A year ago, before the C’s last game of the season, I wrote this sentimental little passage :
None of this is meant to kill the vibe in the room (Monday night’s game took care of that quite nicely). But it is a reminder to enjoy watching these guys tonight, no matter the result. There may yet be one final Rondo-to-Garnett alley oop left in them, one last ill-advised Davis jumpshot to draw your ire, one final demand from Doc that the team pick up the pace. And for all the scattered half-efforts and no-shows over the last four years, no final estimation of this era would be fair without recognizing how superb this group has played and the renaissance their assembly sparked for this franchise. And there remains the little matter of that seventeenth banner they hung up in the rafters.
In sports as with anything else, it seems like there’s never enough time with the things you love. And however wildly our opinions may vary about the importance of a group of multi-millionaires playing a game, it seems reasonable to assume that love is the word many of you would use to describe your feelings towards them. Because ‘millionaires playing a game’ doesn’t do it justice. It’s not even close.
Last night’s twin disasters (game six, the news on Avery Bradley) seem to have repositioned the Celtics’ playoff prospects in everyone’s minds. A series win over the Sixers is far from assured and even if they do advance, with Bradley out, Ray Allen a shell of himself and even Paul Pierce’s health in question, the C’s appear underequipped to stop Miami’s perimeter stars from getting to the rim. The C’s look like serious underdogs even if Chris Bosh isn’t able to play.
But I’m still feeling a sense of zen with this team because they’re playing with house money. With everything that’s gone wrong this (condensed) season, it’s impressive the Celtics are a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. You could reasonably argue they’re already a success.
Whenever the season ends, we need to talk about Danny Ainge’s recent proclivity for assembling, or failing to disassemble, teams that fall apart healthwise, but we should spend as much time talking about Doc’s incredible facility taking patchwork teams beyond their capabilities. I don’t have to reiterate this point to regular readers of the site but the Celtics are a terrible offensive team. They have no business challenging for a spot in the finals. So, that feels good.
It’s not even clear this is the final year of this era. Sure, Allen seems like he may be destined for Miami or Chicago or the Clippers but as his game and health have faded this year, we’ve been going through a slow breakup with him. We’re ready for Bradley to take over next season and happy to let go of any errant OJ Mayo talk. There are no concerns about Doc Rivers this season. Speculation aside, we know Doc will be back next year. And for years after that. Paul Pierce is signed for two more seasons and his market may not be vibrant enough for Ainge to move him. Kevin Garnett seems destined to wear green next season or spend his days on Malibu Beach, swearing at homeless drug addicts and other celebrities.
So, bring game seven and bring the Heat. Or don’t. Either way, the C’s have overachieved this season versus expectations and the obstacles in front of them. If we’re talking about the offseason on Monday morning, there’s plenty of healthy debate to keep us all interested until October.