A young man buys Harlan Coben’s latest book, Live Wire.
Immediately, the book captivates him. Coben, as Coben does, spins a fascinating web of intersecting stories, a series of often unrelated events which all connect and affect each other to varying degrees. Coben’s words, so strategically placed and masterfully crafted, make the young man feel as if he’s a part of the story, as if the protagonists Myron Bolitar and Windsor Horne Lockwood III could be in his living room, as if they were his friends.
The young man keeps reading, flipping the pages faster now. The book has completely enthralled him, ruining any chance he had of being productive with his day. Sleep doesn’t seem necessary when the alternative is finishing the book. Less than 24 hours after opening the literary piece of art, and it’s 3:30 in the morning now, the young man has almost finished reading the book.
But he wishes it could go on forever. He wishes it would never end.
Just like in one of Coben’s stories, the characters in Boston are bound by seemingly unrelated events. Kevin McHale once played basketball with Danny Ainge, and the two former teammates reconnected years after their playing days to make a blockbuster trade. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had each spent years losing, or else they would not have been so hellbent on winning that they were willing to sacrifice their individual glory. Doc Rivers decided to hire an assistant coach named Tom Thibodeau, who was only available because the Rockets had fired Jeff Van Gundy, who may not have been fired if Yao Ming had been healthy for more than 48 games. James Posey wanted out of Miami because the Heat had swiftly become the NBA’s worst team. The Phoenix Suns decided to sell their first-round pick in 2006, because their owners are cheap, and that first-round pick became Rajon Rondo. The Celtics somehow pried Kevin Garnett away from Minnesota without giving up their young point guard, with Minnesota taking, among others, Gerald Green instead. The events were all related, in different ways, even though it didn’t seem like it at the time, and they all led to 2008, when the NBA season ended with Kevin Garnett donning a baseball cap and shouting, “Annnyyyttthhiiinnnggg iiisssss poooossssiiiibbbbllleeeee!”
It’s hard not to occasionally wonder about all that had to go right for that team to come together. For instance, I can remember a late play against Cleveland in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals that year. I don’t even know how clearly I remember it, but I’ll explain it from my vague recollection. There was a jump ball between a Celtic and a Cavalier, with the Celtics ahead by a couple points and time dwindling. Lebron James was being superhuman, on his way to totaling 45 points, and he was making a late charge to win his team the game. Every possession was crucial, and the jump ball seemed essential. It was tipped directly to a Cavalier, right at one of them, maybe Sasha Pavlovic, and the Cavs were going to have the ball with a chance to tie or lead the game. But Pierce jetted in at the last second, stealing the tip and ultimately sealing the game. Pierce scored 41 points that day, but I don’t remember any play more important than the jump ball.
Maybe it was fate, the Celtics winning that game. Maybe those plays are just the plays champions make. Maybe there was an element of luck involved. Regardless, Pierce’s effort while chasing down a jump ball saved Boston’s season. Without that play, Boston might have gone down in round two. Without that play, Kevin Garnett might still be considered un-clutch. The Big Three might still be ringless. Who knows? NBA teams play 82-game regular seasons, then need to win 16 playoff games to raise a banner. And sometimes all that comes down to one jump ball.
Sadly, just like one of Coben’s stories, Boston’s Big Three era will come to an end. I think about this sometimes. More than I should, probably, considering that the C’s, even through recent woes, are legitimate contenders this year. I would likely be better served living in the present, I understand. I just know it could and will all end soon, if not this year than probably next. Even if the Big Three all stay beyond next year, when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen’s contracts expire, there will soon come a time when they aren’t the same, when their powers are significantly diminished and they won’t inspire the same amount of awe in their fans, nor the same amount of fear and respect from their opponents. There will come a time when the Boston Celtics will have to rebuild, or reload, or whatever Danny Ainge decides to do, and that time isn’t too far into the future.
Allen and KG’s contracts expire after next season, as I already pointed out, and they are both well past 30 years old. The potential lockout also looms as a factor, as it could erase all of next season. If it does, do a 37-year old Ray Allen and a 36-year old Kevin Garnett re-sign in Boston for one last run? Would they even still be relevant? The end is coming, folks, and it’s sad but it might come after this season. If the lockout strikes, and it very well could, this could be the final year of the Big Three Era as we know it.
And it sucks. It sucks not knowing the path Boston intends to take. It sucks wondering whether Ainge expects Jeff Green to become Boston’s clear-cut second option, even though I don’t think he has any chance at excelling in that role, at least not on a championship team. But mostly, it sucks to know the end’s drawing near. To know that this team; which re-instilled Celtic pride, which brought the Celtics from tank-a-palooza to NBA champions in one year, which taught us that anything is possible, which made it fun to root for the Celtics again, which significantly healed all the wounds caused by Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair, Marty Conlon and Brett Szabo; won’t last much longer.
Sure, the Celtics will go on, but the faces will be different. Rajon Rondo will lead the way into the future, we know, but beyond that there are a growing collection of question marks. Will the Celtics re-sign Jeff Green? What about Nenad Krstic? What about Delonte West? Is Glen Davis worth the money to bring back? Can Paul Pierce produce efficiently for the remainder of his contract (which extends through 2014)? Will the Celtics draft wisely, spend appropriately, and reload quickly, or will Boston fans be in for another 22-year drought? And should I even bring this up now? It’s all so depressing.
When I see Kevin Garnett screaming each game like a man held against his will, my thoughts sometimes flutter to his mortality, which we became more acquainted with last season than we would have liked. He’s 34 years old now, and has already played more minutes than all but 13 players in NBA history. When I see Paul Pierce dunking like it’s 1999, I sometimes wonder how much longer this can last. When I see Ray Allen run around four separate screens to free himself for one split-second, then rise up to swish a three, I become nostalgic. Nostalgic for the past, which is currently the present, which will one day be gone.
Is this year the end of an era? Do the Celtics have another run (or two) left with their current core intact? Can they snap out of their current doldrums to become champions, or at least to provide us with one more thrilling run into June? Should we still be turning the pages furiously, or is this book almost done?
The young man has only a few pages left to read. They go by quickly, too quickly, and even though he wishes it would never end he knows he has to finish sometime. Even so, maybe he should take more time to read the book. Maybe he should savor it more than he has.
The end is destined to be bittersweet no matter when he finishes, he understands, the closing of something great and wonderful but ultimately, the young man knows, something finite. He will finish this book, and he will buy another one soon, and he will read that, and he will fall in love with a new plot and a new cast of characters. He knows that.
But damn, he thinks, looking down at the pages while preparing to finish reading. This is a damn good book.