Making The Case To Keep The Boston Celtics Together

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic

It may be approaching closing time but the bar is still open and there is time for one more round.  So the Boston Celtics lost in the first round to the New York Knicks Friday night.  Paul Pierce looked out of gas; Kevin Garnett was playing though injury and Ray Allen is in the rear view mirror playing for the Miami Heat.

Now is not the time to panic or make hasty decisions.  It’s the time to be realistic.  Look, I am no fan of Boston.  While I respect what the latest version of the Celtics has accomplished, I can make the argument that resting on the laurels of being one of sports most storied franchises, it has been overrated. But they are winners.  From Celtic team President Danny Ainge, coach Doc Rivers, and the players, they are loyal to each other.  And there is a mutual affinity between the team and its fans.

As someone over forty, I can say we don’t see that as much anymore in sports and it’s worth strongly considering keeping together.  Beyond sentiment here are reasons why the Celtics should keep the Garden a place where everybody knows the names:

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Rajon Rondon driving to the hoop against the Miami Heat.

With a healthy Rajon Rando, and better production out of Jason Terry the Celtics would have finished between the 2nd and 4th seed this season making who knows what kind of run in the playoffs.

The days of logging 40 plus all-star minutes a game are gone but it’s premature to write the eulogies for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  Stars like John Stockton, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were/are able to perform at high levels because their minutes were strictly monitored as they aged.  Injuries and lack of depth forced the Celtics to abandon this strategy in the playoffs and push their aging stars too much.  This made Pierce look worse than he is.  Health and augmentation is required.  Not disassembling.

If the Miami Heat are healthy they will likely be the favorite to win it all next season no matter what you do.  But Dwyane Wade is starting to break down, and if things fall into place, the C’s can be right there.

Pierce is under contract for one more season.  Unless someone offers you a crazy no-brianer trade for him, why not play it out?  Get Rondo healthy, get Jared Sullinger healthy, pick up a free agent piece and be relevant.

Speaking of Pierce, he may not be Larry Bird or Bill Russell but he is a Celtic legend.  Do you want to jettison him a year too soon and see him play in another team’s colors?  (Okay so I snuck in a reason based on sentiment)

Rebuilding is always a risky proposition with no guarantees.  So unless Danny Ainge has scouted a high school senior who he projects will come out of college after his freshman year for the 2015 draft, and can guarantee the Celtics will be in the right draft position to get him, what is the rush to suck next year?

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Number one pick in the 2007 NBA draft Greg Oden shaking hands with Commissioner David Stern.

Because that’s the argument isn’t it?  Rebuilding is painful but the sooner you start the sooner you get through it.  Not necessarily.  Great prospects don’t equate to a turnaround.  I’m sure Portland felt they were on the right path when they drafted Greg Oden and Sam Bowie.  Washington when they drafted Kwame Brown.  Detroit when they drafted Darko Milicic.  And these were high picks.

The Indianapolis Colts said goodbye to Peyton Manning but it took four neck surgeries and the guarantee of replacing him with stud rookie Andrew Luck.  The Celtics don’t have anywhere close to that type of certainty in replacing Pierce or KG.  Maybe the next Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan is in the 2015 draft class; maybe he is in the 2016, 2017 or 2027!

The fact is, at this point there are more unknowns with rebuilding then there is with one more run.  Why rush to start over and end this chapter of Celtic history when there could be one more story to tell?  A story that your fans and the media love and respect.  Sure Ainge should be on the lookout for deals and possibilities but don’t break it up just to break it up.

It may be time for last call but upon further review it might not be time to break up the band and send everyone home just yet.  Samuel Adams anyone?

What Does Carmelo Anthony And Kevin Garnett Have In Common?

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To compare Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett might seem silly to some.  Garnett is a leader, and has the heart of a champion.  He was the anchor of the Boston Celtics champion team of 2008.  Anthony, on the other hand is a ball stopping hog and doesn’t play defense.  And his worst offense, and the biggest indictment against him, is that he only has gotten his team out of the first round of the playoffs one time.

Oh how soon we forget.  And how winning changes everything.  For you young folks reading this, you might not remember that once upon time Kevin Garnett played for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  In eight seasons in Minnesota exactly how many times did KG’s Wolves make it out of the first round?  Um, the answer would be one time.

One the one hand, especially in his prime, it is fair to say Garnett had more of an all around game than Melo.  However, KG was clearly the man in Minnesota and when it came playoff time, he was accused of shrinking in the fourth, and shying away from his offense.  Something nobody ever accused Melo of.

garnettallenpierceIn Boston, KG was able to share, “the man” duties with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, A.K.A, “the big three”.  Two future hall of famers that were still in their prime when they joined forces and complimented KG’s game.

In Denver, Melo had a past his prime Allen Iverson, and a legit but slightly passed him prime Chauncey Billups.  In New York he has a team, this post season, which if healthy enough, can legitimately compete.

In the lone year the Celtics did win a champion with KG, he played for not one but two of the leagues best coaches.  Doc Rivers as the head coach, and arguably the Bill Belichick of basketball, Tom Thibodeau as the assistant coach/ defensive coordinator.  Of course Thibodeau is now the head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Dikembe Mutombo's classic pose after the Nuggets upset the Sonics.

Dikembe Mutombo’s classic pose after the Nuggets upset the Sonics.

Melo had George Karl in Denver.  A great regular season coach who had great Seattle Sonic teams, long before he teamed with Melo, that often under performed in the playoffs.  Including when his Seattle team suffered one of the biggest upsets in history as the first number one seed to lose to an eight, ironically, the Denver Nuggets.

KG’s Wolves did lose two series as the favorite.  Melo’s Nuggets lost as 4th seed once to the Utah Jazz when their teams had identical records.  With the NY Knicks, Melo will be a favorite for the first time.

Prior to Michael’s Jordan’s reign, only one time had a team with the NBA’s leading scorer won a championship.  It was supposed to be Jordan’s Achilles heal.  Kobe Bryant is a great player when they win and a selfish shooter when they lose.  I’m not saying Melo is the class of Jordan or Kobe, but he is a great scorer and that is the criticism that scorers often get.

The pressure is on him now more than ever due to a lack of past success and the fact that they are a number 2 seed.  Boston is much better than your typical number 7 seed, but the favored Knicks should win.  A certain amount of pressure for Melo is fair.  But win or lose, let’s see how Melo, the team and the coach perform before rendering judgement.  And of course, the Celtics will have something to say about the outcome.

If the Knicks fail to win in the first round, or Melo never wins a championship remember, a lot of great players never won championships, and a lot of other great players like Kevin Garnett, like Julius Erving, never won championships until the perfect situations happened upon them.

If Melo does win a championship before he retires it will be interesting to see if the perception of him changes the way it has for Garnett.