Writing a eulogy is never an easy experience. No one likes to write about death, particularly about the death of someone or something they love. In the sports world, it happens once a year per team that you follow. Am I being overdramatic? No. This season (and every season for that matter) the Boston Celtics were frequently invited into my living room, I frequently checked up on them via various information devices, to the tune of 91 games this year. The season ended last week as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat ousted the Celtics in 5 games in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. This piece has taken me a long time to write because, as with any type of mourning, time heals.
I remember the early months of the season when Rajon Rondo averaged about 15 assists a game. I remember the first half of the season when I advocated Glen Davis for the Sixth Man of the Year award. I remember enjoying Shaq’s time in Boston, going to Harvard Square posing as a statue and composing the Boston Pops. I remember thoroughly enjoying Nate Robinson’s videos from the preseason where he would play various pranks on Shaq. I enjoyed watching the development of Semih Erden. I was remember laughing at the reports of Delonte West and Von Wafer getting into a fist fight in a 2-2 pickup game. I especially remember Ray Allen burying his record-breaking three pointer against the Lakers at home.
The Celtics had to deal with the injury bug as they never had their preseason roster fully intact. Delonte West, Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Kevin Garnett all missed time with injuries. As a matter of fact none of the aforementioned group of players ever played in the same game. But even with those injury troubles the Celtics still held onto the top seed in the East and were always close to San Antonio for the best record in all the NBA. The Celtics dismantled the Heat in each of their matchups (until the regular season when the Celtics were trying to get healthy for the playoffs).
What will forever define the 2010-2011 Boston Celtics can simply be referred to as “The Trade.” At the trade deadline Danny Ainge broke up a majority of the roster and effectively broke down the chemistry that made the Celtics one of the toughest teams in the NBA. He traded away big man Kendrick Perkins and spark providing Nate Robinson for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. He sold Marquis Daniels to the Sacramento Kings. He moved Luke Harangody and Semih Erden to the Cleveland Cavs for draft picks. He brought in Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo, and Sasha Pavlovic.
Ainge defended himself saying that the Celtics would not have been able to resign Perkins. He defended himself by saying they needed a wing that would give Paul Pierce and Ray Allen much-needed rest down the stretch. He defended the deal by saying the Celtics would need some offense from a big man to spread the floor. He defended himself by saying he wanted to rebuild for the future while trying to make the team better in the present as well. He defended himself by saying the Celtics were 19-3 in games that Shaq played in over 20 minutes.
As it turned out, Shaq was unable to get healthy the second half of the season. The Celtics sorely missed Perkins, an inside presence that would have teamed nicely with Jermaine O’Neal in the playoffs. Doc Rivers never really trusted Jeff Green with substantial minutes, thus never giving Pierce and Allen the rest they needed. The Celtics were never able to garner any semblance of chemistry with their brand new roster. Going into the playoffs, it is fair to say everyone knew they were in deep trouble.
They quickly dispatched the Knicks, who were going through injury and chemistry issues themselves. They then faced the Heat in the most anticipated playoff series in recent memory. In that series the Celtics failed to execute their offense. Rajon Rondo went down with one of the grossest injuries I have seen since the Willis McGahee injury when he was at Miami. Yet, Rondo mustered the courage to play through his dislocated elbow and lead the Celtics to a Game 3 victory. Kevin Garnett laid one of the biggest eggs in playoff history in Game 4 and was only “ok” in Game 5. Ray Allen would never see the ball the rest of the series. The next two games the Celtics would fail to show up in the final two minutes of each game as the Heat outplayed them.
Some will complain about the referee’s and the preferential treatment to Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. Some will point to how dirty of a player Dwayne Wade became in this series. Others will point to the injuries of the Celtics and how thin their roster actually was. The bottom line? The Celtics did not finish ball games. Whether it was fatigue that comes with age, miscommunication, or lack of chemistry the Celtics couldn’t withstand the Heat. And that was all she wrote.
Looking ahead to the rebirth of the Celtics, also known as the 2011-2012 season, there are a lot of question marks. One thing must be certain in my eyes: Glen Davis has worn a Celtics uniform for the last time. Everyone fell in love with the hustle and energy Davis provided. Once upon a time Glen Davis took charges, dove for loose balls, and hit an occasional jump shot. Then somewhere around the midpoint of the season, he fell in love with himself, forgot how to pass, forgot how to box out, and forgot that he was surrounded by Hall of Fame talent. The first positive going into the 2011-2012 season: Glen Davis is “Gone Baby Gone.”The other positive going into the 2011-2012 season. Head Coach Doc Rivers signed on for a five-year extension. This will keep stability in the organization.
The Celtics need to add a big man and a name that has been popping up that I am intrigued by is DeAndre Jordan. The kid is 23 years old, averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds, and is 6’11 250. He can fill the role that was left behind when Perk went to Oklahoma City. I would also like to see the Celtics expand Jeff Green’s role and get him 30 minutes a game. Watching him and Rondo on a fast break will be must see TV. I would also like to see the Celtics bring back Delonte West.
The Boston Celtics 2010-2011 season is in the books. They were the third best team in the Eastern Conference. They were a trade that should not have happened away from potentially being better. I refuse to believe the proverbial window that was opened by Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett is closed. This team will be back and in contention next season. They are too competitive, too talented, and have too much pride for this to be the end of an era. Until next season let the Celtics rest, and let’s move onto rooting the Bruins on in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Red Sox in their season as well.
I can be followed on Twitter at ScottieNTCF