It’s been a long, tumultuous two seasons since the Celtics were playing playoff basketball and today they tip off against an old friend, Lebron James and his new-look Cavs. But don’t let the title of this post make you angry, I’m sure everyone has believed in this team and trusted the direction they were heading towards when they made a blockbuster trade two summers ago when they shipped out their Captain along with their grit and balls. But the fact of the matter is, the Celtics are the currently on the longest championship drought of any Boston sports franchise.
See, when I got asked by my brother to contribute to Boston Week, I felt very humbled and gratified. He’s seen me produce a sports blog over the past few years and knows that I can cover all sports, especially when it comes to the greatest sports city in the world. But when I was told I was given the team that’s been without a championship for SEVEN years, I took that as a challenge.
If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to explain a few things to you that you might already know. The Celtics are the winning-est franchise in Boston. They dominated the sport in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Then I came around in 1986, just a few months after they won Banner 16. I grew up with a team that was struggling to deal with the harsh realities of their soon-to-be Hall of Famers being on the back nine of their careers and then most notably a steep decline for a number of years after that. I rooted for guys like Dino Radja, Eric Williams, David Wesley, Dana Barros and Pervis Ellison. Yes, they were the guys who played on the WORST Celtics team ever. That’s when C’s fans rooted for us to get the #1 pick the following year which would be a guy by the name of Tim Duncan. Instead, we drafted Chauncey Billups (who my sister and her fiance named their dog after) and Ron Mercer (sheesh), who joined Antoine Walker and a young up-and-coming squad.
A new college coach took over that year too, Rick Pitino. I won’t waste your time describing my disgust for what happened the next couple of seasons with this team and its future, but it’s safe to say this is when I really started to become obsessed with the Celtics.
The 1998 draft had us picking 10th and I finally found my favorite player to root for, Paul Pierce. As this team went up and down over the next decade, I always wondered what it would be like to actually have a team that you rooted for that had a legit chance to win it all. My Dad had a collection of Celtics VHS tapes of highlights or games or retirement ceremonies and it was fun to look back on those teams and their success. But none of it was from one of my teams.
Everything changed in the summer of 2007 when Danny Ainge swung deals to get Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. This team played tough every night, not flashy, just hard nosed basketball. That season ended with Banner 17 and we all realized that anything IS possible.
So now that I’ve painted the picture of my Celtics fandom, I’ll set this up for all of you perfectly. The 2014-15 Celtics have a young head coach in Brad Stevens who was very successful in college (see Pitino), a young group of players that are playing with house money (see 97-98 team) and the big difference is, they are playing in the playoffs!
They’re 24-12 over the past couple of months and have played some of the best basketball in the East. They play tough every night, not flashy, just hard nosed basketball and if we are being honest, they might be two or three years ahead of schedule. So what does that mean for this version of the C’s, it means that your Celtic pride should be back! I’m not going to shout from the rooftops or argue at the bar and say this team is going to sweep the Cavs, but I’m telling you that this is a team to believe in. A team that has committed to each other and to the future. I don’t know if this roster is filled with a bunch of guys similar to the names I mentioned before or that we are close to bringing on the next face of the franchise. But that’s the fun part, now we can look back at that 07-08 team and say, wow, it really wasn’t that long ago since we dominated the league and I’d say we really aren’t that far away from being right back there.
Put on your green folks, Celtics pride is back!