Before the shortened 2012 NBA season began, I wrote that the season was largely for naught – the Celtics at their very best would lose to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. While I ended up being right in this regard, I have to give the Celtics a ton of credit – in pushing this series to seven games, they made it a hell of a lot more fun to watch than I expected. I at least got some good nights at Clarke’s in Faneuil Hall out of it. But just thinking that any of the Big Three may never suit up for the Celtic’s again is incredibly saddening.
In the end, the Heat just overpowered the Celtics in game 7. Sure, it very easily could have gone the other way. But let’s give credit where credit is due – despite the entire country’s ill will towards Lebron James, his game 6 performance was breathtaking and he got the job done in game 7 as well. I think we’ve set him up perfectly to lose to Oklahoma City in the Finals. I for one will be watching, donning the James Harden jersey I don’t yet own.
As for the Celtics, I have a sense of deja vu for sure. I’ve written an “end of the Big Three era” article before, and here I am writing one again. Basketball players who are 35+ are simply going to have a tough time consistently staying with their counterparts in their mid-twenties. But one thing that came out of the Celtic’s playoff run for me is a much clearer vision of the future. There has been so much speculation with regards to trading Rajon Rondo – I’m now firmly of the belief that Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley the pieces that the Celtics need to build around. A formidable backcourt with second to none speed is valuable in and of itself, but Rajon Rondo showed me that despite his attitude issues he’s an incredibly rare talent. He needs a coach and fellow players around him who can motivate him, but when the fire is lit Rondo’s competitive spark burns bright. Very few players in the NBA can call out Dwyane Wade and Lebron James then take it to them successfully.
The Celtics are fortunate to be in a position where they have a ton of options. I expect that two of the Big Three will return – likely Paul Pierce coupled with either Allen or Garnett. The Celtics will likely resign any of these guys if they are willing to take substantial pay cuts to remain in Boston. The Celtics have flexibility when it comes to cash, and they also have the 21st and 22nd pick in a deep NBA draft. They need to surround Rondo with scorers – Jeff Green can be a start, but we really need studs not 4th or 5th options.
I have no idea what Danny Ainge has up his sleeve. To be honest, I’m not optimistic. Despite the options and the building blocks that the Celtics have in place, championship teams typically aren’t built in a single offseason. The Heat are a perfect example, as are the Knicks.
Who will help Rondo hang an 18th banner in the Garden? You’re move, Danny Ainge.