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I often refer to "basketball purgatory" in my description of the Celtics' 22-season drought that spanned from 1986 to 2008.
As a die-hard Celtics fan, the Post-Bird Era was very difficult to watch.
It was hard to watch Rick Pitino dethrone Red Auerbach from his honorary role as team president. It's still difficult to watch clips of Pitino saying, "Larry Bird is not going to walk through that door." It was tough to watch the Boston Garden fall and be replaced by the characterless Fleet Center.
It had seemed that the once-prominent franchise had been relegated to inferiority (or, worse, just-another-team unremarkability) and that all memories of its past greatness were being torn away.
All of that ended in 2008 as the Celtics reclaimed their throne.
The Celtics' stint back in the basketball sunlight ended abruptly, though, as Kevin Garnett went down with a season-ending knee injury in February of 2009.
The remaining Celtics persevered, showing the league that they are one of the grittiest teams in the association. I have mentioned more than once on this site that I was just as proud of the 2009 squad, ejected from the playoffs in the seventh game of the conference semifinals, as I was with the 2008 squad that steamrolled to the franchise's 17th championship.
The roster is virtually the same as it was in 2009. It really has not changed much from 2008. The additions of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels have, at least on paper, been "upgrades" from Mikki Moore and Stephan Marbury. Yet the Celtics have shown very little to prove that they are even close to the 2007-08 or 2008-09 teams.
Riddled by a lack of rebounding, long spans of offensive inadequacies, and, scariest of all, inconsistent defensive efforts, this season has proven to be one of the most frustrating for Celtics fans in recent years.
Wallace played the role of a basketball prophet when he predicted a 70-win season for the C's. The larger picture is (was) that this team should have been able to notch a 60-win season.
With five (now six, with Michael Finley) past and present All-Stars and potentially three All-Defensive Team members, the Celtics should be steamrolling the league. The preseason Boston marketing campaigns proclaimed the Celtics to be "re-loaded," and they are indeed stacked with talent.
Injuries struck early on, though, as Garnett missed more extended time with re-occurring knee problems and a lack of explosiveness. I honestly expected, after the 2009 squad's experience with adversity, the Celtics to barely stumble as various injuries afflicted the rotations.
Let's face it, we all thought that with the addition of Wallace, KG was protected. With the addition of Daniels, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and even Rajon Rondo were partially protected. Of course, Daniels fell to injury early on too.
With the emergence of Glen Davis in last season's playoffs, we all felt we were watching a budding star off the bench and hoped he didn't get offered the "big deal" by another club during the offseason. Davis was snubbed by potential takers and returned in green with a slight chip of his shoulder. Soon after, though, "Big Baby" proved his nickname right as he got into a wrestling match with a friend, broke his thumb, and missed the first three months of the season.
I suppose we all had reasons to believe the Celtics were not able to hit full stride due to injuries.
Today the lineup is whole and yet we are still waiting for this incarnation of the squad to reach its full potential.
Truth is, the Celtics play down to their opponents and, unthinkably, look shaken and rattled against the league's elite.
Being beaten by the Orlando Magic three out of four times this season is unacceptable. Don't get me wrong, the Magic are a tough team that is very well coached. They do, however, lack the basketball IQ to beat the Lakers or Cavs in the playoffs.
I once put Boston in that category of unbeatable in a seven-game series. Though I feel the Celtics would be a tough opponent, I feel the Magic can run all over this team at the moment.
Should I even mention the Atlanta Hawks? A sweep by a team that has yet to prove much of anything other than that they can aggravate slower teams with their athleticism is whole-heartedly UNACCEPTABLE. Most of what we have seen this season from the Boston Celtics has been completely unacceptable for a team that has one of the best rosters on paper.
The Celtics' depth should not be an issue. Most everyone would say the second unit of Nate Robinson, Daniels, Davis, Wallace, and either Shelden Williams or Michael Finley should be able to outscore and -defend any other second unit in the league.
They have proven everyone wrong. Their inconsistent play has shown that they have the ability to compete with any team's second unit and yet they are unable to find any sort of rhythm for consecutive games.
More disturbing has been the Celtics' four All-Star players' inability to gel. How can a lineup that won a championship together just two seasons ago look to have such a lack of cohesion? They look misdirected and, worse yet, frustrated and uninspired.
One of the greatest attributes of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 teams were their confidence, their cohesion as a unit, their refusal to be beaten in close games, and, as a result of their successes, the "Celtic Swagger" being reborn.
I have been critical this season of the "Celtic Swagger," something that has completely dissipated to a drunken sway. I had been critical of that arrogant sashay provided by the green team early on in the season because I felt they were trying to ram that confident cockiness down the throats of opponents, as most times the wins were nothing to swagger around about.
Swagger is born through the way a team confidently conducts themselves as they win ball games. Swagger is the perception of opponents who just got blinded by a blowout that came with ease, with a cigar being lit on the bench or a dancing fool wearing a Gino shirt making a scene on the jumbotron during the waning minutes. There have been very few of those instances this season.
What was once considered a "winning swagger" has been transformed into a carefree strut. Sadly, it appears that the once lively and enthusiastic veterans have been replaced by entitled old men waiting for dominance to suddenly reappear. The youngsters look to be regularly holding back to make way for three guys who have led the team for two and half seasons to reemerge.
In turn, a resentment seems to be brewing among the emerging talents. The resentment appears to be fueled by coach Doc Rivers' refusal to rethink his now outdated philosophies of two seasons ago.
Overall, as the 2010 season is reaching its climax, the Celtics have shown very little to prove they can compete with the league's elite.
We have all said that in a seven-game series, the Celtics can compete with anyone. I would not have disagreed with that assessment a few months ago. Today, a seven-game series, even in the first round, can be looked upon as prolonging the agony of a season that has felt like a living basketball hell.
A four-game win streak against the league's trash does nothing to convince me of any return to form by this team, especially when it's followed by a flopper against the low-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
A lack of offensive direction has become a trend this season against the likes of Cleveland, Atlanta, and Orlando, but when those scoring droughts start to bleed into the realm of piss-poor teams such as New Jersey, Washington, and now Milwaukee, we can all agree that something is mightily wrong with the Celtics. It's hard to believe that Milwaukee has a better record than Boston since the All-Star break.
Being dominated on the boards EVERY night.
Inability to score for six-to-eight-minute stretches against even the worst of teams.
Being beaten on the boards and outscored by the likes of Andrew Bogut, Andray Blatche, and Jonas Jerebko points to a much larger problem.
The inability of the Celtics front line to slow opposing big men from scoring and dominating the boards has become less frustrating and inexplicable and more an embarrassing reoccurring stat.
The Celtics have displayed an abundance of inadequacies this season. We have questioned chemistry, and that is still a reasonable concern. Focus is another concern that has been raised and this team has absolutely lacked the intense focus on a nightly basis. I will now throw a lack of awareness into the equation of 2010's deficiencies.
The Celtics seem unaware that they are making a fool of themselves both on and off the court. Kendrick Perkins bobbles more perfect passes as he looks totally unaware of the fact he is open. I have also seen Garnett do this on more than one occasion. KG also seems to be unaware that the Celtics are now a team that can barely compete with the league's worst opponents.
Garnett, Rivers, and Pierce have been so unenlightening with their explanations of the Celtics struggles this year. OK, the team is playing poorly—we know that, guys. Stop handing us the same line of bull shit after every loss.
I feel no more need for any member of the Celtics to talk to the media anymore. I can totally predict the sound bytes these guys are going to throw out. The media should just re-play the Celtics' remarks from the last 22 losses this season, make a collage, and print that in their stories—the players and coaches sound like a broken record.
I am tired of hearing, "we need to..."
It's now time to start executing what you all have been saying you "need to do."
I am not a basketball genius. I don't pretend to be a great analyst of the game. I do have the luxury (or misfortune) of having covered every moment of this season at North Station Sports. In my mind, it's apparent that this team lacks any character. They do not possess the character of a champion.
A champion gets pissed off. A champion rises to the occasion. A champion looks at an inferior opponent and sees that moment as the perfect time to demolish that team and build momentum for the next big game.
Every game is a statement game to a champion, as they will never stop short of proving to themselves, their skeptics, and fans that they are the best that their sport has to offer.
The 2010 Boston Celtics have no character, and they are all putting us through a season in hell. Fans have a right to be pissed off. This team has, to this point, let us down in the worst way.