Admittedly things look bad. We are in probably the worst slump we have seen in three years and things don't seem to be getting any better. We have been ravaged by injuries. Our best guys are too old. Teams around the league are anxious to get a piece of us and kick us while we're down. Young upstart teams no longer fear us and the elite of the league look unstoppable and slowly but surely are creating distance in the standings. Our old friends the Lakers look like a lock to represent the west in the finals while we look outmatched. Clearly our window is closing and some have even suggested it has already slammed shut. The obvious outcome for anyone trying make a prediction is that the team will flame out in the playoffs. We've seen countless teams like this before. The Jazz, the Knicks, the Heat, the Kings and that is just within the last two decades.
But this teams isn't like any other team. Maybe in any other uniform they might be, but the name on the front of the jersey still says "Celtics." The Boston Celtics have a history of rising from the dead to will themselves to the championship and this team has an opportunity to add to that legacy. Look, I wasn't around in the days of Russell and the Couz, Larry and Mchale, or even Reggie Lewis. I was indoctrinated in the times of Dana Barros and Todd Day, Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce and finally this latest incarnation of the big three. However, I am well versed in Celtics history having read countless books and stories and watched grainy old video. If I have learned anything at all is that Celtic Pride is strong, ghosts of celtics past exist and that damn Leprechaun is real. Now add to that the spirit of Red Auerbach and the Celtics have some pretty strong, mystical powers at work. One way or another Celtics find a way to win whether you believe in them or not.
Of course I was not there in 1969 when the Celtics barely made the playoffs as the last seed (the number four seed in those days) so I have no way of telling what the general feel around the team was. Were the fans as panicked as we are today? Did they even care as much (back in the day when basketball was still trying to establish itself as a major sport)? I do know no one expected much from that team. They had won 7 straight championships but they were old, struggled through the season, younger teams like the upstart knicks were chomping at the bit to get to us. Well, we disposed of a familiar foe in Philadelphia in the first round and knocked off the young Knicks in the Division finals. Waiting for us was of Course LA and the imposing line up featuring Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. We had no business winning that series yet the Celtics pulled it out in 7 games, in LA no less, in the famous "balloons in the rafter" game.
That game was Bill Russell's final game. Ravaged by the intensity of the way he played, countless games and age he retired and handed over the reigns to the greatest team in NBA history to the younger guys like John Havlicek who would go ahead and forge their own history. Now this isn't the last go around for our guys, but it just might be their last best chance. Just like in '69, we are struggling through the regular season as injuries and age hamper us. We won't be the last team in the playoffs but its looking more and more likely that we won't finish first and a third or even fourth seed isn't out of the question (although for the record I think we'll have a top two seed). The fans are having fits over their play of late. Some writers have already written them off, literally, and said their window has already closed. The Atlanta Hawks would like nothing more than to knock us off in the playoffs. Familiar foes await us in Orlando and Cleveland if we advance that far. And dare I say if we make the finals we will most likely be met by the likes of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and the incomparable Kobe Bryant. Things indeed look bad but that is when true Celtics show what they are made of; that's what makes them Celtics in the truest sense. No outcome is certain except that this group of legendary Celtics is on their last leg and they will soon hand over the reigns to the young guys like Rondo and Perk to forge their own history.
I'm not predicting we win it all (although I do believe we will) but this all seems a little familiar. We can bicker and curse this team all we want but I would rather sit back and enjoy the ride. Just like any good fairy tale there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Somewhere in the middle there is a juicy conflict that is resolved with, what else but a "fairy tale" ending. We are clearly smack in the middle of that juicy conflict. The only thing left to resolve is that ending. I don't know about you all, but I'm going to enjoy the ride, keep reading, and hope I've already this story before.