Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Last night was terrible with a capital T, but at least it reminds us to be thankful for the team that we have.
I'm going to spend exactly zero minutes going over last night's game. It was just one of those games. In fact, I'll just let Doc say it.
"It's one game," Rivers said adamantly. "I mean, I'm not going to overdo it. I mean, listen, we were awful tonight. Our spirit was awful, the way we played was awful. But we've also got to look at our team as a whole. We haven't had a lot of nights like that. So I'm not happy with the way the game went, but overall, I like our team."
You know what? So do I. Given the "egg" they laid last night, this might seem like an odd time to bring the subject up, but I really like this team as well. In fact, not to go all fanboy on you this morning, but I'd go so far as to say that I love this team. And not just in the overall "I love the Celtics" way. I legitimately am proud to be a fan of this specific team at this point in time.
They are winners and fighters and they bring their lunch pails to work and sweat it out till the work is done. Last night was such a stark contrast because we really don't see that very often with this team. A few weeks back Doc made a decision to rest Kevin Garnett and the team responded with an inspired rout over the Suns. Last night he rested the Truth and the team forgot to respond at all. These things happen, but they don't happen to this team very often.
The start of the season was up and down and frustrating to be sure. But once Avery Bradley returned and set the tone defensively, the team turned a corner and started looking a lot more like the team we expected and love to watch. Losing Rondo, Sullinger, and Barbosa cut us deeply and may ultimately limit our playoff chances. But those losses also galvanized the team and forced them to bind together and play with more pride and determination.
None of this happens if we didn't have Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce is like the North Star and KG is like a map. Without those two, we're drifting in a sea of the unknown, headed in who-knows-what direction with no land in sight.
And every few months it seems like the end of the road with those two guys is coming sooner than we'd like. This past summer it was supposed to be over until KG decided to get the gang back together (minus one). The trade deadline might have been the end, until it wasn't. This coming summer,... who knows?
Pierce's contract allows for the Celtics to buy him out for $5 million this summer, which would make him a free agent. Pierce said he expects Ainge will sit him down and review his options when the season ends, but he is resigned to the fact that anything could happen. "I've had a great run here," Pierce said. "I wouldn't give any negative backlash to what they feel they need to do to help their franchise. I still feel I have a couple of good years to play. If it's for someone else, then so be it." Rivers acknowledges that Pierce and KG are a package deal; if one goes, the other will likely want to move along.
It pains me to hear Pierce talk about moving on, but you can tell that he's becoming resigned to it. Some days he talks about maybe retiring, but other days he's playing like an All Star and thinking about playing another couple of years. We all know he's a gym rat that seldom takes days off (maybe that's why the team didn't know what to do with him being out last night). So I could see him playing until his body quits on him and produces a career ending injury. The same pretty much goes for Garnett - though I get the feeling that he's more inclined to hang it up than play for another team at this point.
So once again I fear I sound like the boy who cried wolf, but this could be it with these guys and I really want to enjoy every last minute with them. I don't know how far they'll go in the playoffs but I know better than to count them out. This team is bi-polar in that they can lose to the Bobcats and beat the Heat and neither result surprises us much anymore. But we love them just the same because of who they are.
The playoffs are coming up and a lot will be made of what seed they'll have and home court advantage and matchups and all of that. But when the ball goes up, the switch will go on, and they'll dig in and sweat it out for 48 minutes and give it their all. They'll play fanatic defense, they'll rely on Pierce to score the ball, they'll get contributions from someone off the bench, and they'll win a few games and lose a few games. And we'll enjoy every second of it, because that's what we do as fans.