WALTHAM — This is the start of something.
Exactly what, we don’t know yet. No one does. From fans to media to coaches to players to the front office and right on up to the owners, there’s not one person in this world who can tell you where the Boston Celtics will go from here.
But whatever it is and wherever they go, this is where it begins: Media Day 2013.
In recent years, Celtics media day was like the first day of senior year of high school. A group of friends reconnecting after separate summers spent golfing in Orlando, working out in Vegas, jogging on the shores of Malibu, or playing an absurd amount of Connect Four. Everyone was comfortable. They knew why they were there. When the curtain went up on the new season, there were no introductions necessary. Even the new faces weren’t all that new. Conversations picked up right where they’d left off a few months earlier and the topic never veered from one singular goal: Banner 18.
In 2013, media day was like the first hour of college orientation. Everyone was smiling and in good spirits, undeniably eager to get started on this new chapter in their lives. But without any real clue what will happen next.
When will Rajon Rondo return? “You’re guess is as good as mine,” Danny Ainge said.
Who will be the starting five? “I don’t know,” Ainge said.
Of course, the focus remains on Banner 18. Just as it has for every Media Day since the most recent title, the scoreboard at the Celtics Waltham practice facility read 18s across the board.
But while in previous years, the players walking beneath all those 18s — save for your random Michael Sweetneys and Darius Mileses — were hopeful pieces to that championship puzzle, on Monday, most of the players were just there.
After six years of the Celtics having that title realistically (to varying degrees) within their grasps, the dream of Banner 18 was only that. A dream. It can happen, and if you ask anyone inside the organization, it most definitely will. But not yet. Not with this group. In fact, aside from Rajon Rondo, who at this point is as much an asset as he is the answer, you can argue that the future of this organization rests more heavily in what becomes of the nine first-round picks that Boston owns over the next five years than it does with anyone who was there on Monday.
And the players know this. They have to.
Rondo knows that his name will exist in trade rumors from now until the day he potentially signs an extension. And maybe even after that.
Avery Bradley knows that if he’s offered an extension at all, it won’t come until the summer and that right now, he’s playing for his future.
Jordan Crawford, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Courtney Lee know that they’re part of a logjam at shooting guard. Same goes for Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass and Vitor Faverani at power forward. Gerald Wallace knows that he plays the same position as Jeff Green, who is clearly — at least until Rajon Rondo returns — the centerpiece of this Celtics attack.
Humphries, Wallace and Bogans know that they aren’t here because they’re Humphries, Wallace and Bogans, but instead because their contracts made it possible for the Celtics to acquire three first-round picks.
And this team, as a unit, knows deep down that nothing is expected of them this year. At least compared to the most recent era. They’re a team without an identity. Without any real expectations. With a first-year NBA head coach who’s tasked with making sense of it all and a boss who will be patient and realistic but won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
At the end of the day, all anyone knew is that we don’t know anything at all. That how this Celtics rebuild eventually unfolds is beyond anyone’s realistic vision. But that finally, with this crazy summer and Media Day 2013 finally in the books, the rebuild is underway.
And this is just the beginning.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine