“It’s more serious than everyone thought,” was a common refrain.
“There’s no way he is going to be able to come back at 100 percent,” was a scenario many could agree upon.
A few negative souls even thought the Celtics would shut him down for the year, it was just a matter of time. I was not one of those people. I expected the warrior to be hurting when he returned, but be back nonetheless in these next few weeks, gutting it out like Willis Reed if need be, to ensure he got on the floor and gave this team the fire and defensive intensity it lacked when he was out.
Having this mindset in hindsight now appears to be a bit selfish. Sure expecting KG could gut out a likely 15-20 minutes in these upcoming games even if he’s hurt didn’t seem like too much to ask. But what benefit would a clearly hampered KG serve this team in the postseason? A KG at 80-90 percent likely helps this team. But Garnett at 70 percent? That might have hurt this team on the floor.
And what effect would KG’s return have on the rest of his career? The long term prognosis on his knee is said to be fine, but its the short term that is obviously the concern. The Celtics surely don’t want to risk hampering Garnett’s ability for the rest of his career for a chance (and a reduced one at that) at defending their title this year. Common sense is clearly on top of the team’s totem pole over the need to win this year.
The Celtics are getting older but they still will have a Championship caliber team if healthy in the next 2-3 seasons. There is no need to risk that by getting greedy in going after one this year that could impede the team’s progress long term.
With that said, before we go all doom and gloom here, let’s take a look at a few realities of the situation. First off, although KG’s prognosis came as a shock to many of us, the Celtics had to have known that this was a possible scenario. There is a contingency plan in place for life without KG and that plan has likely been developed in these last two months when this team played without him. Leon Powe and Glen Davis have been seeing starter minutes and have seen their play improve accordingly.
The team has gotten a much better sense how to play without him these past few weeks, and in case you haven’t noticed, they are a pretty damn good team without him, going 18-7 in the games he missed this year. They are not a serious contender without The Big Ticket, but they have a roster that can still do some damage these next few weeks. Much like the Patriots this past year after Tom Brady went down, they will be in the underdog role now and they will relish it. Nothing major will be expected of them and they will build off of that sign of disrespect with two future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen leading the way.
With or without KG, they are still the defending NBA Champions. Without The Big Ticket for the entire season, they are still likely the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs right now. They may not be a factor anymore come Finals time, but they could still win a couple series in these playoffs. It may only be a couple rounds worth, which may serve to be meaningless to some fans. I will not be one of these fans. After growing up through the dismal Celtic squads of the 1990’s I will cherish any opportunity this team has and any kind of run this depleted roster makes.
I will have a special sense of Celtic Pride this postseason rooting for this undermanned squad. They have fought valiantly through adversity all year long and are now left with the biggest challenge of all looming for the playoffs. This team has surprised us before. Here’s hoping they can do it again in the next two months by making things a little more interesting than we all should expect.