And to think that this year’s Celtics were Plan B, put together by Danny Ainge after he lost out on the first pick in the draft.
What can I say? As a casual basketfall fan, I did not suffer through the Celtics’ 22-year drought. Mostly I just ignored them. But I certainly enjoyed their playoff run, especially last night’s dismantling of the Lakers. It wasn’t just victory for the home team, but the culmination of several dramatic story lines: redemption after all these years; the triumph of character; and the defeat of a team of gutless crybabies led by a truly loathsome egomaniac.
The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan writes:
So they’ve done it. They have claimed the honor of having the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. One year ago today, the franchise could accurately be described as forlorn. The Celtics were coming off a 24-58 season punctuated by an 18-game losing streak. They had been cruelly treated by the draft lottery, which left them with nothing better than the fifth pick.
And now they are champions. Again.
Lordy, Lordy, what hath Danny and Doc wrought?
The Celtics were obviously a better team than the Lakers. I suspect the Hawks, the Cavaliers and the Pistons would have beaten them, too. It wasn’t so much that the heavily favored Lakers lost as the Celtics won, with the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing as hard and as selflessly as Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. We shouldn’t take away a thing from what they accomplished.
Still, watching the Lakers fold like a cheap suit was part of the fun, don’t you think? You’ve got to love the headline on Bill Plaschke’s column in the Los Angeles Times this morning: “MVP? More like MIA.” And no, I hadn’t realized until I read Plaschke that the Celtics fans were chanting “You’re not Jordan!” at Kobe Bryant. How great is that?
No, he’s not. Before the Bulls started winning one championship after another, Michael Jordan found ways to ennoble himself even in defeat. Bryant, on the other hand, disappeared after the first quarter in every game that mattered. Check this out, from LA Times columnist T.J. Simers:
They are an embarrassment. They went into the NBA Finals favored, the Celtics suffering injuries to several of their starters along the way, and still the Lakers could not measure up.
The Lakers had a 24-point lead at home, the best coach and player on their side, and they gagged.
Their greatest claim in the NBA Finals is the fact the Celtics didn’t clinch the title in Staples Center, the Lakers’ closing mantra: “Not in our house,” and how pitiful is that?
They should have been going to Boston in Games 6 and 7 with the chance to win one game and win it all, but instead they only proved they aren’t anywhere as good as the Celtics and certainly nowhere near as tough.
Great as the 1980s team was, it was never exactly a surprise when they won. They were large, deep and talented. This team is talented, too, but they made me think a little bit of the Dave Cowens-led Celtics of the ’70s: underdogs, winning through sheer force of will. Or the great Bill Russell, toward the end of his career, outdueling the taller, younger and more physically gifted Wilt Chamberlain. Wonderful.
And has anyone ever deserved to win more than Pierce, Garnett and Allen?
File photo (cc) by Lorianne DiSabato and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.