Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Make room for another banner & another number


Like Steve Carell at the end of 40- Year Old Virgin it finally happened. Ok, the Celtics didn’t have to wait quite as long to capture another NBA Championship, but it sure felt like it. The Boston Celtics are the 2008 NBA Champions… Read that again, and see if it sinks in. If you’re a C’s fan it probably won’t just yet. To the sports fan outside of New England it looks like just another title for a spoiled fan base. But the reality is the Celtics were at their worst while the Sox and Patriots were at their best. The Green overcame that and were the only story in the Boston area the past few months. If you’ve stuck with this team (and I hope you have, it means a lot more) you understand where they have come from and where they are today. It is truly amazing.

For some perspective, the Celtics won 16 playoff games this year, they won 24 regular season games all of last year. They lost 18 games in a row, and played lineups such as Allan Ray, Kevin Pinkney, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Ryan Gomes. The first three guys aren’t even in the league anymore. The lineup in the Usual Suspects probably gives them a game and definitely plays more defense. Not only were those players getting minutes for last year’s Celtics team, but there wasn’t a plan set in place on how to improve. Or so we thought.

365 days ago we were discussing the make up for the 2007-2008 Celtics. Part of that conversation was who the team would draft with the 5th overall pick. Seriously, check the blog archive. Possibilities included Jeff Green, Yi Jianlian, Al Thornton, or as I hoped, a trade. And when I said trade I thought of names like Ron Artest, AK-47, Shawn Marion to pair with Pierce and Al Jefferson. The addition of Ray Allen raised an eyebrow, but KG got people out of their chairs, and that was before the season started.

The Celtics busted out of the gates to an incredible 29-3 start before ultimately finishing 66-16. The questions of whether or not the 3 stars could come together for the good of the team were answered immediately, but critics wanted to see it in the post season. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen had never made the Finals before, and it was well documented, but to have 9 of the 10 ESPN “experts” pick the Lakers was an absolute joke. Marc Stein had LA in 5 games. You think he’s got the Celtics in the top spot of his power rankings today? Got to love a 66 win team being the underdog.

The 17th Celtic Championship means so much too so many different people. Whether it’s the past Celtic greats in attendance, like Bill Russell, Tommy Heinson, Jo Jo White, John Havlicek, and Cedric Maxwell, who had to be thinking if this was ever going to happen again to a franchise that used to be so dominant. To Celtic greats who could not be in attendance, at least physically, Red Auerbach, Dennis Johnson, and Reggie Lewis. (Len Bias was drafted 22 years ago to the date that the Celtics snapped a 22 year drought… Bias was 22 the day he died, he also wore 34 in college same number of the series MVP, there’s way more of these.) To Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers who built and coached this team after having the worst record in the East to the best in the league. To the fans old and new. To some this reminds them of the glory 80s days or even earlier, and to others this is the first time they can celebrate.

But most importantly to the players. The stars, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, fellow starters, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, bench guys Eddie House, James Posey, Tony Allen, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, rentals Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, and seat fillers Scot Pollard, Brian Scalabrine, and Gabe Pruitt, they can all be called NBA Champions.

For KG, Pierce, and Allen it’s like Martin Scorsese finally winning that oscar. Everyone knew he was a fantastic director even though he had yet to win the Academy Award. The Boston 3 Party were each incredible players with great resumes, but alluding them was that ring. Now they are off the list that includes Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins, and Patrick Ewing, and join the distinguished company of Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.

Speaking of Bird I fully expect Paul Pierce to now join him atop the rafters of the new Garden. Before the season even started I felt the same way, but now that he has won a championship, like nearly every other number hanging above the court, there is no possible way the 34 doesn’t make it up there. What a group he will join too, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinson, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Reggie Lewis, Dave Cowens, Red Auerbach, and more. It’s an astonishing group of players, and you know Paul Pierce may be in the top 5.

Pierce (30 years old) is a 6 time All-Star, 6th on the all-time Celtics scoring list (10 points back of #5 Cousy), and has the 20th highest scoring average in NBA history. He has been lost in the shuffle playing with clowns like Orien Greene, Dwayne Jones, Kevin Pinkney, Dan Dickau, Andrew DeClergc, and was expected to go places with Ron Mercer, Ricky Davis, and Wally Szczerbiak. The only other time he played with someone who went to an All-Star game in a Celtics uniform, Antoine Walker, they went to the Conference Finals. Give the guy 2 All-Star and the results, an NBA Championship, and a Finals MVP.

You probably saw the graphic that showed in the first year that Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek played together (1962-1963), they won the title. The first year the Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish teamed up (1980-1981), they won the title.

And now the first season for Pierce, Garnett, and Allen (2007-2008), they won the title. Cousy never played for the Celtics again after that ’63 season, but it was in the middle of the Green winning 11 titles in 13 years. Bird, McHale, and Parish won 3 times as a trio, now we’ll have to wait and see what lies ahead for Pierce (30), Garnett (32), and Allen (32).

Cue the awkward song and dance from the very end of 40- Year Old Virgin.


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