For Celtics fans, 2007 was clearly a year of two halves. In the first six months, we suffered through losing streaks (capped by a franchise record 18 gamer), injuries (Paul Pierce, Tony Allen), stupidity (Sebastian Telfair's arrest), frustration (Gerald Green's regression) and heartbreak (the draft lottery). But the negative karma came to a screeching halt in mid-June thanks to blockbuster deals for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. There's a new Big 3 and renewed dreams of a championship. Here's a look back at the year that was.
Last season was truly the epitome of cruelty. Even the most ardent Celtics fans knew the team's dim playoff hopes rested with Paul Pierce and his band of extremely young men. Those hopes faded as the Truth sat on the bench in January with a bum foot. In the midst of a franchise record 18 game losing streak, there was a reason to smile. Tony Allen was emerging as a legitimate star. We could at least take solace in his development. Unfortunately, Allen decided to attempt a dunk after the whistle had blown in a home game against the Pacers. He landed awkwardly and promptly shredded ligaments in his knee. Talk of Greg Oden and the lottery soon swarmed the region. Pierce returned to his old self, and Al Jefferson finally decided to play like a man. They became our dynamic duo. Add Oden or Kevin Durant to the mix and we could be a playoff threat.
The season mercifully ended in April after just 24 wins. But Celtics Nation was hoping (praying) for the ping-pong balls to fall the right way. We deserved this. Our luck had to turn. Not so fast. Our season sunk to it's nadir on May 22 when the Celtics were "rewarded" with the 5th pick. Rumors swirled. Trade the pick. Trade Paul Pierce. Anything and everything was on the table. We just didn't want to suffer in mediocrity anymore.
It was mid-June when the Kevin Garnett trade rumors began to surface. But Boston seemed like a long-shot especially when KG's agent said the Big Ticket didn't like the Hub. Oh well. Screw you, many of us thought. You're overrated anyways. Jermaine O'Neal and Shawn Marion were other names bandied about. Then came draft night. In a trade most of us didn't see coming, Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on a deal with the Sonics for Ray Allen. Sugar Ray was going to be the accomplice Pierce was also looking for. With Big Al Jefferson emerging as a star, we had three quality players who could lead this team into playoff battle. Maybe we weren't title contenders but beggars can't be chosers.
As the Red Sox consumed our emotions in July, the Celtics dropped a bombshell on the sports scene. They shipped away our new love Al Jefferson in a block-buster deal for Kevin Garnett, a fantastic two-way player and future Hall of Famer. But there was one knock on Garnett. Was he good enough to carry a team to the promise land? Nevermind the absurd contract and mileage on the tires. This was it though. Celtics brass put all their eggs into a Big 3 basket which was over 30 years-old.
So the Celtics were finally relevant again and back in the national spotlight. But with that came the negativity. They're too old. The bench is weak. They'll need a year to meld. And even if everything comes together, they're still not good enough to be champions. Then came Rome. Doc and the bunch headed to Italy for some training camp bonding. The team quickly grew close, on and off the court. Anyone with an ounce of basketball IQ could see that this team had potential. Championship potential.
The season started fast and the wins piled up. 8-0. 19-2. 25-3. Records Celtics fans hadn't experienced in decades. The Garden is a hot-spot again. Celebrities are showing up to games. Tickets are hard to come by. The team is playing defense. Real, championship-caliber defense. There are still some doubters but most of us loyalists are expecting at the very least, a trip to the finals, and possibly banner 17. Here's to health, happiness and championship basketball in 2008.