Red Sox as the “best team ever” before the season started. That team, of course, missed the playoffs by going 7-20 in September, one of the great late-season collapses in the long history of baseball.
The 2019 Celtics were widely considered shoe-ins for the NBA Finals. On paper, they were the best team by far in the Eastern Conference. Nothing should have gotten in their way, but in-fighting, selfish play, and bad leadership tore this team apart.
They destroyed themselves, the same way the 2011 Red Sox destroyed themselves, and the future is now uncomfortably uncertain for the Celtics the way it was for the Red Sox seven years ago.
As dawn breaks on the Celtics offseason, it feels eerily similar to the aftermath of the 2011 Red Sox collapse. A lot will change in the next few months, and it’s hard to feel good about the direction of the franchise in this moment.
The potential departure of Kyrie Irving lingers over this team like a dark cloud. If he stays, do the Celtics still target Anthony Davis? If he goes, are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown good enough to build around moving forward?
If Kyrie sticks around, will he remain the same polarizing, problematic, and downright poisonous figure that he has become? If he jumps ship, the Celtics will have lost their best player for nothing after years of searching for a transformative star like him.
They’re at a crossroads, and it doesn’t feel like there’s a good path to take.
Departures and major changes were also the story in the wake of the Red Sox disaster in 2011. Theo Epstein’s exit and the firing of Terry Francona altered the course of the franchise for years to come. The Sox have won two World Series titles since then (no small feat), but they have also finished in last place three times and have struggled to replicate the long-term success and excellence of the Epstein-Francona years.
At times, the Red Sox have been an unstable franchise in the aftermath of 2011. We can only hope the Celtics don’t encounter a similar instability in the coming years, but it’s hard not to feel in this moment that the ramifications of this calamitous season could linger well beyond 2018-2019.
There aren’t any chicken and beer stories yet with the Celtics, but with the way this all went down in flames, would you be surprised if the dirty laundry is aired in the coming weeks?
Color me shocked if that doesn’t happen.
Everyone will have an axe to grind. Anonymous sources will talk, agendas will fly, and the 2019 Celtics will further cement their place as one of the all-time bad stories in Boston sports history.
Move over 2011 Red Sox, you have some company now.
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.