I want #18 so badly I dream about it. I see Red lighting up his cigar in cloud formations. Big shots from KG, Paul and Ray. Rondo running circles around opponents. Perk holding down the fort.
But I'm not there anymore. This season reminds of the Red Sox in july and august and the Patriots in the fall. In both of the latter two cases, the home teams played at a high level, but in the "big games" they found a way to lose and that set the tone for the post season. Late losses to the Colts and Broncos. The blowout to the Saints. The Red Sox could NOT hit against teams with elite pitching like the Yankees. They were very good, just not "good enough".
I started the year hopeful, that KG's injuries were behind him. We added Rashid and Marquis. Rondo was resigned which eliminated a locker room issue.
The Celtics are currently projected to win 52 games vs. 66 in their championship season. Their average margin of victory is now 5 points vs 10 pts in 2008. Even last season with KG injured the Celtics continued to win in February, March, and April. They didn't win as easily, but they won, at a high rate. We ended up with 62 wins last season. We looked like a team that was a player away.
We now look the Celtics of the late 80's. In '87 we won 59 games, in '88 we won 57, in '90 we won 52, in '91 we won 56 and as late as '92 we won 51. But the dominance was gone. We rooted for them knowing that Bird or McHale would have one ailment or another that would prevent another championship.
So where does that leave us now?
I look at the season before game 28 [the Magic game on Christmas day] and after game 28. Our record up to and including game 28 was 23 wins and 5 losses.
In that span, we beat the Cav's, the Jazz, the Spurs, and the magic in game 28. NOTE: not many good teams were played at their best. The cav's hadn't integrated Shaq, the Jazz, spurs and magic were all facing early season chemistry problems. Our starters were on their third year playing together.
Since game 28 our record is 8 wins and 11 losses.
We have mostly lost to the good teams especially after game 28 on Christmas day.
So are we the Celtics of the late 80's? Are we hoping for another championship, when in our heart of hearts we know its unlikely?
We have big decisions to make. Ray is a free agent this summer. If we don't resign him, he walks away with no compensation. Even with Ray off the payroll, we are over the salary cap, so no major free agents this summer. Pierce will also have only one more season after this one as does Perkins. KG has two more years.
From what I'm seeing now, I don't think we are likely to get through 4 rounds of the playoffs for another championship.
1) KG is no longer KG. He has no lift and limited lateral mobility. The rebounds are not there. We also can't rule out more injuries. Once veteran players start breaking down, it happens more frequently as we saw with Bird and McHale.
2) Ray is no longer Ray. His shooting percentages are down across the board. Doc should be playing him no more than 31 minutes a night. He now averages 37 minutes a night. This is the worst 3 point shooting of Ray's career, even when fighting those ankle injuries he shot better. At 33.8% his is far below is career 40% and 41% last season.
3) Pierce is no longer Pierce. This is a guy, who like KG played through anything for most of his career. He again has been played too many minutes by Doc. Its one injury after another.
If we listen to Rondo, the team chemistry also isn't there compared to 2008. Players have their own agendas.
I hate to say this, but if don't want another "lost decade" we need to make tough decisions.
1) In my heart, I think we should trade Ray for the best talent we can get at the trading deadline. This helps us for the future and should add some "young legs" for a championship run this season - a last hurrah for Pierce and KG.
2) Next season, we should trade Paul to a contender to give him one more shot and get us young players, draft picks or at least cap space for 2011. [Hate to say it, but I'm assuming we don't win.]
3) I'd also trade KG next summer for anything I could get for him, since he is no longer worth, the $19 million and $21 million (in 2012) he will be getting paid in the next two seasons. Even expirings for a team going for it would be enough if necessary.
Then we rebuild.
I'm trying to be realistic. No blind hope and no lost decade.
Tell me why I'm wrong or if you agree.