For some reason, I thought of Kedrick Brown today. That got me thinking about the old days. Not the good old days of the 80's. The bad old days of the early 00's. Believe it or not, I had already begun blogging back then. It wasn't actually a blog. I don't think blogs were invented yet. It was a website that you had to create files for each article and save them to the server and all that fun HTML stuff.
Anyway, I found that old site, then called Celtics Rant on the wayback machine. I couldn't help but laugh at some of my writing. I had the same undying passion and hope for this team, but I did't have anything near the audience I have now. In fact, I think my audience consisted of a couple friends and my parents (who don't follow sports).
So since it is pretty quiet for the moment, I thought I'd share this old article on the Fall of the Celtics Empire. I'll also follow it up with a couple more wayback archived posts. Enjoy.
July 27, 2000
Rome wasn't built in a day, and you can't sum up why it fell in one essay. Similarly, you can't explain why the Boston Celtics have descended from their perch atop the NBA to the current state of affairs in one amateur sports article. However, I can punch walls, kick chairs, and rant my head off about what a crime it is that these incompetent-stuffed-shirt dolts are running MY TEAM into the ground. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. For those of you who never signed up for membership in Celtic Nation, I shall provide a quick history lesson.
A real quick one. If you don't already know about Russell, Cousey, Hondo, Heinson, Cowens, Red, and of course, the Big 3, then you really need to take a short trip to Springfield, MA and come back later. I'll be here. However, for the rest of you I'll spare you the SportsCentury Moment and start the day after the 1986 Championship. WBCN played Queen's "We Are the Champions" 16 times, one for every banner hanging in the Gah-den. As fans, we weren't surprised at all at the outcome; we were just slightly disappointed that we didn't get the chance to take the crown from the hated Lake Show, our only true competitors. Still, there would be more chances and the future was bright. That summer Red even managed to secure the second pick in the draft. Which we used to select the highly talented forward from Maryland, Len Bias.
Thud. Like someone took a brick wall and managed to drop it straight down my throat and into my gut. That's what it felt like to hear about Len's death. Not just for the team, but for the senselessness of one bright candle who's flame was snuffed out before we all could gaze upon it. The team went on, but no one will forget. The Celts were still the cream of the crop, but injuries started to taint the taste. McHale fought through a myriad of injuries especially during tough playoff games. Bird endured bone spurs and back problems to the point where he would have to lay on his stomach instead of sitting on the bench. Many say that management had to chose between dismantling the big 3 to stay competitive (what, like the Bulls have done? Please), and keeping them and allowing the team to fade into mediocrity. Not really. Dismantling was never really an option. But guess who else was in the same situation? Yep, the Lakers. Sure, they had their lean years too, but few will argue that Jerry West didn't masterfully navigate those troubled waters and come out roses in the end. On the other hand, the Celts seem to have steered directly into the perfect storm.
Reggie Lewis' death was an eerie echo from the past. The big 3's numbers were added to the banners and we said goodbye to our heroes. We won't go into the M.L. Carr years. Lets just accept that nobody else wanted the job, so it might as well have been him. I won't debate whether or not they tanked the end of the season for a shot at Duncan, but if they did, they certainly got what they deserved.
Enter Rick Pitino. Champion pedigree Rick. Oft of nearby Providence College Rick. We thought, finally, someone with some backbone. Someone who will blow up the sinking ship and start over. That's what we all wanted, and that's what we got. From Rick's perspective, he's got Timmy Dunk and Keith Van Horn on a platter with two picks in the top of the lottery. But something went wrong on the way to cash in the Megabucks ticket. All of a sudden we wake up from a stupor and realize that we've got a guy named Chauncey and one of Rick's pupils. "Um, ok. Maybe that won't be so bad. Rick says that 'these guys will be the backcourt of the future.' That sounds pretty good." It didn't matter. We had one of the best young players in the game in Antoine Walker, and now a dynamic duo backcourt. All we needed was a big man and we'd be set to take the title in 2 to 3 years. We're BACK BABY.
Take that fan. Fast forward. Show them the Celtics now and avert your eyes. You'll hear the sobs loud and clear. "Billups is where? We gave McCarty how much money? Who the heck is Master P? What are we doing with the Cavs' backup center?
Those of us who've had to live through those years now know a thing or two about our oily jack-of-all-trades. We know that he's an impulse buyer. Nobody drafts an underclassman point guard and expects him to blossom in his first year. But Rick did, and he sent him packing before he could tie his shoes. But Wal-tah was just the kind of player we had to pay handsomely. Hey, I love the big goof myself, but seriously now. I already went into what happened with the Mercer deal. We could have done better, but we didn't. At least we got a draft pick out of it - although for how long, no one knows since Rick seems to be shopping it like penny candy. Given the choice between drafting Andre Miller and getting Potapenko, most of us would chose the kid from Utah. But Rick wanted a big man, and pulled the trigger before you can find the Ukraine on a map.
So what spurred this rant? Why all the fuss? Well, its that time of year again. When at any point I know I might log onto ESPN and find out that Rick has done it again. Here's a short list of deals that Rick has been tossing around. 1. Three draft picks for Jemane O'Neal. 2. Walker for Croshere (or any number of variations on that theme) 3. A three way deal with the Nuggets and Clips to acquire Wahed at the cost of our draft pick, Barros, and change. Real quickly, my reactions to those: 1. No. 2. Why? 3. Sacrifice future for now? No. Barros and his salary come off the books next year. We'll have two picks in the lottery (probably) next summer. Why would we trade that for more mediocrity this year?
Because Rick is trying to save his skin, that's why. He made bold predictions of playoff births and hasn't delivered. Now he's stated that if he doesn't get into the playoffs, he's walking at the end of the year. That means he'll pull out all the stops to get dumped in the first round and crown himself a winner. That way he can leave here on a winning note and take over some D1 school in search of a savior.
Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is the very thing that started this website to begin with. This isn't my way of cashing in on the information superhighway. This isn't an ego-induced "look-at-me-I've-got-a-website" thing. This is therapy, friends. And you are my psychologist sitting in a chair writing the words "screw ball" on a pad of paper and nodding your head thoughtfully. Rick is going to do SOMEthing this summer. And it's all part of his conspiracy to tick me off!
If it was my team, and it is, I would say, "Let it ride Rick. Use your vet exceptions to sign a couple of guys to one year deals and concentrate on what you actually do pretty well, and that's coach. Step down from your President of Basketball Operations duties and let the NBA people take care of that pesky salary cap. Work with Antoine. Coach Paul Pierce. Give Kenny Andersen a little more rope. Patience is a virtue. Learn it." I can say that because I'm a Red Sox fan. Enough said.
If you don't look back and reminisce about turning down the TV and listening to Johnny Most call Dominique Wilkins "the Princess," then you probably don't know what on Earth I'm rambling about. But that's ok. If you made it this far, I give you thanks. And my therapy check will be in the mail.