The Celtics have ten games left on their schedule. Exactly one of those games is against a team with a +.500 record (April 9th at Washington; hide your daughters). In fact, aside from said clash with Wizardry, the Celtics' remaining schedule consists of playing every single Eastern Conference non-playoff team, including the Milwaukee Bucks twice. Granted, that's "if the season ended today," but have you looked at the lower-seeded EC playoff picture? I mean, who gives a shit. The Atlanta Hawks may well poised to end their 10-year playoff drought with, what, 36 wins? 38 if you're a wild-eyed romantic? Meanwhile the West is delivering some of the best basketball in the history of the League, and the strong possibility remains that a 50-win team from the left side of the map could miss the playoffs in downright historic fashion. I can't stress enough how epically fucked-up this is... but I digress.
My larger point is that its time to dust off the #44 jerseys and distasteful ethnic solidarity because the worst player on the Boston Celtics is about to start getting some burn, big time. The C's are 5.5 up on the Pistons for home-court and the next time you see KG on the court for even 30 minutes may well be against those heroic Hawks. It actually warms my heart a bit to think of Scal capering about on the court, particularly considering his symbolic valueas a sort of victory cigar for the entire regular season, but I'll probably change my tune once he starts air-balling 3s on the break, whipping passes out of bounds and generally mutilating the game of basketball. But hey, at least he'll be playing hard.
The most exciting thing over the next month (aside from everything in the Western Conference) will probably be seeing how the MVP race shakes out, and on that subject I feel I should say a few words. Numerous esteemed Celtics partisans have been banging the drum for KG, rightfully pointing out the Celtics' historic worst-to-first turnaround and the way in which one man seems to have reversed twenty years of star-crossed frustration. All of this is true. I don't think anyone quite understood how tremendous a basketball force Kevin Garnett was before this trade, both on and off the court, and I don't think there's anyone else in the League who could have done what he's done quite how he's done it.
That said--and it doesn't even pain me to say this--KG is not going to win MVP, and I don't think it's any screaming injustice. There's a number of semi-valid arguments as to why the trophy's destined for other hands: how well the C's performed in Garnett's rather extended absence; the fact that he plays alongside two All-Stars; the fact that his individual numbers aren't quite up to speed with the LeBrons and Kobes, or even the Antawn Jamisons. There's clearly an element of bullshit to each of those claims, and we could debate them till the cows come home, but here's the larger point: when the Celtics put this team together back in July and August, all we were hearing was how it wasn't about individual glory anymore, that if none of these guys ever made an All-Star team again but could bring home a championship then all would be right with their lives and ours. And you know what? They've done exactly that, and didn't even have to give up those All-Star slots in the process. This season's been a big-picture, team endeavor of singular focus, and to wring our hands when KG is left out of the top 3 for MVP voting is to profoundly miss the point. I'm sure Paul Pierce will think it's a travesty when the award goes to someone else, and KG will most likely be outraged when Pierce himself gets barely a whiff of consideration (which may ultimately be the greater travesty), but then they'll shrug it off and focus on kicking the shit out of the Pistons, as should we. It's not KG's year for the MVP, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
That said, this is going to be one of the tightest award races in recent memory. My personal feeling is that it'll go to Kobe, largely because he's never won, and then LeBron will become the new Kobe, which strikes me as somewhat unfair since LeBron's a better basketball player than Kobe (or anyone else). Chris Paul is a fascinating option and may well be the most deserving of all--what he does every night for Nawlins is almost too wonderful for words--but he's only 22 and the idiots who vote for this award seem to have it in for youngsters (see James, Lebron). It'd be enjoyably unexpected if he pulled it out.