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234 regular season wins, 42 playoff victories, 4 Atlantic Division titles, 2 Eastern Conference titles and 1 NBA Championship. Now, that’s a resume. Since the resurgence of Celtics Pride in the summer of 2007 and the birth of the new “Big Three,” green teamers all across the nation have once again enjoyed what Celtics history is all about: winning.
Hitting on all cylinders right from the jump, we had the privilege of watching three of the NBA’s best players put personal accolades on the back burner. Egos were checked at the door and one of the most talented and unselfish teams bought us a one-way ticket title town.
We saw fierce intensity. We saw a true commitment to team with “ubuntu.” We saw battles. We saw that old Celtic mystique back in the Garden. Now, as much as it pains me to say it, we may be watching it seeping back out.
Down two games to none against the Miami Heat, I realize they’re not dead yet. Two losses away from home court shouldn’t summon the hearse, but maybe we should be reading their last rights.
It’s not just that the Celtics are in an 0-2 hole for the first time in the new “Big Three” era. The way that they’re losing is what is so concerning. They look like a team from a 35+ men’s rec league.
The worst part is, that’s just about where they’re at. They’re old. We’re watching a younger, faster, more agile Heat team run all over and around our “veteran” Celtics.
When Danny Ainge assembled this team in ’07 we knew there was a limited window. Celtics fans were all aware that these guys weren’t entering their mid-twenties. Most thought we’d only see the “Big Three” for three years, but with lack of options last offseason and a sour taste from the 2010 NBA finals we signed up for a couple more years.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both resigned and the knights of the four leaf clover were back on the quest for the holy grail. The mission was a success through most of the regular season and struggles on the second night of back to backs was nothing but a speed bump. Teams with lesser talent but more youth started pushing Boston to the limit. The signs were there. Someone must have oiled up the damn window because that sucker was starting to slide shut.
The intensity isn’t the same. Kevin Garnett was a man possessed in the championship year. Yelling, clapping, and pounding the floor on defense was commonplace in nearly every game. Now, the 2007-2008 Defensive Player of the Year is getting twisted and turned on a quick ball fake from Dwyane Wade.
When he arrived, KG instantly became the emotional leader and gave his team the intensity that it needed to thrive defensively and when it mattered most. Something’s missing. That Celtic swagger is gone. That Celtic mean streak has fizzled out. Teams feared playing the Boston Celtics and now the Heat look like they beat them and changed their Depends afterwards.
“But they swept the Knicks! First sweep for the Big Three!” Let’s face it, if you and I walked through Boston and picked the first three guys we saw to be on our team we could give the Knicks a run right now. The Knicks are better, but nowhere near the top contenders in the league. Also consider that thought for a moment. It was their first sweep. It was also the first time in the Big Three era that they disposed of a team in less than five games and that only happened once. That all adds up when you consider that in three seasons they went the distance twice to the NBA Finals. That’s a lot of extra games on those old legs.
It’s a harsh reality we might have to finally face. They’re aging and their competition is improving. The Bulls, Heat and Hawks are all young talented teams that are going to cause problems for these Celtics for the remainder of their tenure in Boston.
So, where do we go from here you ask? That’s a tough question. Is Jeff Green the future? I’m not sure. He’s a valuable player to have, but he’s not a guy you want as a face of a franchise. Rondo? He’s outstanding but until he can start hitting his jumpers with some regularity like MVP Derrick Rose figured out, it’s going to be tough for him to carry a team himself. There’s a lot of questions that are unanswered and I don’t know when our answers will come.
What I do know is that if the Big Three are in fact having their window slammed shut by the Miami Heat, then we need to appreciate what we have and had over the last few seasons. We watched future Hall of Famers and watched them each validate their careers with a title.
We watched Ray Allen break the all-time 3-point record. We saw all three reach the 20,000 point plateau in their time with Boston. We watched Paul Pierce grow up and finally earn his spot in Celtic lore with a title and a Finals MVP award.
The Celtics can still prove me wrong. If there’s one advantage of being an old veteran, it’s a sense of calm and resiliency at all times. They can still win. They can show us something truly special still, but one way or another it’s about that time we embrace the truth and I’m not talking about Paul Pierce.
Boston’s coming to the end of another great era in Celtic history. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Follow Brian Moller on Twitter: @Brian_Moller