I’ve tried to write this piece, probably, 20 times by now. I don’t know how to start it. I don’t know how to properly capture what this team is or was.
What I do know is… when it was over, I loved these guys. And I never really intended to.
Here’s the season in a nutshell:
- It was dead. Then it wasn’t.
- Jeff Green was fine. Then he wasn’t.
- Kevin Garnett was old, slow and done. Then he wasn’t.
- Chris Wilcox was fine. Then he wasn’t.
- Rajon Rondo was an inconsistent malcontent. Then he wasn’t.
- Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were traded. Then they weren’t.
- The Celtics were terrible. Then they weren’t.
We fought so much over things like blowing the team up. We fought over rest vs. seeding. We fought over Rajon Rondo.
Oh boy did we fight over Rajon Rondo.
And I hated every second of it. It made this season a grind… and the post-lockout schedule didn’t help. I was prepared to let this season dwindle away, accept that a second-round loss to Miami or Chicago, and move forward with the dismantling of the team.
But then something happened. You can say “they came through when it mattered.” You can say “they finally started trying.” I honestly don’t care what you say. What matters is what came after “then”.
They played their asses off. They became that “blue collar” Celtics team that we’ve always loved. Kevin Garnett was rejuvenated. Rajon Rondo was sublime. Ray Allen found his shot. Paul Pierce fought like hell. They played like champions. They played well over their heads. They punched 2008 into the DeLorean, hit 88 miles per hour, and captured part of what they used to be.
And maybe that’s why I love this team as much as I do.
Because beyond the fighting, they gave us one more glimpse into what was. It felt like that last night with the girl you knew would leave in the morning. The one last dance. The one last hurrah. These Celtics didn’t drift quietly into the sunset. They went out with one last fight that perfectly typified what they’ve been all along here. Talented but ornery. Combative but driven. Individually great but greater as a whole.
In 2012, the Big 3 and the Boston Celtics, injured and over-matched, charged the AmericanAirlines Arena. They fought like warrior poets; they fought like Celtics.
In Braveheart, the line I just paraphrased ends with “and won their freedom.” The Hollywood ending to that line would be “and won a championship.”
I’ll just settle for “and won our hearts,” and say thank you to the team I never wanted to love, but did.