After coming within one game of the 2018 NBA Finals despite being without Gordon Hayward for virtually the entire season and Kyrie Irving for the entire playoffs, the Boston Celtics come into the 2018-19 campaign as presumptive Eastern Conference favorites.
With Hayward and Irving returning to a conference finalist that saw no significant departures, the Celtics certainly look formidable on paper. But head coach Brad Stevens knows that the addition of two All-Stars to a roster of proud players who learned to thrive in their absence won't necessarily be seamless.
"Obviously everybody's going to want to play," Stevens said Friday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. "And all the guys are saying the right things because that's who they are. They're good people. They're going to go out and compete and play hard, and they want to win first and foremost. But that doesn't mean there's not going to be times during the year where guys wish they were playing more."
Rookie forward Jayson Tatum, second-year wing Jaylen Brown, and third-year guard Terry Rozier were among those thrust into the fire last year in the wake of Hayward's and Irving's injuries. All of them could be due for role reductions this season when their positional antecedents return. Conversely, so could Hayward and Irving themselves.
It's a good problem to have, but divvying up minutes among this talented and deep group will be a tricky balance for Stevens. Doing it successfully will require a measure of pride-swallowing buy-in from all involved.
"At the end of the day, if you want to be a part of a special team, you've got to have a special team," Stevens said. "And we think we've got a lot of good players that really complement each other well. We'll find out in time if we can be a special team."