I can’t stop listening to one specific song. It’s my go-to whenever I’m sad, and as Boston’s playoff run has drawn to a close, I am sad. All of the sads, in fact.
Actually, no. “Sad” isn’t the right word. I feel intensely bittersweet. I would have been sad if the Knicks/Celtics series had ended after Game 3. But it didn’t. The series ended as it should have: with a valiant effort capped by a heroic one that ultimately fell just short.
So I feel bittersweet. I invite you to play this song as you read this post. It’s not the kind of music I usually listen to, but if you are anything like me, it will help make you as sad and happy and depressed and grateful and nostalgic and…well…proud as I am.
This time/I’ll be sailing/No more bailing boats for me
In 2010, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all decided to come back to the Celtics to make one more run. Since then, every season has felt potentially like the last one as flurries of injuries and roster changes have made the team that won a championship in 2008 nearly unrecognizable. For years, it seemed like Boston was constantly plugging leaks. This season, as Rondo and Sullinger went down and the carousel of patchwork fixes paraded through Beantown, the Celtics were bailing boats.
We probably need to accept the fact that Paul Pierce will not be a Celtic next year. Greg Dickerson tweeted after the game that he has played his last game as a Celtic. Pierce wouldn’t commit to coming back to Boston in his post-game. Ainge has told CSNNE that people should be ready for some painful changes as fans.
And, of course, as Paul Pierce goes, so goes Kevin Garnett. The two players who dragged this squad back from being a shamefully bad squad and made them not only relevant, but PROUD will probably be gone next year.
I don’t think we properly appreciate how amazing it is to cheer for a proud team. “Celtic Pride” has become a bit of a buzzword, but it’s an appropriate one. Being a Celtic used to mean something. You may have heard the story of how, after winning a championship once, Bill Russell kicked all reporters out of the locker room so he could have a quiet moment with his teammates? That spirit lived on in these Celtics, and it lived on as a result of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Pierce doesn’t seem to mind the spotlight, but Kevin Garnett is an intensely private person. There will be a jersey-retirement, and then — I suspect — we won’t hear from him for a long time.
He’ll be sailing. After this offseason, the Ubuntu Celtics will be sailing. No more bailing boats.
I’ll be awful sometimes/Weakened to my knees
Over the next few days, there will be a ton of fawning over Boston’s potentially-departing old guard, but we would be remiss if we said that this season was perfect.
In fact, at times, it was awful. You remember the moments, so I don’t need to go into detail. There were a thousand missed defensive rebounds. There were a thousand small injuries and a few really big ones. There was that one afternoon in late January in which we all heard the ACL news and collectively stopped breathing. There was Paul Pierce’s face when Doris Burke accidentally broke it to him that Rondo was done. There were the trade deadline rumors, and the Sullinger and Barbosa injuries. Hell, there were Games 2 and 3 of the Knicks series. In a lot of ways, this season, frankly, sucked.
So it’s a testament, then, that when a friend on Twitter asked me “Decent season?” I replied that, while I was (and still am) sad, I couldn’t (and still can’t) ask for more.
I’ll be standing strong and tall/Turn my back towards them all
It’s difficult not to compare the Celtics to the Los Angeles Lakers, but it’s especially difficult now. After all, the Lakers are also aging. The Lakers were also injury-riddled. The Lakers were also in the Finals in 2008 (and 2010).
As such, it’s pretty difficult not to be pleased with how the Celtics went out. They were down 3-0. They made it 3-2. They were down by 20+. They made it four. They made it a series, and they made Game 6 competitive. What a team.
Much of how I measure that Celtics is in relation to the Lakers, and you know what? The Lakers were what the Celtics COULD have been in a painful alternate universe. The Lakers were glitzy and showy, but when their best players went down with injuries, they folded like a perforated piece of paper and bowed out in an ignominious defeat. When Boston’s best player went down, they COULD have folded. They could have melted down. They could have been ejected in a series-deciding Game 4. But that’s not how these Celtics have ever acted. Instead, they dug down deep and made one last final stand. And then another. And then another that came up just short.
My point isn’t that we should be clowning the Lakers (ok, my point is, at most, 15% that we should clown the Lakers). My real point is that we should, once again, be proud. The Celtics left the court defeated, but they have always stood strong and tall, backs toward them all.
I’ll learn to get by/On the little victories
Let’s list some little victories, shall we?
- We begin with Jeff Green. Remember in the offseason, when everyone declared Green’s contract a gigantic failure before the season even started? Remember the first time you saw him open that Superman thing on his chest and pound his repaired heart? Remember when he destroyed Al Jefferson? And Jermaine O’Neal? And a whole bunch of other teams? Remember when you first realized “Hey, this guy is really freaking good?” I do too. Little victory.
- This game. Little victory.
- Jared Sullinger, pre-surgery. Sully, passed over by every other team, was EXACTLY what Boston needed this year. Little victory.
- This play and this comeback. Little victory.
Since 2008, much has been made of why the Celtics didn’t win another title. In 2009, it was because KG was hurt. In 2010, it was Perk. In 2011, it was the Perk trade. In 2012, it was the Bradley injury. This year, it was Rondo.
I would suggest that perhaps we have been emphasizing the wrong things. Instead of looking at excuses, we should have been looking at the little victories. “Celtic Pride” is a real thing. It’s what drove this team to battle. It’s what defined the KG/Paul Pierce era. It’s what extended this team’s shelf-life by at least three years.
And at the end of the day, it’s what made all of the little victories seem not very little at all.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.