This Bucketball Stuff is Pretty Cool!
Out of fear of appearing like a disingenuous bandwagoning front-runner, I have kept silent during the Boston Celtics NBA season and playoff run. Even though I went to a handful of games this season with SCZA both this season AND LAST and making it a point to go to at least one game in each of the three seasons before then, for me to devote blogs to them would give the perception that me and the entire region of New England just woke up to them last summer when they signed Kevin Garnett. Nevermind that I haven't done much blogging about anything lately.
Boston used to be a Celtics town, no doubt about it, that's why Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters in front of 5,000 empty seats in 1986, because it was directly opposite a Celtics-Hawks playoff game that night. My dad would pull me from my sister's ballet recitals as soon as she was done to listen to the games from my car. One of my neighbors would throw a pool party every weekend just so everyone could watch the games together. I remember racing out of Little League games to watch the Celtics beat the Bucks to win the Eastern Conference Finals in 1985 or 87 whichever from the Bottiglio's and their pool. The Celtics playoff run was the perfect harbinger to summer.
Then you could write a version of "We Didn't Start the Fire" as to what happened next. The death of Len Bias, the retirement of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, the death of Reggie Lewis, the implosion of the Old Boston Garden, the seemingly character-less Shawmut, Fleet, Bank of America TD Banknorth Center-Garden, M.L. Carr, Rick Pitino, not Tim Duncan, Ron Mercer, Joe Forte, Vin Baker, Antoine Walker, Raef LaFrentz, Sebastian Telfair, not Greg Oden, not Kevin Durant. Whenever Boston fans wanted to get behind their basketball team, something would bring them to disappointment.
The league had seemingly changed too. Players wore longer shorts, played less defense, seemed to get into more trouble off the court, and definitely seemed more selfish. Boston isn't a racist city at all, but we warm up less to "me first" attitude and the hip-hopification of sports culture than every other city in America, so when the NBA went in this direction, Boston and the Celtics were behind in parallel, and of course it didn't help that the Celtics sucked during this time.
There were glimpses of a return to glory, like 2002, when the Celtics staged a monumental comeback to seemingly take momentum in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Nets. But even that excitement was muted by the inevitability of a sweep at the hands of the Lakers or whomever the Western Conference Champion was at that time. Luckily it was the Nets who took that series and suffered this fate.
The Celtics always seemed to be handtied by the salary cap and the parameters of their host city (cold weather, black-unfriendly reputation). It looked as though especially after last year's lottery that the Celtics would NEVER be relevant to the NBA or Boston, or at least not any time soon.
The Celtics were able to turn their 5th pick the 2007 draft and two of their role players from their awful 2007 team into Ray Allen, a shooting guard who was clearly on the back nine of his career, if not the back three. The deal was given a lukewarm to outraged response. Then miraculously they turned every good draft pick they had, one player they never should've traded for and an expiring contract for Kevin Garnett. Garnett would've blocked the trade if not for Allen, with Paul Pierce they gave Boston a new "Big Three" or at least all they needed to claim superiority in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
After that the Celtics weren't just relevant, they were dominant, just like the Celtics of old. And the way they played, winning with defense and unselfishness, help endear them to the local fans.
I don't think it would've worked any other way. The Celtics had been rumored to be trading for Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace during GM Danny Ainge's tenure. The Celtics may have won with those players but they wouldn't have liked it here and Boston wouldn't have welcomed them like they do the always on first gear Garnett.
So now Boston has a Celtics team it can get behind, that wins and wins the right way and it feels like nothing's changed, on the brink of winning its first NBA Championship since 1987 with ironically the Lakers left in their way. Basketball fever has been woken up in Boston and this quiet fan is enjoying it.