Kevin Garnett is a Boston Celtic. Let that sink in for a moment. Weird, isn’t it? For the first time in almost two decades we devoted Celtic-faithful have been given the opportunity to ponder the unthinkable questions. Questions like how many times will the Green be appearing on national television? Or how many teams in the NBA will finish with more wins than the C’s? And the kicker of all kickers: are the Celtics about to be flirting with championship #17?
Early answers are: many, my friends; very few, folks; and in the words of Borat: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!
In an effort to assess the scope of this situation, I’ll be blunt. The Celtics are better off today than they would’ve been had they gotten the number one pick in the NBA Draft. Whoa, you might be inclined to interject. You’re saying KG and Ray Allen are better for the franchise long term than Greg Oden would be? Actually no, I’m not saying that. But in case you missed my Paul Pierce Points and don’t know how much he has meant to the city of Boston over the years, I’ll be glad to expand.
I have little doubt that Oden will ultimately become the center piece of a championship team, maybe even a dynasty. For the foreseeable future, though, the kid’s still a kid (even if he looks like he could be the patriarch of multiple Oden-generations). He played one entrepreneurial year in college, and much of that one season he had the use of only his off-hand. He may be a gargantuan man among gigantic men, but rest assured, he will take his lumps for the next few years. The Shaqs and Duncans and Dwight Howards of the world simply wouldn’t have it any other way. He has a whole lot of maturing to do, even if his size and facial hair wouldn’t indicate such. Unfortunately for Paul Pierce (and hence the Celtics), time is of the essence. Paul is beyond hungry for postseason glory. He’s starving, he’s famished. Hell, he’s basically been fasting for the last five years!!
So the answer was obvious. Bring on board the two guys in the league who are arguably as hungry as Paul and at similar points in their careers, and run with it for the next three to five. The time is now. For once, that mantra employed by the Celtics’ Beantown counterparts, the Red Sox and Patriots, has been reciprocated by the Green.
Realistically, the only possible hindrance I see that could thwart this team from winning right from the word go is chemistry. As is always the case when stars get thrown together, egos will have to learn to coexist. I’m confident these three will. They have too much in common not to. All three have brought teams and cities to places they never envisioned: Paul took the Celtics to the ’02 Eastern Conference Finals; Ray carried the ’01 Bucks and the ’05 Sonics deep into the playoffs. And KG helped the ’04 Wolves win the first two playoff series in their franchise history. All have been borderline excessively-loyal guys. Other players in Paul’s or KG’s shoes would’ve skipped town years ago, given their stature and frustrating situations. As for Ray, he was as fiercely loyal to Milwaukee as anyone could be to a small-market city with no viable title shot; he didn’t depart until the powers-that-be effectively replaced him with Michael Redd.
So they’re all ecstatic to be teammates and have already been buddies for some time now, which in my opinion are the building blocks of good chemistry. And don’t underestimate the impact of Boston on their chemistry. From what I’ve heard and read, this deal wouldn’t have had a chance of happening without unrelenting lobbying on Paul’s behalf to KG. For the last few weeks he’s been in close contact with Garnett, surely playing up the value of Boston. Since the city has frequently been labeled as “that place” black athletes don’t want any part of, my bet is Paul brought KG up to speed about that misnomer. History (ie the reason why Boston has a justifiable-bad rap) aside, one thing about the city I’m sure Paul has conveyed is its unmatched passion for its teams as well as its undying love and support of its athletes.
You play pro sports in Boston, you’re automatically on a higher plateau than your colleagues in other cities. Granted, fans in Boston are needy and the media commands accountability, which combined make it difficult to be an athlete without being a celebrity. But even borderline-shy, reclusive players like Manny Ramirez feel the pull of the city to such a degree that in the end the pressure and demand is worth the reward. No city and fan base will support and defend you as staunchly as Boston. No place will drip with such visceral emotion after an otherworldly performance. And if in the end you have a hand in bringing a title to the town, every step you take from that point forward will be on hallowed ground. Paul feels it. He’s felt it through the adoration he’s received, through the devotion of the faithful. He’s felt it through Manny and Pedro and Corey Dillon and Troy Brown. And you know what else? He found a way to make KG feel it.
When you think about it, Garnett has always been destined to play in Boston. Here is a guy who literally leaves it all out on the court on a nightly basis, hell or high water. Now he’s going to be playing in a house that won’t be wondering if he’ll blow the roof off; no, they’ll be expecting it every night. And that first evening when he’s formally introduced and the entire waterfront shakes, like all athletes in new places, he’ll want to savor that moment and freeze it in time, because he’ll have to believe it will be next to impossible to rival it. So it goes for athletes previously foreign to Boston. Just wait until the first shot he hits. The first big swat he records. His first 20-20 game. His first deft dish to Paul for an overtime dagger. Just wait, KG, just wait.
It was this notion that Paul undoubtedly succeeded in relaying to KG, along with the fact that he, KG and Ray will be manhandling the East for the next few years to the tune of 55+ wins and an annual top seed in the playoffs. Once again I won’t mince words: I believe the Celtics are poised to make multiple Finals appearances over the next couple of years. I can’t go so far as to put them on that next level with the two best teams in the league, the Suns and Spurs (only because either Steve Nash or Tony Parker would manhandle Rajon Rondo en route to a Finals MVP), but I entirely believe the Celtics are now the team to beat in the East.
So am I calling number 17 just yet? No, I’m not ready to make any crazy proclamations, but I am ready to watch these guys play ball. And I will say this: when you unite a trio of seasoned and starving superstars and they get a few shots at the glory fruit, expect them to find a way to get fed.