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One Week Later, The C’s As We Know Them are Done?

 

Think about how different the Celtic landscape was only a week ago. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were back from injuries, Rajon Rondo was a lock to make his first All-Star team and the C’s were gearing up for three straight games against title contenders. The team had set a goal for the next two weeks, according to Paul Pierce: Win every game before the All-Star break.

And now everything appears to be in crisis. The Celtics lost three straight games to other contenders, including two in which they blew double-digit leads. Rashard Lewis beat KG off the dribble at the end of KG’s third game back from injury. The consensus among the NBA cognoscenti is the the Celtics, as presently constructed, may be done as title contenders. The window is closed. Break up the new big three.

John Hollinger:

While Boston can overcome a lot of physical problems with its smarts, toughness and defensive acumen, one has to wonder whether the recent struggles aren’t the canary in the coal mine.

As noted above, a lot of the Celtics’ season numbers are fine, and I’m sure they still can win 50-plus games and make the second round of the playoffs. Whether they can do anything beyond that with the present roster, however, seems very much in doubt.

Chris Sheridan:

The time has come for the Celtics to think long and hard about whether they want to head into the postseason with their main core intact, or whether they want to explore the possibility of trading Allen and his expiring $18.8 million deal for a package of players that’ll make them a better team.

Adrian Wojnarowski:

There’s a chance there are no more big games for the Big Three. All together, this run could be over. Ainge has such immense decisions to make, and they must come sooner than later.

Gerry Callahan:

It had to happen sometime. Ainge put this team together for a good time not a long time, and now that time has passed. The window is just about closed. Time for Danny to blow it up and start over again.

And all of these stories were written before the credible reporting wild speculation that Paul Pierce might have suffered a broken foot after getting tangled up with Caron Butler on Monday night.

(Deep breaths)

When the Pierce non-news broke, commenters on this site, Red’s and CelticsBlog went into full apocalyptic speculation mode. Would the C’s be more willing to deal Ray Allen if Paul Pierce were out for the season? What about if Pierce were out for two months, giving him only a couple of weeks to get in shape for the playoffs?

It appears we can halt that conversation now that Pierce is officially listed as day-to-day with a mild sprain of his mid-foot, whatever that means.

But what about the larger conversation, the one that is coalescing more and more around the notion that this team just isn’t good enough to win #18?

Is that conversation premature, too?

  • Glenn

    I think what everyone seems to be forgetting is that our bench has been missing a key cog in Marquis Daniels for the entirety of our recent struggles, and while he cannot make up entirely for Ray Allen’s down year and KG’s recent injury struggles. I’d hesitate to condemn our team and bust up the Big Three until we actually get a chance to see what type of team we have.

    Remember, these are the same people who prematurely declared the Lebron-Shaq experiment a failure and were confidant that the arrival of Vince Carter in Orlando would be the prelude to a championship. So while I’m a little concerned about the Celtics recent struggles, I’m not willing to abandon ship and destroy chemistry over one shaky, injury plagued month. If the Celtics can get healthy, I’m still hopeful.

  • Brendan Jackson

    Yes, very premature. All things considered, going into the Allstar break with a better record than the Hawks (I know there are more games to be played but as it stands right now the Hawks are 30-17 and the C’s are 30-16) and 2-3 bad losses against Championship contenders by a collective 3 points? Let’s reserve panic mode until we see what the record is at the trade deadline or the C’s are looking at the seventh seed in the East. I’m not saying that this team won’t need to be blown up, but I think we should all hold off until there is something to worry about. Pierce foot is, after all, just sprained.

  • NV

    They should trade Ray Allen for a young and improving player. Paul Pierce is the center of the team. KG is the only reason the Celtics have great defense(which showed while he was out with his knee). Paul and KG are the most needed players while Ray is just to old for the positon he is in.

  • Sweeney

    Voices of reason have spoken and I am glad to hear. Every time there is a knee jerk reaction it seems to set that team back a few years. Let it ride out til’ the end of the year and see where it lies. Heck, we may have mediocrity until 2012 after Sheeds money comes off the books and the Truth is up for a contract. Just sit back and enjoy the ride…if anything it definitely keeps us talking C’s.

  • Jay P

    It amazes me how people blow things up. Remember the start of the season when they were what… 25-3?

    Anyone remember all these same writers saying, this is the best team in basketball, the best defense maybe ever, they could break the single season win record, blah blah blah.

    A few injuries, and one bad lull stretch, and suddenly their done?

    Give me a break.

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  • George

    I’ll admit, it got to me. One game at a time, though. And so long as no one else gets seriously hurt, and Marquis comes back playing about as well as before, the team should just get better until the playoffs. Here’s a question though, is this team, in beginning of the season form when we dominated, good enough to tackle Cleveland now?

  • Jay P

    Yes George, not a question. The team even in it’s current form is good enough.

    Cleveland is solid, but the C’s have a number of small forwards who can stick with, and bother Lebron James. Pierce, Daniels when healthy, and TA. Pierce may not have the quickness he had in 08 when he played so well against Lebron, but I still think he can limit him. Daniels, TA are quick, and they have length, he’ll have problems shaking them, or shooting over them. Let me mention, I’m not saying we can stop him, but we can limit him better than most teams.

    Perkins can body Shaq and limit his effectiveness. I actually feel like we match up pretty well with Cleveland all around.

  • Eric

    I tend to be apocalyptic, but even I’m not panicking that much. It’s not like they got blown out by Orlando and the Lakers. They should have won those games, but for lack of intensity and of athleticism (due to injury) at the end. I don’t think, right now, they are good enough to beat Cleveland, but there’s still lots of time, and smarts and, I hope, will, to right the ship.

    That said, Ray Allen is killing this team right now. He’s just a mess, and I don’t know what to do about that besides reduce his minutes and even make him the sixth man. At this point, Tony is a much better play than Ray.

  • George

    Two good points, Jay and Eric. Good matchups vs. Cleveland, and we’ve not been blown out by any good team at all this year, unlike LA, Orlando, and Atlanta. Still no idea what’s going on with Ray. When Daniels gets back the rotation will limit his minutes more, I’d bet.

  • CG

    There are plenty of reasons to be concerned, but it is way premature to proclaim the Cs done for this year. This is not a direct comparison, but is an example worthy of note – the 2001 Lakers team which steamrolled through the playoffs had a disappointing regular season in which people doubted them. They got it going by the end of the season and were a totally different team. With KG’s health, the lack of Marquis Daniels, and generally not having the team we envisioned, it is hard to say what will happen if/when they get everyone back and get a few games under their belt. I don’t know that they will become the dominator we saw early on, but there are reasons why improvement is a definite possibility.

    Sure they lost 3 in a row to ATL, ORL, and LAL, but they were all really close games. As much as that shows the Cs difficulty in closing out games, it also shows that the Cs can stay with the top teams in the league even when a number of things aren’t flowing their way. In short, there are as many reasons to think things might get better as there are to think that things will continue to get worse.

  • Joel W

    Yeah, I think the Orlando and LA losses prove basically the opposite, and Hollinger should be sort of ashamed. Losses to both of those teams at the end of the game, blowing a big lead, suggests that the celtics can absolutely win big games, they just didn’t. It’s not as though you can make the “don’t know how to win” argument.

  • http://Angryirish.com Chris O’Keefe

    I agree with Joel W. Hollinger should be ashamed, he knows as well as anyone that margin in defeats and wins usually matters more than the wins or losses themselves (everywhere realistic except in the standings). This is why usually margin is a better indicator on how good a team is then record. Especially in games where a call this way or that (i.e. Lakers and Orlando) could have given the C’s the W’s. If we had beat Orlando by two and that foul (which never gets called) doesn’t get called on Pierce we are having all these ‘experts’ tell us how the Celtics are primed to make another championship run. I’m sick of Sports Writers using EXTREME hyperbole, either they are being Chicken Little and the Sky is Falling or ever team is the reincarnation of Alexander the Great on a court.

  • MikeD

    Hollinger has had it out for the C’s all season long. If you have kept up with his stuff, even preseason he ranks the Cavs and Magic ahead of them. He has picked against them in every single playoff round beyond the first the past 2 years. That is why we can’t take any of these ESPN writers seriously. They aren’t basketball experts, they are journalists. They had a major slump in DECEMBER with key players injured. We all know this teams potential, so to write them off now is simply moronic. They will be there in June.

  • TK

    Is losing to a couple of NBA title contenders by a handful of points really this big of a deal? I can assure you that in all 4 title years that the Spurs have had during the last 11 years, they have had months where they didn’t look like champions. I think if the C’s can get and stay healthy between now and the playoffs, all these pathetic sports writers will be singing a different tune come May and June.

  • Gina

    WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…… this NOT over, where were you guys when went from last place to NBA CHAMPS>>>>>>>>>>>>> yes problems, but THIS organization is ONE of few who could overcome obstacles…………………………..IT aint over till ITS OVER!!!!!

  • A in OC

    George says: “…we’ve not been blown out by any good team at all this year.”

    Actually, we were blown out by Phoenix.

    It’s time for Ainge and HQ to get real about the situation. Unless Marquis Daniels emerges as Dwane Wade, we are going nowhere in the playoffs–ATL owns us, and the other big two are right behind them.

    There’s too much talent sitting out there on other teams for us to become complacent and accept a consistent big game disappearing act and 15 pt / gm scoring avg from what’s supposed to be our “shooting guard” in Allen. He needs to go, and a few others should pack with him if we hope to get past the first round.

  • Scott R.

    No, the question is not premature. Anyone who understands what Ainge was doing–gambling on the here and now by trading youth for old stars–knew that the window was short. They took care of business right away with a championship, but when you assemble a nucleus of thirtysomethings with high mileage, you know what you’re getting. A 2-year window–three, if no injuries. We’re in year three. It’s safe to say it’s a one-and-done.

    Still probably worth it, since Al Jefferson and Jeff Green weren’t going to bring them a title. But unlike teams like the Lakers, who are built for at least a 5-year run, the Celts need to start over.

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