Before I move on to previewing the playoffs in front of us, I want to reflect on the recent past and the potential future. For four years now we've lived in fear of The Window closing. Not an active fear necessarily (well, except when Kevin Garnett crumpled to the floor a few years back). Just a subtle reminder to embrace and enjoy the gift of a team that we've been able to witness. I just don't want this era to end.
Now I'm starting to feel a hint of deja-vu. Last year (April 30, 2010 to be exact) I wrote the following:
One way or another, Paul Pierce will be back in Boston next year but I'm not so sure about the rest of the free agents. We could, in theory, maintain the core by keeping the starters and swapping out the entire bench (give or take a holdover or two). Would it be enough to compete next year? I doubt it. But I'm not sure what other (attractive) choices they have. Next year might just be a ...wait for it... "bridge year" for Boston. (Sorry Sox fans - I couldn't resist)
Of course, as it turned out, the core did return and Danny swapped out virtually the entire bench (plus Perkins) and it was enough to compete until game 7 of the Finals. Keep in mind, my sour attitude was before the Finals run. At that point, we were faced with the prospect of losing Doc, Ray, much of the bench, and maybe even Pierce. We were staring straights at the potential end of the Big 3 Era.
I hate to once again be the harbinger of doom and gloom (or perhaps Chicken Little, depending on how this plays out) but we are once again looking at what could potentially be the end of the world as we know it.
The Worst Case
I'm sure someone out there with a more creative mind than I could come up with something worse than this, but baring bodily harm or something tragic happening to someone off the court, here's my own personal nightmare.
The Celtics get bounced out of the playoffs in the early rounds - perhaps as early as the first round. The Lockout wipes out the entire season. Doc decides he likes hanging out with the Cameron Crazies and takes his long talked about sabbatical from coaching. Because he was locked out all year, Ainge never gets the chance to shop around the expiring salaries of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O'Neal (a combined $37M in future-star buying power). Garnett, Shaq, and Jermaine all retire leaving us with nothing in return but cap space. And oh by the way, the new CBA lowers the cap so we can't exactly sign many free agents with that money. Danny guesses wrong on either Big Baby and/or Jeff Green and blows much of that cap space anyway. And to cap it all off, Rondo butts heads with the new coach in training camp and demands to be traded to "a contender."
What are the chances all of that (or even much of it) happening? Hopefully somewhere between slim and zilch. Which is good because typing from the fetal position sounds like a hard thing to do. Still, these are the kinds of fears that stick in the back of my head and taunt me from the shadows of my subconscious.
The Best Case
Now that I have that out of my system, allow me to get that taste out of my mouth by painting a much sunnier picture.
The Celtics flip the switch and steamroll over the Knicks, Heat, Bulls, and Lakers for Banner 18. The Lockout still happens, but only eats up 3 months of the season. The old and tired Celtics return from their extended vacation feeling refreshed and healed up. They are veterans so they stayed in great shape (even Big Baby who re-signs to a cap friendly contract with more weight clauses). Jeff Green spends the whole summer and lockout hanging out with Kevin Garnett and now has a killer instinct that would make Larry Bird proud. Doc is back on a lifetime contract and Rondo still isn't a great shooter but has figured out how to hit free throws on a consistent basis. Danny caps it off by trading for a couple of high upside big men. Because of the extended summer, the team never has time to get to their annual end-of-season slump and the team rolls to another banner while making a seamless transition beyond the Big 3 era.
How likely is that scenario? Well, I can dream can't I?
The reality will likely fall somewhere between those two extremes. There's a small chance the Big 3 could ride off into the sunset together, but I suspect they will eventually be broken up - via trade, free agency, retirement, or (hopefully not) career ending surgery. So there likely won't be a defining end to the Dynasty. I just hope it doesn't devolve into what has happened in Detroit with the old core feeling biter about a botched rebuild-on-the-fly effort.
The bottom line is that there's an uncertain future to ponder in the months following this season. There will be plenty of time to work out the details of that future, but my whole point in bringing this up (again) is to remind everyone to enjoy the ride. The playoffs are almost upon us and that is where this team really shines. They live for this and so should we.
The saying goes "live every day as if it is your last one." Well, I plan on enjoying this postseason as if it is the last one we'll see from this core group, ...because it might be.