Season Slips Away for Snakebitten Celtics. What Now?

Forsberg: Season slips away for snakebitten C's originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics have spent the entirety of the 2020-21 campaign shorthanded and yet the news that Jaylen Brown will miss the remainder of the season while prepping for left wrist surgery struck like a stomach punch on Monday night.

Brown has been grabbing at his left wrist since a mid-April tumble against the Lakers then seemed to aggravate the injury in the final seconds of the head-shaking Oklahoma City loss later that month.

Brown, sidelined the last three games with a right ankle sprain, had been targeting a Sunday return against the Heat. The team instead ruled him out early Sunday morning and Brad Stevens sent our antennae skyward in his pregame press conference that day when he suggested the team would have “more information” on Monday.

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That information came in the form of a 6 p.m press release that said Brown had been diagnosed with a torn scapholunate ligament. That’s the same injury that ended Romeo Langford’s 2019-2020 season. Langford underwent surgery on September 22 and would have been available for game action on March 11 if he hadn’t contracted COVID.

That’s a 170-day recovery, or roughly 5 ½ months. The Celtics did not offer a timeline on Brown’s recovery but had projected Langford at a 4-to-5-month recovery. A similar timeline would put Brown on pace to return in late October, or around the typical start of a non-pandemic regular season.

Yes, it sure feels like the Celtics have started to turn their attention to the 2021-22 season with hopes of better health in a more normal season. Any hopes of 2021 postseason surge seem dashed with the Brown news.

His absence ensures at least one thing for the Celtics: The team will not have a single game this season in which it had its top seven available.

* Kemba Walker missed the first month of the season rehabbing his knee and has sat out the second night of back-to-backs since. He’s missed 18 games total and will likely sit out at least two more second night of back-to-backs.

* Brown missed 10 games with a cocktail of maladies including left knee soreness, left shoulder bursitis, and the ankle sprain.

* Jayson Tatum missed five games due to COVID and dealt with the after-effects for even longer.

* Marcus Smart missed 18 games with a left calf tear.

* Robert Williams missed 15 games due to COVID, hip soreness, and is now uncertain for the remainder of the season while battling turf toe.

* Evan Fournier missed 10 games in health and safety protocols.

* Tristan Thompson missed 16 games, mostly due to health and safety protocols.

* Payton Pritchard missed 6 games with a right MCL sprain.

In total, Celtics players have missed 183 total games so far this season. Here’s the full snapshot of the carnage …

Let’s be clear here, not all of Boston’s woes this season can be traced to injuries. There were still plenty of instances in which the green had nearly all of their horses. Heck, Tatum and Brown still logged 1,263 minutes together this season. But it’s undeniable that this team never quite had a chance to develop any sort of continuity and cohesion, which certainly contributed to some of their inconsistencies.

The Celtics are left to soldier on without Brown as the play-in tournament beckons. The absence of Brown — and a doubtful Williams — doesn’t inspire much confidence as Boston prepares for a showdown with Miami on Tuesday night that could essentially squash any hope of a top-6 seeding.

Boston never let injuries define them in previous years. When Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Daniel Theis had their seasons ended in 2018, the Celtics still made a dash to the East finals behind Brown, Tatum, and Terry Rozier.

Now, ironically, it could be Rozier (and Hayward) on the other side of a play-in matchup. The Celtics still have the talent to compete but it feels like this team’s psyche has been as battered as their bodies.

Forsberg: Inconsistent C's seem bound for play-in tournament

Even in acknowledging all the obstacles this team has faced this season, it’s hard not to feel like they’ve fallen woefully short of expectations. And their inconsistent ways, even if there’s no shortage of reasons, have made this a hard team for fans to wrap their arms around.

Boston is left hoping that a reset button will go a long way towards curing at least some of what will ultimately be remembered as a maddening, snakebitten 2020-21 season.

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