Boston Celtics: 17 Thoughts on Capturing Championship No. 17

Stew Winkel@stew_winkelSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2008

Here are 17 thoughts on the Celtics capturing Title 17.

  1. Paul Pierce.  With his performance this season, this postseason and then in the Finals, Paul Pierce is receiving the recognition for his talents that most Boston fans have known for a while.  I want to give Pierce credit not just for his talents, but for him sticking with the Celtics all these years.  I can think of only three other players who have been with one team as long as Pierce has been with the Celtics – Kobe Bryant (3 championships), Tim Duncan (4 championships), and Dirk Nowitzki (1 Finals appearance, perennial elite team).  It simply is not done any more in sports that a player as talented as Pierce sticks with a team that struggled for as long as Boston did.  I’ve watched many players I root for win championships in recent years, and I can’t think of any one who I felt as good for as I do for Paul Pierce.  Congrats Paul.
  2. The Boston Celtics Fans.  Watching on tv, I was overwhelmed at how loud the Celtics fans were from the start in Game Six.  But the best moment had to be the fans booing, not once, but twice, David Stern during the trophy presentation.  Thanks for making me proud.
  3. Joey Crawford and Bennett Salvatore.  NBA referees received a ton of attention this postseason, and these two along with Dick Bavetta were the three mentioned the most.  In Game Six, these two shamed themselves again.  Not due to any call.  But in the fourth quarter, Doc Rivers waited until after a timeout to take Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen out of the game so the fans could give them a huge ovation.  Now in the NBA playoffs, there were excruciating long half-times, extended tv timeouts, games that didn’t start until 9:15, not to mention the referees never once hurry the play along during out of bounds or foul shots.  But in this situation, Crawford and Salvatore hurried the trio off the court and shoved a cameraman off the court who was trying to get a close-up of the moment.  Thanks for ruining what could have been a memorable moment in the crowning achievement of three great careers. 
  4. 39-points.  Still can’t believe what I watched in Game Six.  I had a good feeling after the Celtics survived Kobe Bryant’s first quarter performance.  I could see no one else on the Lakers had bothered to show up, and didn’t think Bryant could keep that up all game.  Then in the second, the C’s started to pull away.   Eddie House hit two free throws, then a James Posey three.  Suddenly, the Celtics were up 14.  The Lakers would never challenge from that point on.  Boston closed the half on a 9-0 run, pushing the lead over 20, and it stayed over 20 (and grew) throughout the second half.  And I haven’t heard much, but I don’t want to hear any complaining from anyone that the Celtics ran up the score or anything like that.  As K.G. said on Letterman last night, in Game Two, Boston let up and nearly got burned. In Game Six, they weren’t taking their foot off the gas.  Also, L.A. created most of the easy hoops by a half-assed press that only led to wide open shots allowing the Celtics to score a season-high 131 points.
  5. Kobe Bryant.  Much of the talk about the Lakers in the aftermath of the Finals has been on Kobe and his legacy.  I don’t understand the insistence on trying to define a player’s legacy why he is still playing.  Who knows what this Finals means in the big picture of Kobe Bryant’s ultimate career?  What if he wins three more titles – this becomes a footnote.  And as far as any criticism about his play in the series, maybe Bryant didn’t dominate like many thought he would.  But the bottom line is he needs more help.  Other than Sasha Vujacic in Game Two, and Gasol in spurts, no Laker really came to play all series.  If Bynum is healthy, that should help immensely next year.  If I were the Lakers, I’d try to find a small forward who can defend and also knock down shots created by Kobe and the inside games of Gasol and Bynum next season.  I’d also see about trading Lamar Odom.  He proved in this series what he is – a uniquely talented player I’d love to have on my team on a Tuesday night at home in January.  But he isn't a guy you can count on to help win a title with.  I thought it was very telling of Odom that the most aggressive he played all series was in the fourth quarter of Game Six with the Lakers down by 35. 
  6. Laker complaining.  All teams talk to referees, many players complain all the time.  But I have never seen a team get caught up in the officials during games like the Lakers do.  They take after their coach who will make complaining the first thing out of his mouth far too frequently.  A coach though is doing it to get the calls for the next game.   But the problem is if the coach tries to tell his players to quit complaining and focus on the game, they are just going to respond, "You coach, I learned it from watching you."  Whether their complaints at times are justified or not, it can’t take you out of your game.  That is what happens with the Lakers and it negatively affected them several times in the Finals.  
  7. Wyc Grousbeck.  I am just so impressed by Wyc.  He gets it and has not stopped simply being a fan.  On Tuesday night, he grabbed the championship trophy, thanked Red Auerbach and the fans, and stepped aside allowing the team to have their time.   Right now Boston sports are blessed with great teams, but also with great owners.
  8. Robert Kraft. Speaking of great owners, the owner of the Patriots and the single most reason New England still has an NFL team, took out a full page ad today congratulating the Celtics.  In Boston, the athletes and the teams are our celebrities.  It is wonderful to see how the three teams interact with each other.
  9. James Posey.  A crucial piece to the Celtics team.  I wrote above the Lakers should look to sign a defensive-minded small forward who can knock down the open three.  That is James Posey.  L.A. - find your own.  Let’s hope he is back in Green next year.  Although if I am a contender, he is a player I would go after.  Pat Riley said before the season that Boston would love Posey, and for the first time, I completely agree with Riley.
  10. Steven Tyler.  If the Celtics reach the Finals again, I implore those working in the Boston Celtics not to ever again issue courtside tickets to Steven Tyler.  Put him in the third row, or a luxury box.  Not courtside.  Other than the fact he is difficult to look at, while the entire crowd was going nuts, there he was courtside stuck in his seat checking his phone.  Maybe he thought he was at The Staples Center and was just trying to act accordingly?
  11. Ray Allen. I don't know what happened to Ray Allen's jumper in the first few rounds of the playoffs, but thankfully he found it in the Detroit series and was back to his usual self in the Finals.  Also, he deserves a ton of credit for adjusting his game.  K.G. and Pierce didn't really have to change how they played, only had to live with fewer shots.  Allen though had to find a way to fit in.  His entire career, if he came off a screen and had any opening, he was getting the ball.  In Seattle and Milwaukee, he not only was the focus of the offense, but likely touched the ball nearly every possession.  In Boston, he suddenly was option number 3.  Just like there are not many players like Pierce who would have stuck it out in Boston, there aren't many players of Allen's caliber (or in Allen's ballpark) that would so unselfishly relinquish being the focus of the offense in order to win.  Many would say they would, but few would actually do so (without complaining).  I still have his game-winning shot in Charlotte saved on my DVR.  I remember thinking when the C's won that game that this could be a special season.
  12. P.J. Brown.  After the All-Star break, the Celtics signed Sam Cassell and it received a lot of attention.  The signing of P.J. Brown was basically a footnote.  I can’t believe how much of a factor he was all postseason.  He was absolutely critical to the Celtics winning Game Seven against the Cavs and it is not a stretch to say without him, maybe the C’s don’t win that series.  Other than that, the play I will remember about Brown this postseason was his emphatic dunk at the end of the third quarter of Game Four, to bring the score to 73-71, and help spark Boston going into the fourth to complete the historic comeback.
  13. ESPN’s so-called experts.  All but Tim Legler picked against the Celtics, and many picked the Lakers to win easily.  Boston had nine more wins in the regular season, were 23-5 against the West, and defeated the second-best team from the regular season to reach the Finals.  Everyone appeared to be hung up on the Celtics struggles against the Hawks.  By the time the Finals rolled around, the Celtics were playing at a much higher level.  Wasn’t it also obvious the Lakers had no one to guard Pierce?  And if they put Kobe on Pierce, they had no one to guard Allen?  And if they put Kobe on Rondo, they had no one to guard Allen or Pierce?  Or that the Celtics brought James Posey, P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Sam Cassell off their bench, while the Lakers brought a bunch of guys who likely wouldn’t crack the Celtics’ 12-man roster (maybe Farmar). 
  14. Favorite Game from 2008 Playoffs.  The contenders, Game Seven vs. Cleveland; Game Six vs. Detroit; Game Four vs. Los Angeles; or Game Six vs. Los Angeles.  I’d have to pick Game Four for what it meant to how the series progressed and for pulling off the comeback in L.A.  But it isn’t easy to choose against the Game Six championship clincher. 
  15. Antoine Walker.  Paul Pierce has said for years he wanted to win a championship in Boston.  The guy who said it before him was his old running mate Antoine Walker.  Toine was a player Boston fans either loved or hated.  No middle ground.  I loved him.  Flaws and all.  The guy just wanted to win and always, always played hard.  He won a title in Miami, but for far too long, I couldn’t think of Pierce without thinking of Antoine.  He sat courtside in Boston for a game in the Finals, just as Pierce did in Miami when the Heat made their run.  Title 17 was perfect, and if something could be more perfect, Antoine would have been a part of it as well.  Toine may be gone from the Celtics, but never forgotten.
  16. The Celtics Legends.  One of my favorite moments from the celebration was K.G. hugging Bill Russell and saying, “I hope we made you proud.”  I didn’t hear Russell’s answer, but I know the answer was yes.  Celtic legends like Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, John Havlicek are always around.  While I don’t think they ever did anything to cause this, their presence alone had to put pressure on the players to live up to the standards set in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Paul Pierce said afterwards that now they can look these legends in the eye.  It has to be great for the Legends to see the Celtics back on top, and for the current players, especially Pierce, to finally feel as if he truly belongs among all the great Celtics.
  17. Favorite Play.  If I shut my eyes and think of one play about the NBA Finals, and the one play I would pick to watch over and over again if there could only be one, it would have to be Ray Allen abusing Sasha Vujacic for the game-clinching hoop in Game Four (followed of course by Sasha's tantrum on the Laker bench).  The best moment from the key game to the series.  Fortunately though, I have all four Celtic wins on DVR (note to someone – put all these games on DVD.  Please.).