Appreciating This Season's Celtics

I recently celebrated my 20th birthday, and to me, 20 is sort of a weird age. In my mind it's a transition year - I'm no longer a teenager and I need to begin to put into motion all of the things I said I wanted to do when I was younger. It's also beginning to dawn on me that things are changing, even though I don't necessarily want them to. I'm getting older, the members of my favorite band are getting older and this current group of Celtics is getting older.

Twenty years is a long time and I have now been a diehard Celtics fan for the majority of those 20 years. But you know what really hit me the other day? In the 20 years I've been alive, the Celtics have won ONE championship. Just one. This wasn't some great mystery to me before, but when I really stopped and thought about it, the realness of it floored me.

The 2009-2010 team, after a sluggish start, now sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 20-4 record and is riding an 11-game win streak. This group is steadily reprising its role as one of the league's most dominant teams and given the win streak and the high caliber performances we're seeing out of almost every player on this roster of late, we're drifting towards that point where we stop appreciating what we're seeing and just begin to expect it.

As fans, having the highest expectations for our team is never a bad thing. Usually that means our team will contend for a championship at the end of the season. What we cannot forget though, is that the brilliance that comes with a championship team is not guaranteed with each and every season. Which is why we must not watch the rest of this campaign thinking this is what every season will hold, because NBA reality is bound to set in eventually. The Celtics will not be in contention for a championship every single season, which is why we must appreciate this group and the stellar year they are having so far.

If last year taught us anything, it's that a championship is never guaranteed. Last year was almost a humbling experience because it showed us that in the course of a single play of a single 48-minute game, the hopes of an entire team and its fan base can be erased faster than Rajon Rondo can sprint baseline to baseline. We had witnessed one of the best starts in league history, a 19-game win streak, and, despite not even playing great basketball, we were arguably back on the road to another title. And when Kevin Garnett limped off the floor in Utah and when the final buzzer sounded on us in Game 7 against Orlando last spring, didn't that make us all wish we had appreciated the 2008 championship season just a little bit more?

These 82-game seasons, as long as they are, actually fly by in all reality. We're already 24 games into this current season, but does it really feel like it? Think back to that 2008 season. More importantly, think back to how much you don't actually remember. Sure, certain moments stick out like Ray Allen's buzzer beater over Charlotte and the Game 4 comeback in the Finals, but what about all of the other moments that helped define those 66 wins? What about Garnett eating his jersey after burying two huge buckets against the Houston Rockets on January second? Or KG suffering his abdominal strain three weeks later against the Timberwolves, but returning to the game, poking the ball away from Sebastian Telfair and diving on the ball to save the game?

As that season went on, the notion of a championship became more and more realistic and we quickly adjusted to the fact that that squad was really, really good. It was almost as if the 22 years prior to that had never happened. But when we locked ourselves into that mindset that told us a championship was possible, we began to expect certain things, and when they happened, we took them as they came, rather than appreciating them for all they were worth. Even simple things like a Pierce step back jump shot, or an Allen three-pointer in transition were taken for granted because they happened so routinely. But the uniqueness of these players makes every play they make that much more memorable, and we need to recognize that.

I honestly believe we didn't appreciate this group of guys last season. We were suffering through a post-championship hangover and we just sort of expected another title would come our way. We got complacent and didn't seem to realize that we were in fact witnessing another great team before Garnett went down.

But that's another added bonus of the season we're watching right now. We've almost been given a second chance - a wake up call, if you will - to fully soak up all of what these guys display night in and night out. And we have to make sure we appreciate all of it, because realistically, this "window" is only open for so long. It's unfortunate to say, but we can't deny reality. But this season is full of hope and promise. Garnett is healthy, Rondo and Perk are borderline All-Stars, Allen isn't showing signs of fading out and Pierce is just doing everything.

But don't just watch these games with an expectant mind. If Pierce buries a tough fade away, enjoy it. Celebrate it. Tell all your friends. We probably should have hyped up Allen's three-point dagger against Memphis more than we actually did. Why didn't we? Because we expected it. But ten years down the road when we lose a close game to whoever, someone will remark, "Remember when Ray Allen used to bury opponents in the final seconds of games?"

We seem to naturally appreciate things only once we no longer have them. It's sort of like that, "You don't know what you got 'til it's gone" mantra and it's so true. But we can change that throughout the remainder of this season. Whatever happens at the end of this season, we don't have to enjoy it the most two or three years down the road when we're reflecting. We can enjoy it now, as it's happening in front of us.

Don't just accept a Rondo-Garnett alley oop. Don't just shrug off a Pierce drive down the lane for a lay up and a foul. Don't just nod your head when Allen buries a three at any point in the game. Appreciate it. Appreciate all of it. Because it's happening right now and it's not going to happen forever. Time has a scary way of creeping up on us, and before we know it, we'll all be looking back on this season and discussing how much fun it actually was. But as long as we have it here with us now, let's enjoy it and appreciate it for all that it is truly worth.

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