Three years ago, the Boston Celtics’ roster consisted of a bunch of young, talented players who didn’t at all know how to play winning basketball. They were a lost group of players, a team pointed without a compass. At one point, the Celtics lost 18 straight games, leaving their fans hoping for nothing but Doc Rivers to be fired and winning the draft lottery… and maybe, perhaps, a win or two. But wins were certainly secondary to making severe changes for the future.
Does that sounds like any team in the NBA right now? A team the Celtics play tonight, perhaps?
At this point — and, really, for a long time now — the New Jersey Nets have stopped focusing on this season. What’s the difference between a 10-win team and a 20-win team? In the eyes of the New Jersey front office, probably only a reduced chance at winning the lottery.
The Nets aren’t going to be in the playoffs, they aren’t going to be a competitive team, and their roster is going to need to undergo a major overhaul to be considered a contender at any time in the near future. They have some nice young pieces in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez but, much like the Celtics of yester-year, just about everybody else on the roster could use an attribute boost like you can give to your created player in NBA 2k10.
Lucky for the Nets, the future brings hope, even during the bleakest times of a franchise’s existence. They need only look across the court tonight to see an example of a franchise in dire straits that righted the ship and turned everything around.
For the Celtics, that turnaround took less than a season; it happened over a single offseason. Even after the NBA Draft Gods frowned on the Celtics — who were expecting the first or second pick in a draft most believed to be only two players deep — and delivered them the number five pick in the 2007 draft, Boston used its young talent (and, perhaps, a nice dose of Danny Ainge’s relationship with Kevin McHale) to fetch Ray Allen from the Supersonics and Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves. Almost overnight, the Celtics were the NBA’s team to beat.
New Jersey’s fortunes might take a longer time to turn around, or they could turn in the blink of an eye as Boston’s did three years ago. With cap space in the loaded free agent market of 2010, a new owner willing to spend loads of money, and Jay-Z’s relationship with Lebron James, the Nets might return next year stocked to contend. On the other hand, they could embark on the first year of a lengthy, strenuous rebuilding process filled with losing seasons and dashed hopes.
Whatever the future holds for New Jersey, one thing is certain:
For now, they suck.
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Rajon Rondo vs. Devin Harris- Earlier in the season, Rondo wanted a race against Chris Johnson, the Tennessee Titans’ 2,000-yard rusher. Now, Johnson has spurned Rondo for a race against Usain Bolt. I guess Rondo will have to settle for a basketball game against Harris, speed demon extraordinaire. Harris hasn’t been nearly as productive as he was during his breakout year last season, but still possesses the athleticism to give any point guard fits.
- Boston’s depth- With injuries everywhere, the Celtics were reduced last game to starting Brian Scalabrine. Throwing Scal out there to start the game isn’t exactly throwing a white flag… but it’s probably the closest thing. With so many injuries, Doc Rivers should lean on his subs a little more, and use the youth towards the end of the bench.
- Celtic skid- The C’s have lost five of their last eight games. They are running on fumes, and could really use an easy win over an overmatched opponent to help ease the pain. Good thing they’re playing New Jersey.