BOSTON -- Before the season began, there were calls for Danny Ainge to make changes.
As the trade deadline approached, more calls and offers came in.
Ultimately, Ainge stood by this group when so many thought a shake-up was in order.
And for a change, the naysayers may have been right, because the 2018-19 Celtics fell well short of both their own personal goals as well as those expectations from those on the outside looking in.
Which brings us to what may shape up to be one of the most transformative offseasons for this franchise in more than a decade.
Because the last time the Celtics had an offseason when the stakes were this high, it was 2007.
Paul Pierce wanted out if they couldn't significantly upgrade the talent around him.
So, the Celtics pulled off a pair of offseason deals that led to one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in NBA history.
Ainge landed a pair of perennial All-Stars in Ray Allen and later Kevin Garnett, who joined forces with Pierce in leading Boston to the 2008 NBA title.
There is the potential for Boston to have another landslide of basketball riches in the coming months if they can convince Kyrie Irving to re-sign with the Celtics and potentially pull a deal off to land Anthony Davis via trade from New Orleans.
And if one or both of those deals don’t work out, it’ll be on Ainge to figure out a way to keep this Celtics team competitive among the top teams in the East at a time when most of the teams have some element of uncertainty going into the offseason as it relates to their roster.
Key players from each of the top four teams in the East — Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia — could potentially be on the move this summer, which has the potential to significantly alter the calculus when it comes to who's running things in the East.
This is where Ainge has the potential to do what he has seemingly done well for years: figure out the best way to bolster the roster.
Ainge has never deviated from his desire to bring back Irving.
And while rumors that Irving is bound for the New York Knicks have persisted all season, Ainge’s confidence that Irving would remain in a Celtics uniform going forward has remained strong.
“The way I view the situation is, I think a lot of people because of Kyrie’s announcement beginning of the year, thought that there was a marriage,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show earlier this year. “I think it’s more like an engagement and we’re going to get married on July 1. And I think that engagement is still on as far as I know in my individual conversations with Kyrie; still engaged but we can’t make those vows, sign that contract until July 1."
But as important as re-signing Irving is to Boston’s success going forward, Ainge will have to do more in order to best ensure that this past season’s struggles are no more than a speed bump in the team’s journey towards Banner 18.
Boston has the upcoming draft, one in which they have a trio of first-round picks (No. 14, 20 and 22). This will be the fourth time in the past six years the Celtics have had multiple first-round picks.
The Celtics must do a good job via free agency beyond Irving. Al Horford has the potential to opt out of the final year of his deal and may be open to signing a shorter-money, longer-term deal.
Aron Baynes can opt out, but will likely play out the final year of his contract with the Celtics.
There’s a lot going on with what’s shaping up to be a busy summer, a busy summer whose success will ultimately be determined by Ainge’s ability to answer the call of change that’s upon this franchise now.
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