In honor of the Celtics winning two games that were closer than they should have been (and also far more exciting), I created a new feature. It’s what I call the iTunes Shuffle: I listen to songs from my computer on shuffle. Whichever song comes up, I relate to the Celtics. Not too difficult to understand, I don’t think.
Without further ado, the inaugural iTunes Shuffle.
Jadakiss, God Bless us All: “At times I know life can seem miserable/ But little breh you’ve got a lot more living to do/ you’ve gotta go get it, cuz they ain’t gonna give it to you”
Me: I considered Jermaine O’Neal a sunk cost. Twelve million dollars flushed down the drain, with nothing to show for Boston’s mid-level exception (other than a body bag). It was like in Tom Sawyer, when Tom returned home to watch his own funeral. We hadn’t just discarded Jermaine O’Neal for this season; we’d dug up his grave and buried him inside it.
And then he showed up at his own funeral, very much alive, very much helpful, ready to protect Boston’s rim and become the Celtics’ enforcer. But there are problems: He sprained his left wrist last night, and now Shaq may or may not play again (which we always knew was a possibility), and now sprained-wristed, balky-kneed O’Neal is Boston’s only true center (no, Nenad Krstic doesn’t count). Little breh, you’ve got a lot more living to do. I sure hope.
J. Cole, In The Morning: “To be fair, I know we barely know each other and yeah/ Somehow I wound up in your bed so where we headin’ from here/ Just say you’re scared if you’re scared but if you through frontin’ we can do somethin’”
Me: One day I woke up to find Jeff Green laying in my bed, metaphorically speaking. I didn’t know him very well; you know how there are some people you always say hi to, and others you recognize and give a partially friendly, partially “I could care less about you” nod, even though you don’t know their name? Green was like the latter. I recognized him, I was cordial with him, I’d heard stories about him, and I’d probably nod at him if he walked by me on the sidewalk. But he was never someone I worried myself with, until the day he woke up laying in my bed.
This is getting really homo-erotic, so allow me to switch gears: To be fair, I barely know Jeff Green. He hasn’t had time to get comfortable with the Celtics. Considering that he had to learn a highly-complex defense, become accustomed to a new offense, and do all that while adjusting to a significantly smaller role than any he’d ever played, we probably shouldn’t have expected much in the first place. But he’s here, the trade heaped unreasonably high expectations on him, and he hasn’t lived up to them. The most overlooked aspect of the Perkins trade, with all the tears shed at Perk’s departure: the Celtics have gotten almost nothing in return. We’re two games into the 2011 playoffs, and Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have provided ten points and five rebounds combined. I’ll admit, Perk wasn’t Bill Russell. But Green hasn’t even been Ricky Davis, Krstic hasn’t even been Andrew DeClerq, and their weak statistical contributions have come without any of the defense Perk provided.
If anything, Green’s play is regressing the more he plays. If you’re scared, Jeff, just say so. If not, the Celtics could use some production off the bench. If you through frontin’, Jeff, we can do somethin’.
J. Cole, Higher: “I get so bored so fast that they won’t last/ But girl you’re special like I met ya in a slow class”
Me: Within the next five seconds, (five, four, three, two, one…) I will become the first man ever to compare Rajon Rondo to Robert Horry. Rondo, just like Horry before him, is becoming the ultimate “I can coast for however long, but when those lights burn brighter, I’m gonna be there with my guns blazing, making you forget about whatever I did or did not do in the past two months” player. Is he the shooter Horry was? Of course not. Will he have as many game-winning shots as Horry? No chance. But Horry was perfectly content to chill during the regular season, have a few giggles, maybe break a sweat once or twice, and ready himself for when games really matter. Rondo’s the same way. He has a higher floor the elevator doesn’t always access during the regular season, but he visits that floor all the time once the playoffs come.
Can it get frustrating in the regular season, when Rondo’s inconsistent play hurts Boston’s playoff seeding? Of course. But every year, Rondo walks into the playoffs and instantly becomes a menace to society. I (and I assume every other Celtics fan) would prefer that effort on a daily basis, even during the laborious 82-game regular season. But Playoff Rondo’s just special, like I met him in the slow class.
Aziz, Power in Attention: “When you spit nobody listens, and that’s the difference/ Because when I’m politicking I’m twisting/ Try and stop cyclones/ Yeah, they’re so Popeye Jones/ Their ears are getting bigger, you Popeye’s chickens/ Chicken’s eyes pop at potential Popeye’s spinach”
Me: Just wanted to point out the Popeye Jones joke.
Chris Webby, Starry Eyed: “So you wanna be a rap superstar and live large?/ You gotta work for it every day, grind hard, takin’ days off isn’t in my repertoire”
Me: When I start to like a musician at ground level, before the fortune and fame and success, I become far more attached. It’s nice to follow Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne, but I didn’t know them until they were mainstream, until they sold platinum albums and everyone else loved them. Something about that cheapens my fandom of them, because I didn’t like them until it was fashionable to do so. I’ve been following Chris Webby for awhile now, and his music still hasn’t gone mainstream. He’s beginning to grow a bigger following, but the fact that I “discovered him” before everyone else did makes me like him even more.
It’s nice to follow Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. From an “I hope my kids will one day learn to play like certain NBA players” standpoint, I couldn’t think of two better role models. Sure, if my kid watches KG too often, he might end up swearing enough to cause a natural disaster. But from a strictly basketball standpoint, I would love my children to play with KG’s maniacal intensity and unending unselfishness, yet with Allen’s smoothness, cool demeanor and understated grit.
Still, following Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo is different. We’ve seen them grow; Pierce, we’ve seen blossom from Antoine Walker’s immature second fiddle into a deserving champion. Rondo, we’ve seen sprout from Sebastian Telfair’s backup—read that one more time: Sebastian Telfair’s backup—into one of the NBA’s most deadly point guards, a Jack the Ripper point guard come playoff time. There’s something different about loving a player before he goes mainstream. About observing him every day while he becomes everything, or at least almost everything, you ever wanted.
After a Pierce stepback jumper last night, one of my buddies looked at me with a sad look.
“How many times have we seen that stepback from the elbow?” he asked, before adding, “When Pierce retires, a part of us is going to die.”
I thought about his statement for a little while before finally responding.
“You’re right,” I said, brow furrowed. “We didn’t just watch him grow up; we grew up with him. Hell, we were ten years old when he came to Boston.”
Our lives, at least to a certain extent, have mirrored Pierce’s career. As he developed and matured, we were doing the same things in our life. Now we’ve graduated from college. We’re adults and actually even acting like it, at least sometimes. Almost ever since I can remember, he’s been a major part of my life. I’ve watched him 82 nights a year, and more during the good years. I feel like I know him, in a different way than I know Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. I don’t know if following another Celtic will ever be the same as following Pierce.
I’m telling you, there’s something about falling for a musician before he becomes mainstream.
Lupe Fiasco, Words I Never Said: “Fear is such a weak emotion thats why I despise it/ We’re scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth/ So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you/ Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to”
Me: The Knicks aren’t afraid. We shouldn’t have expected them to be, not with three All-Stars on their roster, not with three players whose egos could take down a small army. But before we admonish Carmelo Anthony for calling a playoff loss “fun,” before we get all over Jared Jeffries for committing a turnover when he should have shot instead, before we laugh about Billy Walker’s 0-11 shooting, let’s reflect for a moment: these Knicks, who were supposed to be soft, who were supposed to be pushovers down low, have been anything but.
Even without Amare Stoudemire, even with Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf functioning as their only big men, the Knicks kicked Boston’s ass on the glass last night. For the Celtics, that’s disturbing. If New York can shove them around, what are the Bulls or Lakers going to do? For New York, it’s the latest sign that Mike D’Antoni’s team has heart. Fault Carmelo for his comments after the game if you wish, fault New York for losing in the final minute twice in a row, fault Mike D’Antoni for never having enough timeouts, fault Shelden Williams for being Shelden Williams, but for 48 minutes Carmelo and his teammates played (well) over their heads. Fear is such a weak emotion, that’s why the Knicks despise it. Sadly for them, there’s no consolation bracket in the NBA playoffs.
Aziz, Can’t Kill The Beast: “You can’t kill the beast, he ran in the streets/ He was like Godzilla how he trampled the beats”
Me: Carmelo’s performance could best be described by Kevin Garnett’s reaction: After one absurd Carmelo three, the Celtics called a timeout. Garnett came to the bench and started screaming to nobody in particular. “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” he shouted. Doc Rivers ultimately ruled out Garnett’s suggested defensive switch, but KG’s reaction was the pure emotion of a man running out of ideas for how to stop Carme—err, I mean God disguised as Carmelo.
But he left us with questions. After a loss, why did he say the game was fun? And if he thought the game was fun, why did he act like a man obsessed with winning the game? And if he was obsessed with winning the game, why did he pass to Jared Jeffries (who was open, but as one coach used to always tell me: know your personnel) with the game on the line? And if he wasn’t obsessed with winning the game, if he only played to accumulate stats and restore his own credibility, why was he passing at the end rather than shooting? And why in the world did he hesitate before fouling Delonte West at the end? Each answer leads to more questions, more contradictions.
Look, it’s tough to criticize Melo after he almost led four cardboard cutouts to a road playoff victory against the Boston Celtics. But the world’s greatest competitors don’t call losses fun. Especially playoff losses. Especially when they put their team down 2-0.
Carmelo was like Godzilla last night, but he still needs to grow.
Jay-Z, Young Forever: “Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while/ Heaven can wait, we’re only watching the skies”
Me: That seems like a great place to end.