Dennis Green described the Celtics better than I ever could, and he wasn’t even talking about them. He wasn’t talking about a basketball team, even. “They are who we thought they were,” he said. As the C’s proved last night, Green’s words weren’t just descriptive of the Chicago Bears. The Celtics, too, are exactly who we thought they were. Or who we’ve come to realize they are, at least.
They are a team that cares little about the regular season. Really, little might even be an exaggeration. The way their regular season has developed reminds me of a quote from Hoosiers: “Look, mister, there’s two kinds of dumb. A guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don’t matter, the second one you’re kinda forced to deal with.” The regular season has repeatedly gotten naked and barked at the moon, right in the Celtics’ living room. The regular season has continuously forced the Celtics to deal with it. But, still, they’ve done nothing about it.
Losing to bad teams brings no response. Losing to good teams brings the same. Losses, brutal beatings even, don’t turn into lessons to learn from or motivation for the future; losses just are. They happen, and the Celtics move on, and the Celtics couldn’t care less. The regular season isn’t what this campaign boils down to.
“We’ve lost to New Jersey, we’ve lost to [other teams with poor records], but if we make a run in the playoffs, will you forget it? That’s my question,” said Doc Rivers, following the latest at-home humbling to a mediocre team. Reporters nodded in affirmation, and Doc continued, “That’s my point. If we don’t, then it’s probably who we were all year — an inconsistent team — at least in the second half of the year. We’ll find that out.”
Yes, a playoff run would make everyone forget the Coney Island Cyclone of a regular season. But shouldn’t we know who the Celtics are by now? Should we really still have to “find out” who the Celtics are? Shouldn’t 79 games be enough to reveal a little bit about them?
The answer to all those questions remain unclear. The Celtics are who we thought they were, in the regular season at least, but maintain they’ll be ready for the playoffs. They continue to preach that it doesn’t matter who they play, that they have the mentality of a number one seed… even after they play like a team fighting for John Wall in the lottery. And, as many times as their play has made me want to toss my cookies, would anyone be truly surprised if the Boston Celtics arose from the dead and slapped together a nice playoff run?
The Celtics have experience, they have stars, and they have depth. They have good post play, solid shooting, and a point guard who can penetrate more frequently than Tiger Woods, and does it at will. At their best, the Celtics can lock down defensively and run clinics offensively. They can create turnovers or keep an opponent from getting shots. They can operate inside-outside, or outside-inside. At their best, the Celtics are well-rounded and dangerous.
Problem is, “at their best” doesn’t happen very often and, when it does, it has been all too fleeting. The Celtics have thrown wins and momentum to the curb. Regular season be damned, the C’s just want the playoffs to start. It’s evident in every wide-open layup they allow, every boxout they miss.
Paul Pierce suggests the Celtics are doing themselves a disservice by ruining any chance at gaining steam for the playoffs. “You want to win these games,” he said, “and you want to gather some momentum going into the playoffs. It just seems like whenever we start to gather some momentum, we have a tough loss and I don’t believe that you just turn it on in the playoffs. Some teams have done it in the past, but for the most part, I think you have to go into the playoffs with a good rhythm, with a good streak going on where you are playing well. And we haven’t been playing well consistently.
“Hopefully we can clean some things up and just really work on some things, start to play some really consistent basketball for the next three games.”
Three games. That’s all the Celtics have to turn this ship around. There’s an iceberg straight ahead, and it’s the NBA playoffs. The C’s claim they will be ready, but everything we’ve seen to this point leaves us hesitant to believe them.
The C’s play has been worthy of boos, and nothing more. Those boos rained down last night, showering the Celtics with precisely the reception they deserved. Though his team had earned nothing more, Kevin Garnett left the court frustrated, muttering to nobody in particular after the latest rock bottom, “Then don’t come to the f**king games.”
Garnett’s line was funny and ironic, in a way. Ever since Christmas, that’s exactly what those boo birds have been trying to tell the Celtics.