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My 2008 Boston Celtics
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Posted by jaygross
Comments: 4

I apologize up front, as this long post is completely biased toward my Celtics, and their journey to the title. If you are sick of hearing about them, then you may want to skip this one. Go Celtics.

I know it’s been over a month since I last posted an entry on this blog… it’s been way too long and for this I apologize. It hadn’t been because there is nothing interesting to write about, but rather I am a bit too superstitious and just couldn’t risk jinxing my Celtics on their quest to winning the 2008 NBA title.  After writing about the Patriots fantastic season and then seeing them lose the perfect season in the Super Bowl, I just couldn’t take any chances.

Growing up in the 1980’s as a Boston sports fan, the Celtics were just everything. Sure the Pats and Red Sox got a ton of support making it to the Super Bowl/World Series and lost terribly, but New England was Celtics crazy. It was the hey day for the NBA as the Lakers, the Sixers, and the Celtics stacked with Hall of Fame rosters waged playoff battles against one another. Whenever I would visit family in a Boston suburb, every single house on the block had a basketball hoop in the driveway and every white kid wanted to be Larry Bird.

After the dream team of the 1980’s moved on, the team has been a complete mess. The worst moments had to be during ML Carr’s leadership after Reggie Lewis passed away. Sherman Douglas was there best player, and he traded away the next season for pretty much nothing.

I was beginning to lose hope after so many disappointing draft picks like Michael Smith, Rick Fox, Ron Mercer, Jerome Moiso, Eric Montross, Jon Barry, Joe Forte, Kedrick Brown, and Acie Earl. Every year I’d do a ton of research on the draft and get all excited, only to be crushed when my team would blow it. It gets depressing when you realize all the great players your team has passed up and all the All Stars your team has traded away.

The 1998 draft came (a really solid draft), and I figured we’d get a pretty good player at #10. After the first 7 picks were made, Larry Hughes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce were still on the board. I was so happy when the Celts took Pierce, but I always thought of him as more of a low post player at Kansas.

Boy was I pleasantly surprised, as Pierce quickly teamed with the incumbent superchucker Antoine Walker to provide offense. He was raw, but you could see the potential he had. He quickly became the guy I rooted for.

I was horrified when I heard about the night club incident, where he was stabbed 10 times outside a Boston night club. I was so scared that Paul would join Len and Reggie as the great Celtic talents that were taken from us too soon. Thank goodness he came back.

The low point came was when I went to the 2001 draft at Madison Square Garden – with my Celts having 3 first round picks. They picked Joe Johnson at #9, a great move but they traded him for Rodney Rogers a few months later (just like they gave up on Chauncey Billups too early). Unfortunately they went with junior college no name Kedrick Brown at #10 and Joseph Forte at #20. Can you think of 2 bigger reaches? Tony Parker, Jamaal Tinsley, and Gilbert Arenas were still there with the Celts DESPARATELY needing a point guard. Chris Wallace couldn’t have exited as GM fast enough.

In came the Danny Ainge era (who had success in Phoenix), and I really didn’t have much optimism. I was never a big Ainge fan as a player, coach, announcer, or front office guy. He had an old team centering around Pierce and Walker that greatly overachieved making it to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals.

So he blew it up, and the team went downhill as he started stockpiling young players. I liked the raw talent of Kendrick Perkins, Rajan Rondo, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Delonte West, Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, and Leon Powe. I really loved so of the moves, like taking on Brian Grant’s enormous contract from Phoenix to get Rondo on 2006 draft day. I did hate the Brandon Roy and Raef LaFrentz’s contract to Portland for Sebastian “most likely to be arrested or released” Telfair that same year. Unfortuately, having this many young guys (Perk, Big Al, and Green were right from high school) just makes for tough growing pains – as witnessed by last year’s 24-57 record.

2007 Draft day came, and we lost out on the Oden-Durant sweepstakes. There were all sorts of rumors about the Celtics were going to make a trade for a vet (I was hoping using the #5 pick and Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett – I was in dreamland). Ainge made a deal I killed at the time, getting an aging Ray Allen (with Big Baby Davis) for Delonte West, Sczerbiak’s salary, and the #5 pick Jeff Green. I had officially written off the team for yet another season. How it had a happy ending without David Stern having to fix the lottery still amazes me.

Then Ainge rolled the dice, and gave a ton of that young talent and future picks (including what will be #3 this year) for Kevin Garnett. Yes, Kevin Garnett – a freak talent that I don’t we have ever seen before. So I began getting excited. And for good reason, as the team signed some really key free agent role players and cranked out a 66 win season.

I knew this team was for real when they went into Houston and stopped the Rockets 22 game winning streak. They followed that up by sweeping the Texas triangle at Dallas and San Antonio. They blasted the Knicks on the road with Garnett, Allen, and Pierce all sitting out the game. Both Tracy McGrady and Dwayne Wade called this the best defensive team they had ever seen.

On the way through the playoffs to the Finals, I learned a few things:

  • The crazy Boston crowd could inspire the team, and terrified younger opponents.
  • The Atlanta series showed that Josh Smith is scary athletic (in the Vince Carter take over games mold) and that Joe Johnson could take over games.
  • The Lebrons were the second best team in the NBA and played serious defense. They were really big and tough, and the way they were able to take Ray Allen completely out of the game was brilliant. If Lebron had any scoring help other than Delonte West, I think they’d be the champs.
  • Detroit is deep and talented, but their biggest impact players were Rodney Stuckey and Lindsey Hunter. I also hadn't realized how dirty Rip Hamilton is and how much I can't stand him.

So going into the Finals against the hated Lakers, I was ready for the rumble. The whole week leading up to the big game we saw all sorts of nostalgic moments of my 80’s Celtics-Lakers rivalry. I kept hearing how unstoppable the Lakers offense was, how good Pau Gasol had been, and how there was no stopping Kobe in big moments. A great many experts predicted the Lakers would win.

So let’s fast forward to Game 6 last night, the potential clincher in Boston. After all the jetlag and wasting Paul Pierce’s dominant Game 5, this game could go really good or really bad.

The Celts came out with amazing energy, led by the Rajan Rondo’s ball hawking defense and pushing the tempo. They missed a lot of easy shots and Kobe made 3 incredible three pointers to keep the first quarter close. 280 pound bruiser Kendrick Perkins had a bum shoulder that kept him out of the previous game, but he played and he took Pau Gasol out of his game before committing loads of fouls.

The second quarter came and the Celtics signature defense took over completely. They ended on a 26-6 run to grab a 23 point half time lead. As pumped as I was, I was nervous that Phil Jackson would ball his team out and there would be a huge comeback.

With 5 minutes left in the game, Doc took out Garnett, Pierce and Allen with the Celtics up by 35. Yes, I said 35. What I loved most was that the bench guys like James Posey, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Big Baby kept attacking and got the lead all the way to 42. They were making 3 pointers, getting big blocks, and House threw a great alley oop pass to Tony Allen for a reverse jam. The final score was 131-92, a 39 point obliteration. 

As Pierce was dumping Gatorade on Doc with 2 minutes left, it hit me all at once how much I have enjoyed this team and this basketball season. The game ended around midnight EST, and I wound up staying up past 1:00 AM enjoying all the post game celebrations. Out of everyone on the team, I think I am most excited for the 10 year Celtic Paul Pierce (the well deserving Finals MVP).

So I am trying to decide which is the most fulfilling:

  1. The 2001 Pats Super Bowl upset over the Rams after being 14 point underdogs.
  2. The Red Sox coming back for 3-0 down vs. Yanks and then sweeping the Cardinals in 2004. This broke the 86 year drought and ended the 1918 chants.
  3. The Celtics winning last night.

They all have special places for me, and I just can't pick one.

I predicted the Celts would win the title on the SCN message board after they reeled off a 25-3 start. It must be nice to look so smart.

Now the crazy part is that the draft is next Thursday and all this craziness starts again. I’m planning on a moderated group chat for that night. I'm holding my breath for the Chicago Bulls to trade the #1 pick to Boston for our whiteboy bench stiffs Brian Scalabrine and Scott Pollard.Living in dreamland is more fun than you would think.

I love this game.



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