Last year, the regular season and the Boston Celtics simply didn’t mesh. The season can easily be described. Boredom. Frustration. Overzealous bloggers (read: me) considering gouging out our eyes. Fans in fits. Optimistic fans dismissing brutal losses. Optimistic fans later being proven correct in their unconditional faith. It was a tough time to be a Boston Celtic fan, last regular season. We expected another gear, we wanted another gear, but we weren’t sure if the Celtics could still get there.
The Celtics have now earned our faith. A poor regular season, we now know, doesn’t necessarily mean a goddamn thing about postseason chances. We understand now.
But please, for the love of Red Auerbach, can the Celtics actually try this year? For all 82 games, or at least most of them? I don’t want any doubt this year. I don’t want any complacency. Just a smooth ride straight to the NBA Finals. Dreams are great, right?
At the very least, the Celtics are saying the right things. They know this season could be their last real chance. Aging a little every year (don’t we all?), the Celtics now approach the twilights of their playing days with an enthusiasm marked by the knowledge that NBA careers don’t last forever. At least, so they say.
“There is a sense of urgency for me, and I’m sure there’s a sense of urgency for all the other guys,’’ Shaq told the Boston Globe. “You only get one shot. You have to put it all on the line, and we all are going to put all our egos on the side, and we’ll see what happens.
“I have a two-year window, but anything can change. Because I know at 40, 41, I won’t have the same opportunities as I have now, which will be fine.’’
Paul Pierce echoed Shaq’s feelings.
“There’s a lot of new faces, but over the past week and a half, I’ve seen everybody’s face — either I’ve worked out or played with them,” said Pierce. “You can feel the energy around here again. We were talking about it today, the energy, the vibe around here. It’s about winning another championship. We feel like we left something behind last year. The energy is there, we’re ready to go. It’s going to be exciting.”
Doc Rivers admitted that the Celtics dragged their feet in training camp after winning the 2008 title.
“I thought that summer when we got back guys were like, ‘Awww man, we’ve got to start over again,’” Rivers said. “I think these guys, they can’t wait to get started. So that’s a good sign.”
Finishing THIS close to winning a title last year left unfinished business, and the Celtics added to the championship desire by signing two grown veterans thirsting for a title.
“I’ve been comparing this to the last couple of years,” Pierce told the Boston Herald. ”It’s like a new energy it seems like with Shaq, Jermaine.” Thank God. Watching zombies wear green and white uniforms and attempt to play basketball resulted in far too many broken remote controls.
Judging by the excitement the Celtics share, they won’t treat another regular season like the plague. Then again, who knows? Last year they spoke about 72 wins. Phil Jackson, at least, has doubts about Boston’s ability to stay focused before games become seven game series.
“Basketball is won with defense,” he said. ”The Celtics play defense and they know how to do it. Whether they can sustain it for 82 games in the regular season, I don’t know.”
Even while contemplating a potentially frustrating Celtics regular season, Jackson took the opportunity to praise Boston’s offseason.
“With [Kendrick] Perkins out until perhaps December or January, they really bolstered themselves at the power position,’’ he said. “The Celtics, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, they are going to have a race out there. Boston helped themselves in the process.”
A brief interruption to our regularly scheduled programming: Atlanta, Jackson? Atlanta, in the Eastern Conference race? Maybe once their go-to guy (their $119 million go-to guy) stops averaging 12.8 points on 29.8% shooting in postseason sweeps. Until then, the Hawks are built to earn fourth seeds and get bounced in the second round. Atlanta, true contenders? Maybe once Nate Robinson reaches six feet tall.
Back to the point I set out to prove, or at least discuss, the Celtics say they have an exuberance this season. They’re excited for training camp, which means they should be ecstatic when the regular season comes. Consider me happy, if all the words aren’t hollow. I would love for the Celtics to give a shit about the regular season. If it isn’t too much to ask, I’d love for them to give a lot of shits.