A new-look New York Knicks squad will come to Boston tonight to take on the Celtics. The C’s will have a new look, too, but it might be more jarring to see the diminutive backup guard wearing Blue and Orange tonight than it is to see the other diminutive backup guard making his Boston deput.
In the spirit of what should be a memorable night, I’d love to see three standing ovations tonight. The first should go to Eddie House, for his return to the building where he made his first real NBA home. The second should go to Nate Robinson for the debut of his Celtics career that might last only a few months, but will hopefully be littered with slam dunks, steals, wins, and championships.
And the third? No, I don’t think Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens deserve a standing ovation. Is it T-Mac? Dream on. I’d almost rather give an ovation to Pau Gasol. And I don’t think anybody would know Marcus Landry from the ballboy, so that rules him out.
Before you start guessing who else we should stand and cheer for, let me just tell you. That last standing ovation should be for Ray Allen. He wasn’t even supposed to be in Boston tonight, remember? Rumored to be headed anywhere from Golden St. to Philly, Allen was all but a goner. He wasn’t supposed to be in the Garden. He was supposed to be in some foreign uniform, launching his picture-perfect jumper in some enemy arena, epitomizing class for some opposing fanbase.
But instead he’s here, back in the Bean, and starting to get hot as Boston prepares for the stretch run. Whether Danny Ainge ever seriously considered trading Ray we might never know. And, really, it probably doesn’t matter that we don’t. Ray Allen is a Boston Celtic, and that’s all there is to it.
There was a time only a few days ago when I thought he would never play another game in front of a Boston home crowd. I thought his last home game in Boston would forever be remembered for an abysmal third quarter, as the Magic gave Boston the worst 7-point shellacking ever witnessed and Ray walked off the court, probably wondering if he would ever don the Celtics home whites again.
Now, he has his answer. The white #20 will once again be in use, and the man wearing it will be the same one who’s used it for the past two and a half years. The white shooting sleeve will be pulled over his arm, and Allen will go through the same pre-game shooting routine he always does.
Tonight, he’ll come around screens and release a quick trigger three that seems more natural than anyone else’s. He’ll pull up in transition, letting his shot go with a somewhat low trajectory for such a dead-eye shooter. He’ll step to the free throw line, practice his form with one hand, then dribble the ball a few times, spin it a couple more, and unleash a devastatingly accurate dart at the rim. He’ll drive to the hoop, creating swooping layups from either hand that make it look like finishing over and around seven-footers is effortless. He’ll stop on a dime in the lane, floating in a ten-foot tear-drop jump shot high over a defender’s outstretched arms.
And he’ll do it as a Boston Celtic.
For a few months, at least, the Big Three live on.
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Will Paul Pierce play? – Pierce’s status is up in the air for now. I’d prefer if he wouldn’t play tonight, but I understand that he’s a competitor who hates to miss games. If he plays, let’s hope he shoots better than the 2-10 he put up against Denver.
- Eddie House’s return – It’ll be tough to see Eddie come back in a visitor’s uniform. I’ll find it hard not to cheer for him.
- Nate Robinson’s debut – How much does Nate help? Does he fit in? Can he play consistent defense and learn Boston’s defensive rotations? Not all of that will be answered tonight, but it will be exciting to see Tiny Tim in Celtics colors.