The Boston Celtics have always been a motivated group. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are well-known for having hearts of champions, and Doc Rivers is the proverbial great pep-talker. This ballclub has so much determination that they don't even need external factors to fire them up more, but this year, circumstances have arisen that could galvanize this group more than ever.
First of all, this could be the final season for both Garnett and Pierce as Celtics. Many have speculated that KG could retire, and he has fueled that fire with a couple of ambiguous statements throughout the year. He famously said that 2013 would be his "last" All-Star Game, and then in a recent interview with CSNNE's Greg Dickerson, he stated, "At this point, no one is promised tomorrow. In the playoffs, you don't get a tomorrow. Sometimes, this is it."
These two know the deal. They understand that their bodies are breaking down, even if Garnett categorically denies that. With that comes the mindset that this could very well be the last ride, whether it means retiring or getting traded over the summer. They are now in year six of what was originally deemed a "three-year plan," so they have already gotten more out of this than almost anyone could have anticipated. As competitive as KG and PP are, it's somewhat doubtful that they even thought they would still be chugging along right now.
While Garnett's thoughts on potential retirement remain shrouded in mystery, this tweet from Greg Payne seems to be quite telling:
Now KG is naturally an emotional guy, so maybe that means absolutely nothing. However, it could also signify that Garnett is taking one last, long look at the banners before the playoffs. Maybe he's thinking to himself, "this is the last ride. Let me go all out to add another one to the rafters."
Of course, that is all speculation on my part, but it's not necessarily too much of a reach to think that this could be KG's last hurrah.
The Rajon Rondo injury is motivating this team, too.
Boston was counted out by everyone when Rondo tore his ACL back in late January. Some were wondering whether or not the C's would even make the playoffs. The Celtics responded by winning seven straight, silencing the doubters and actually making those same individuals who dismissed them ponder whether or not they were actually better off without Rondo.
This is a very prideful group, and that pride starts with Garnett and Pierce. When Rondo went down, they both knew they had to elevate their level of play, and they have both have done that. They want to prove to everyone that they can still do it, that they are still capable of maintaining the level of excellence that has become the standard in Boston since KG arrived in 2007.
It's not all about Garnett and Pierce, however.
Let's not forget Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, two players who both underwent the same exact heart surgery last season. Both of these guys have become feel-good stories and models to look to for anyone who may experience the same unfortunate circumstances that they did.
And look at them now.
Green has been a dominant force at times, exploding for 43 points in a legendary effort against the Miami Heat and hitting two game-winners for the Celtics over the last couple of months. He has taken over on occasion, putting the team on his back in the wake of injuries and inconsistency from everybody else. Green is now demonstrating that he has the potential to be worth every penny of that four-year, $36 million deal that was so widely criticized when he signed it over the summer. Heck, it might actually end up being a bargain.
Green may not publicly say that he is out to prove everyone wrong, but it seems like it would be naive to not think it is definitely in his mind every time he steps on the floor. What better stage than the postseason to make everyone shove a cork in it for good?
Then there's Wilcox, someone who gives 110 percent every second he plays, a class act you just cannot help but root for. The 30-year-old is shooting 71.7 percent from the floor and he's averaging .184 win shares per 48 minutes, both by far the best marks of his career. Let's also not forget that Wilcox has never even taken part in a playoff game. He was sidelined with the heart ailment last March, just a month before Boston embarked on their postseason journey.
Both of these players have taken such long roads to get to where they are now. You would have to imagine that a playoff run would be more special this year than it ever would for either of them.
Finally, the C's can now draw some extra motivation from a tragic event that struck the city of Boston this past week. The bombings at the Boston Marathon have shaken the entire nation, and it's during times like these that people need an escape. Sometimes, sports can represent that deliverance. It allows us to temporarily move away from the struggles of our daily lives to enjoy a game.
The Celtics can serve as a symbol for Boston to rally around, and don't think for a second that that isn't on their minds.
Obviously, sports are almost meaningless in the grand scheme of life. Something like the horrific happenings at the Boston Marathon really puts things into perspective. However, that doesn't mean we can't look to sports for comfort and as a sort of sanctuary. Now the C's have a chance to provide that for the Bostonians.
With their final home game of the regular season being cancelled because of the bombings, the Celtics will not be back at TD Garden until Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. The atmosphere inside that building will certainly be otherworldly, and you have to think that Garnett, Pierce, Doc Rivers and every other member of the Boston Celtics organization will feel it.
This isn't just some ordinary run-of-the-mill postseason for the C's. No, this is something special. Something we may never experience again.
And the Celtics know that.