Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If Only in Your Dreams

What’s the best part about being a sports fan? For me, it’s an easy answer: realizing the dream. When your team comes out of nowhere, against all odds, with the sports gods firmly in their corner, to win it all. I spent 15 of my formative years (the late 80’s and all of the 90’s) waiting for one Boston team to break through – then TWO teams did it – the 2001 Patriots and the 2004 Red Sox. Wasn’t it incredible? Both of those teams faced situations where there was NO POSSIBLE WAY they could ever come back – and not only did they win those games, but they finished the job and brought home the shiny trophy. During those two magical years, I followed every game with an unbridled enthusiasm usually reserved for little kids at Christmas. What an unbelievable feeling.

Now, and once again, sporting success has become commonplace in Boston. The Patriots are undefeated and we didn’t once mention them on our radio show last week. The Red Sox won the World Series again. All right! Time to get another commemorative T-shirt.

Meanwhile, the TD Banknorth Garden has played host to the city’s “losers,” the Celtics and Bruins. I figured that fans of these teams would be cautious of jumping into the tank of Cuckoo Juice if they actually started winning, to avoid becoming just as annoying as Pats and Sox horn-honkers. But no! We’ve got a plague induced by a 17-2 start compiled against FOUR TEAMS WITH WINNING RECORDS!! Why do I have to keep repeating myself? Am I too focused on the negative? And why is the head of all Headbands, Mr. Tim himself, drunkenly floating in the punch bowl? He’s dreaming the impossible dream, folks!

In all fairness, Tim has not ENDORSED the Celtics as a 70-win team. But he notes it as a real possibility. And he HAS endorsed them as a 65-win squad. Know how many Celtics teams have won 65 games in history? Two. 1972-73 and 1985-86. The latter won a title. In fact, there are TEN TEAMS ALL-TIME who won 65 games and a championship (the 85-86 Celtics, 91-92, 96-97, and 97-98 Bulls, 71-72, 86-87, and 99-00 Lakers, 70-71 Bucks, 66-67 and 82-83 Sixers). Are 70 wins possible for the Celtics? NO. Are 65 possible? I don’t see it. But for those who do - you’re getting into some rarefied air here. Particularly with the schedule that I pointed out in my last post.

“I don’t care that they have yet to play” the top-tier teams, Tim says. How can you not? You note that the Celtics have been blowing out the opposition, and how impressive that is, but the fact remains that they won’t be beating Phoenix, Utah, San Antonio, Detroit, Orlando, or Dallas by 20 points. Quote me on that. They’ll be hard pressed to win those games, period. Tim actually proposes a scenario where the Celtics lose all of their remaining meetings with Detroit, San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Utah, accounting for 13 losses. Add that to the two they already have, and Tim’s math puts the Celtics at 67-15.

Honestly. We don’t need to have a contest to determine who is the bigger Celtics fan at Shamrock Headband, nor do we need a trivia showdown to establish the idea that the combination of Garnett, Allen, and Pierce is very special in the NBA Pantheon. But I don’t understand how beating the crap out of Eastern Conference also-rans suddenly vanquishes all concerns about this squad. Rewind a couple months: I’m grumbling about the team’s lack of pivot men. Boston sportswriters are bemoaning the lack of bench depth. National loudmouths have concerns about the age of the so-called “Big Three.” Tim is calling for Doc Rivers to be fired immediately(!)

Have these problems ironed themselves out? Pivot men: Perk has defined adequate in a Mark West kind of way (7.3, 4.8, 1.8). Backup center? God forbid anything happens to Perk. Bench depth? House and Posey are producing, as they should – but the Oversized Infant isn’t ready for prime time, despite the flashes of ’84 Barkley. Tony Allen isn’t there, either. The age of the superstars? Not a factor so far, but Ray Allen hasn’t shot the ball well at all – and have we forgotten that NBA players, particularly those in their 30’s, sit out 5-10 games a season with an array of nicks, dings, and bruises?

If anything, Doc Rivers has been the revelation here, proving very effective in the role of, as Brick says, “game manager.” Doc no longer has to change diapers and breast feed in exchange for wins. He has a team capable of making smart decisions and has so far maneuvered the ship with Francona-like ability. For all of this “too much minutes” talk:

Ray Allen – 35 minutes or less 4 of the last 6 games.
Paul Pierce – 38 minutes or less 5 of the last 6 games.
Kevin Garnett – wait, you know he’s averaging 35 minutes a night?

Even with a capable performance by Doc, the Celtics would need to hire Towelie from South Park to blaze the entire rest of the league before Celtics games to get to 70 wins. Or even 65. An NBA season has too many variables to speak of in a 1,000 word rant. You’re going to tell me that the C's will miraculously avoid injuries? That Glen Davis will be a reliable backup center by April? That a great home team, like the Portland Trail Blazers, with a talented young lineup, couldn’t beat the Celtics at the Rose Garden on a February road trip after stops in Denver, Oakland, and Phoenix? And that the Clippers won’t be ready to prey on the Celtics (their 5th game and 5th city in 7 days) the following night?

The Celtics will be challenged this year by all comers. And I hope they stand and slug it out. But put away the history books and get your head out of the clouds if you think back-to-back wins over the St. Elsewhere Raptors and Bricklayin’ Bulls is any indication of greatness.

1 comment:

C.Y. said...

Hi there. I'm Chuck Ellis, the managing editor over at HoopsVibe.com. Would you mind getting in touch with me when you have a minute? I'm available at CYE.HoopsVibe@gmail.com. Thanks.