Expectations and hopes. Hopes and expectations.
Expectations used to be hopes, and hopes used to be expectations. You know, kind of like a Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkle type of deal.
Not anymore. Expectations have lowered, while hopes remain but are now tempered. I used to expect the Celtics to win, now I can only hope they’ll win. I used to expect superiority, now it’s only a fleeting dream. I used to expect championships and nothing but championships, but now wish for the stars to align and everything to fall into perfect place.
My standards aren’t nearly as high, my expectations have shattered into nothing but distant dreams, and even my hopes don’t shine as brightly. Following a bad team is terrible, but following an underachieving team with all the talent to succeed might just be even tougher.
Yesterday, there was a short sequence where the C’s resembled the glorious Celtics of yesteryear. For a period in the third quarter, the defensive shackles were clamped on tight. Ray Allen was on the ball, in a perfect defensive stance, arms spread out wide, pressuring the ball like a watchdog prowling an intruder. Kevin Garnett was at the top of the key, frantically denying a swing pass. Everyone else was balanced, ready to spring into action in case somebody got beat. It was beautiful to watch.
But instead of thinking how the Celtics defense looked good in fifth gear, I just wondered how quickly they’d shift back into neutral. They’ve made a pessimist out of me, they really have. I watch a good play and can’t help but think to myself that something will soon go wrong. Putting the ‘D’ into overdrive used to be Boston’s calling card, the way the Celts told opponents, “Sorry, chumps, game’s over now,” before running away with the game. But last night, as it has been for a long time, a good defensive possession or two meant nothing: Before I could say “Damn it,” malaise had set back in.
Still, the Celtics came away with a win, and nowadays that’s cause for — if not rejoice — at least happiness. Gone are the days when winning ugly was something that could get me down. I no longer take wins for granted, and I won’t ever again — well, at least until the C’s put together another long winning streak. And I certainly don’t expect one any time soon.
But I still hope the Celtics can start one tonight. No matter how much the last couple of months tell me to believe differently, I still dream of championships. Expectations have lowered consistently, yet hope still remains.
With the still-worthy talent on Boston’s roster, hope will likely continue to remain until the season becomes nothing but a memory.
- Kevin Garnett in line for a good game? - Boris Diaw will be guarding Garnett. Garnett is finally starting to look good. Look for a nice game from Garnett, as long as he’s aggressive. Actually, the whole Celtics team might be in for a good game. Theit average margin of victory in two games against Charlotte this season is 30.5 points.
- Isn’t Theo Ratliff dead? - I thought Ratliff had died the day his expiring contract was no longer expiring. At least basketball-wise. But he’s been starting for a team fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff bid. He hasn’t exactly been drinking from the fountain of youth, though. In more than 24 minutes per game with Charlotte, Ratliff is averaging only 4.5 ppg and 2.8 rpg. Maybe he is dead, after all.
- Rajon Rondo’s focus - After one of the least-inspiring 15 points, 11 assist nights I can remember, Rondo prepares to go against the speedy and capable Raymond Felton. Rondo’s focus seems to have dimmed at times, and his penchant for the turnover can be disturbing. Get your head on straight, Rajon. Boston needs you. Badly.