SNYDER: Celtics deject Wizards and rest of the East

Deron Snyder
May 17, 2018 - 5:59 pm

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports


Remember last season's NBA playoffs, when Bradley Beal said Cleveland "didn't want to see us" in the second round? The notion was laughable, considering Beal and the Wizards were sitting at home while the Cavaliers battled Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

Not much has changed this year, with the Cavs and Celtics engaged in a rematch and the Wizards on vacation. But the team that Washington – and the rest of the conference – must worry about isn't Cleveland anymore.

It's Boston.

We already know it's not a fair fight when Danny Ainge runs the Celtics and the Wizards are mismanaged by Ernie Grunfeld. Maybe that's why owner Ted Leonsis didn't announce Grunfeld’s latest contract extension, unwilling to face "you-gotta-be-kidding-me" questions.

Ainge is no joke, architect of a team that has missed All-Star Gordon Hayward all season, and All-Star Kyrie Irving since April, yet holds a 2-0 series lead against Cleveland. The Celtics are composed of interchangeable, multipurpose parts. Like a hydra, if one head is cut off, two more appear.

Boston’s roster is an embarrassment of riches.

Washington’s roster is an excess of meagerness.

As for the future, Ainge still has a likely lottery pick (2019 first-rounder from Sacramento) to play with. Three of his best players – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier – are on their rookie contracts. He has a choice of assets to package in a deal to strengthen his team and counteract Marcus Smart's potential departure this summer.

The Wizards?

Not so much on any front.

In elections, political strategists analyze candidates' "path to victory." In the Eastern Conference, all paths appear to dead-end at Boston.

The crown atop LeBron James' head is teetering. Philadelphia didn't have enough this season and the hump won't be smaller next season. Toronto and Indiana? Miami and Milwaukee? They all finished ahead of Washington, but each of them – Wizards included – would trade their cards for Boston’s hand.

James remains the X-factor and can't be counted out yet. He still must be reckoned with for another few years, whichever squad he plays on. And we don’t know which stars will join forces to create the next super team.

But James realizes that his run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals is in serious jeopardy. This up-close look at arguably the East’s best team must be somewhat sobering for him.

It's understandable if other contenders, looking from afar, are equally dejected.

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