Celtics Reborn and Ready
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Sunday, April 29, 2012 13:04
At the beginning of this short-lived lockout threatened season, any rational Boston Celtics fan would have to assess the situation and believe that the odds were not in their favor to even sniff a chance at the title. The core was old, the auxiliary players unimpressive. The centers consisted of a glass-boned Jermaine O’Neal and obscure journeyman Chris Wilcox. Jeff Green, the supposed 6th man, couldn’t even set foot onto the parquet due to heart ailments. Sure they still had Rondo, sure the Big 3 were determined to make their probable last hurrah a memorable one, but most fans were pretty much resigned to the belief that the euphoric ride of contention was undoubtedly coming to an end.
As the season began, the Celtics did everything in their power to reaffirm those fears. They were the definition of inconsistent. They lost in uncharacteristically long streaks, puked up comfortable double digits leads game after game, and Paul Pierce, the stalwart for gods sake, was woefully out of shape and clanking his trademark shots. Most troubling to me was my observation that, although statistically they were still a top defense, they had lost any of the intimidation factor they once possessed as the ubuntu-led championship-snatching Celtics of only a few years ago.
Then the surprisingly capable Chris Wilcox fell victim to the heart ailment Gods (who apparently are vacationing on Causeway Street), Jermaine O’Neal finally broke for good, and suddenly nobody was afraid of the limping, geriatric, washed up team from Boston.
But the result of the past couple months should make even the most stubborn and cynical of fans realize that one; nobody outside of a professional sports locker room truly understands how a team is feeling or functioning. And two; Doc Rivers has cemented himself as one of the most ingenious and improvisational coaches of the modern era. Allow me to break down what he did with a terrible car metaphor.
Doc looked at his team and saw a beat-up, rusty, formerly prize-winning Caprice Classic. The engine (KG) obviously still had plenty of juice, it just needed a tweak, and so Doc reinvented KG and shored up his fractured starting center spot with one adjustment. KG has openly expressed how he never wanted to play center, and yet has put up numbers similar to the championship year, all the while providing his shutdown defense on centers and power forwards alike and characteristically never causing a distraction. With KG at the center, Brandon Bass was able to carve out his role as starting power forward, and has only gotten better as the season progressed (his mid-range shooting is something the Celtics never seemed to have outside Pierce in years past).
Back to the metaphor. The wheels were obviously getting worn pretty thin, and this wear and tear showed up frighteningly in the form of injuries to the bulletproof Ray Allen. But Doc had it all planned. Just throw on a fresh set of wheels in the form of Avery Bradley and Rondo and let them run like hopped up meth-heads at a traffic stop. Bradley has become the biggest surprise in the NBA outside of the short-lived Linsanity period. Bradley went from being an occasionally seen, nervous mess to a starting two-guard who is among the best defenders in the league. Also he replaced Ray Allen. Let me repeat that for emphasis: AVERY FREAKING BRADLEY TOOK RAY ALLEN’S JOB. Not only took it, but reinvented the entire Celtics team into a dangerously quick and intelligent contender in the process. Just thinking about this makes every rational brain cell in my head throb with disbelief.
The restoring process was nearing completion, but what would a new/old car be without a fresh coat of paint and a badass new image? Enter the budding legend: The Stiem-Roller. You may laugh but I find the emergence of former D-League superstar Greg Steimsma to be one of the most crucial parts of the Celtics rebirth from washed up to completely legit contenders. His spirited swatting ways brings the passion and excitement to a revamped bench that includes a banged up Ray Allen, wily sniper Mickael Pietrus, explosive rookie E’Twaun Moore, and Sasha “big game” Pavlovich. You think I’m getting carried away by now, and I understand that. But remember that in the championship year, the weight was mostly burdened by the Big 3, but it was the energetic and clutch bench/role players such as James Posey and Eddie House that made them a complete and championship worthy team. This bench reminds me of that bunch: always fired up, always ready, we’ll see in the coming days if they are as equally clutch.
After the inconsistent start accrued a 15-17 record at the All-Star break for the guys in green, Doc worked his magic and rolled out a seemingly new, completely revamped and sexier ride than anyone in December could have imagined possible. He took that hoopdie for a 24-10 ride to close out the season and wound up the 4th ranked team in the East. The crazy road trip has had more twists and turns in a shortened amount of time than expected, and it leads into Atlanta today to kick off what should be an even more twisted and wild postseason. With the Bruins falling short, here’s to exciting basketball which seemed so unlikely just a short time ago.