Passing The Torch

Originally Posted

The End Of An Era In Boston

DISCLAIMER:  I know my last blog was all about why I hate the NBA…see title “Why I Hate The NBA”.  I don’t want to send mixed signals…I still hate the NBA, but as an American sports fan and aspiring sports media personality I do need to follow it…so I still hate the NBA, but here’s another blog about…besides…I’ll always care for the Celts

…By the way I wrote this at 3:30 pm, Wednesday 5/11/2011…Even though it was before last night’s season ending game, I still think it’s worth reading…hope you do too.

For a fan, there are many emotions that one will feel approaching any of their favorite team’s playoff games.  Heading into tonight’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics the most prevalent emotions for Bostonians are angst and dread.

Tonight, an aging and banged up Celtics squad has the difficult task of extending their season on the road against the Miami Heat.  Celtics fans have seen a couple of playoff runs end in disappointment since Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett & Co. hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2008, but this one is different.   A loss tonight or in any of the next three games marks not only the end of an era in Boston, but a passing of the torch to the heir apparent in the Eastern Conference.

As the snow began to melt this Spring, it became painfully obvious to Celtics fans that this was their last shot in the “Big 3” era for an NBA championship.  Not only were the Celtics stars aging, but the power in The Association had shifted drastically towards the Southeast.  Last summer, LeBron James teamed up with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in an effort to form a super team in South Florida.  For months, fans and even analysts came up with reasons not to crown the Heat just yet.

Chemistry can’t be forced and they’ll need a season to gel

They won’t listen to Eric Spoelstra

Cap room.  Even superstars need a capable supporting cast

They can’t figure out who to take the last shot

They haven’t reached the point in their careers like KG, Ray and Pierce where they are ready to sacrifice touches

 As I look back it seems like those people were really only trying to convince themselves.  Sure the doubters felt validated when Miami struggled out of the blocks to a 9-8 start, but where are those doubters now?  As much as we hate to admit it, the Miami Heat are the best team in the NBA.  They may not be the top seed in the playoffs, and nobody can guarantee that they will get past the Bulls or the West Champion, but it looks like they are quickly becoming the team to beat.

Here comes the really bad news: pending a bad injury or some unforeseen crazy circumstances, they aren’t going anywhere.  Celtics fans were giddy with excitement when Danny Ainge put the Big 3 together in their early 30s.  Can you imagine if they came together in their mid 20s?  That’s what we’re dealing with here; a group of young superstars with brand new contracts, who are going to win.

Year number one was supposed to be the biggest challenge, and at times it was a struggle for Miami, but this team overcame a 9-8 start to finish the season 49-16 with losing streaks of four and five games.  When they were hot, they were unstoppable, winning 22 of 23 games at one point, 11 of 12 at another, and 12 of their last 14 to finish the regular season (19 of 23 including the post season).

The Celtics on the other hand are a franchise going in the wrong direction.  They have already begun to prepare for life after Garnett and Allen, who have one more year on their contracts.  Rajon Rondo is locked up with a reasonably team friendly deal and the Jeff Green trade, however unpopular it is now, will hopefully prove to be a good move in the long run if the Celtics choose to extend him past next year.  Danny Ainge has never been afraid to take risks, and most of his gambles have paid off, so I don’t believe we’ll see the M.L. Carr/ Rick Pitino days relived, but things will get worse before they get better.  The only players currently under contract for next season who will be under the age of 33 when the season starts (if it starts…another issue for another column) are Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. (There is a qualifying offer for Jeff Green of just under six million dollars)

Cap room won’t be an issue when Garnett and Allen are all done, but in a day and age in the NBA where the top free agent players pick teams based on nightlife, warm weather and their superstar contemporaries, it would be far-fetched to see Dwight Howard in Celtic green two years from now.  I don’t know if and when the next Celtics championship run will be, but the sword is double edged, because if this run comes to an end tonight, it may be the last one we see for a while in Boston.  In Miami, it might be the first of many.