At this point, it seems as though the NBA season is going to be a complete air ball. While NBA fans from every market are disappointed, confused, and seriously contemplating joining the Occupy movement, I think that Boston Celtic’s fans have a reason to be particularly disappointed.
This is the end of the Celtic’s as we’ve come to know them.
While it’s hard for many to remember, before 2007 and the formulation of the Big Three, the Celtics had squandered miserable season after miserable season away under the watchful eye of the Garden’s championship banners. Paul Pierce offered some relief (God Bless him for sticking around), but mostly we tuned in to watch Antoine Walker jack up countless threes.
In 2007, Danny Ainge teamed up with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett to change all that. Rajon Rondo also joined the mix. A Championship banner suddenly landed in the rafters, and expectations have been high ever since. I’ve said all along that this group is too good to have only won a single championship together, as they missed out on their second by blowing a 13-point lead to the Lakers in the 4th quarter of the 2009-2010 NBA Finals.
This year, I’ll argue, could have been the year.
Trust me, I’m fully aware that I just lost half of the audience reading this article, but hear me out. I’m fully aware that basketball is an young man’s game. I’m also aware that Kevin Garnett is 36. Ray Allen is 35. Paul Pierce is 34. I know that the Celtics were overmatched by the Miami Heat’s athleticism in the playoffs last year, but only one team in the league was not. And with the real possibility of a 41-game season this year, I must admit I was licking my chops.
Sure, the Celtics are an older team. There’s no doubt that they had some injuries last year and looked a bit tired down the stretch. But when the Big Three are rested, these boys can play with anyone. Case in point? How they’ve started the past three seasons, only to fade as fatigue sets in during the grind of the second half. In 2008-2009 the Celtics started 27-2, in 2009-2010 it was 23-5. Last year they were 41-14, leading the Eastern conference, before losing 12 of their last 27.
So what’s my point?
The Celtic’s have long been the best half-season team in the NBA. Couple that with the two key ingredients that lead to NBA championships – experience and defense – and I see a championship team. There is no team in the league that can match the experience of the Celtics, who would need little or no time to acclimate to playing together this season. Likewise, the Celtic’s were the best defensive team in basketball last year.
While Rajon Rondo is dead in his prime, most would agree that both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have shown little decline in their ability. Kevin Garnett, on the other hand, has gotten a ton of flack. There’s no doubt that Garnett has lost some explosiveness, but he’s still an exceptional player. His shooting percentage is at an all-time high, his post moves are better than ever, and he’s still one of the best defenders in the league. While the highlight real Garnett is a thing of the past, he’s still a key piece.
If the Celtic’s had any success signing a center to play alongside the Big Four, a half season would have played directly into their hands. Would that have resulted in banner number 18 hanging in the Garden’s rafters? We’ll now never know, which is unfortunate. And for Celtics fans, it’s a tough way to see the Big Three’s run come to an end.