That was the title I gave the postgame recap for game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was more than just the end of the series and the season. It was the end of the era. I believed that. More than that, I had come to grips with it.
All things on this Earth must come to an end sometime and this was about the way you'd expect the Celtics to go out. With all due respect to Rondo, they did overachieve. Not because they weren't good, but because they were hurt and undermanned and they still pushed the eventual champs 7 games. It wasn't exactly going out on top but it was going down swinging near the top.
Matt Moore puts it well:
But that last run, it was a good run. It was something to be proud of. The Boston crowd (what was left of them after King James burned the house down) chanting into the night. The tough end for a team that always went out tough. A seven-game series against the eventual champions. It was what you want. Now there's as much a risk it could end ugly and uncomfortable as with an unlikely run. Both are improbable, at least right away.
There was more that this team could have achieved had it not been for injuries and bad luck, but we got the one banner and that was enough for most. It was a "three year plan" that paid off in the first year and got extended 2 years. Everything was lined up to blow it up this summer. That made sense. The last thing we needed was another 20 year rebuilding process.
Except now it might not end.
Kevin Garnett is back with Pierce and Rondo and they are just waiting to see if Ray Allen will join them one more time. They want to "get the band back together" which might be an appropriate analogy since many formerly great bands try to rekindle the fire - some to success, though most not so much.
All of which leads us to the simple question. Is this the right plan?
It almost isn't fair to ask that without taking a realistic look at the alternative plans.
One plan would be to make a run at free agents. Except the free agent market dried up long before the summer.
Another plan would be to trade off our aging vets for picks and prospects. That almost happened in February but we all know how it turned out.
Still another plan would be to make unbalanced trades to acquire expensive stars that teams are trying to get rid of. The problem with that: See the Joe Johnson trade. He's an excellent player, but that contract is just so bad. The new collective bargaining agreement is set up to kill teams that have contracts like that 2 years from now.
Then there's the worst case scenario of outright taking. We could have renounced all our free agents, amnestied Paul Pierce, traded Rajon Rondo, and put out our own version of the Charlotte Bobcats next year. Thanks, but I have lived through a couple of tank jobs and there was no Duncan and no Durant at the end of those roads.
So the more I think about it, the more I'm drawn to this election year slogan of "two more years!" It keeps the team relevant and exciting for 2 more years. The young guys on the team get to keep learning from Hall of Famers. And maybe, ...maybe, ...just maybe they'll find enough support pieces and stay healthy enough and find one last run in them and hang another banner in the rafters.
Personally I'm not trying to get my hopes up for that, but once again, I'm never going to fully count this group out - provided they stay a group. In fact, I'll say that even if Ray decides to go elsewhere, the core of Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett is still one of the elite big 3's in the league. So you just never know.
The downside? Well, a lot of bad things could happen. They could get hurt (always a danger at any age). They could look more like they did in the first half of the season than they did in the second half (hopefully a full training camp will help). In short, they could go out with a whimper instead of a roar. Well, that's a risk I'm happy to take because I don't see it. And if it all goes poorly, we're just 2 years away from another reboot (less if Ainge can keep from including trade kickers in Ray's deal).
They are going to need a lot more help. A full season of Avery Bradley will help. Jeff Green will help. The young pups (provided they can prove that they deserve playing time to Doc) should help. Danny Ainge is going to get someone (I would think) with the MLE that should help. In short, they need to go more to the Spurs model and rely less on the Big 3.
Will it work? I don't know. Is it the right move? I don't know, but it beats most of the alternatives. Run it back and see how things work out.