The world of sports is full of feel good stories. There are always underdogs, every season. Sometimes those underdogs are able to turn that status into a motivating factor over a short amount of time. Other times it turns into something more: a playoff run or even a championship.
There seems to be a recipe for how those teams make their mark as the underdog and earn respect from the sporting world. The Boston Celtics are firmly in the underdog role this year. They are being discredited following the summer of transition that Danny Ainge initiated.
Let's take a look at the things that underdogs need in order to become more than just an underdog, and turn into a legit threat.
1) Youthful exuberance and/or veterans on their last stand
Youth and inexperience are often found on underdogs. They are discredited because they just are not ready to make the leap. They may have potential, but they probably need a few years to mold and grow together.
Old teams are given little chance because their players might be unable to do what they used to. However, sometimes certain players can reach into the depths of their talent and motivate themselves towards one last hurrah.
Sometimes the underdog has a mix of old and young that fans cannot see working together.
The Celtics team as currently constructed has a few veteran players that people have written off. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries are two examples. Then on the other hand, the Celtics have a ton of youth. They could potentially have an opening night starting line-up of Phil Pressey (22), Avery Bradley (22), Jeff Green (27), Jared Sullinger (21), and Kelly Olynyk (22), that's a young group, and even if Rondo is healthy he is only 27.
2) Pleasant surprises
In order for an underdog to find success there needs to be a few pleasant surprises. The Celtics have a bevy of potential pleasant surprises. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries rejuvenating their careers in Boston. Rajon Rondo returning from ACL surgery. Rookie Kelly Olynyk continuing his rise following his Summer League dominance. Brad Stevens proving that college coaches really can make the transition to the NBA. Jeff Green making the leap to primary scorer and defensive stopper.
4) Some luck
Luck can come in many different forms. It can come from the team itself or it can happen in the form of other teams accruing injuries or just having a bad year. Usually, for an underdog to have a good season they will need both forms of luck. The Celtics will need some bounces to go their way and win a collection of close games. They will also need other teams in the East to have bad years, especially other potential underdogs that might be looking at 30 wins for the season.
A quick start can often help a team begin to believe in itself. Many teams start fast and continue that momentum throughout the year, barring any sort of bad luck or injuries. If the Celtics, whose youth and veteran desperation, can find a way to get off on the right foot, it is possible they could parlay it into a good season. Rondo's absence might make that very difficult.
6) Great coaching
Underdogs need good coaching. Brad Stevens does not have too much pressure on him this year. Expectations are low, he signed a six-year contract and Danny Ainge seems prepared to be patient and allow this team to develop under Stevens' coaching. This could make it possible for Stevens to try some different things on offense and defense and possibly get some wins based on his ingenuity. It's also possible that as he cuts his teeth in the NBA it is very ugly.
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