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If you're waiting for the Celtics' 'fireworks,' it might be a while

Boston is restless for a rebuild and a return to glory. The events of the last few months seem to indicate we might have quite a long time still to wait.

Patience is a virtue, or something.
Patience is a virtue, or something.

Despite the many, many oft-repeated cliches out there about how pro sports is a business and transactions are simply part of the game, we've spent the last week nonetheless dealing with a harsh reality in Boston - rebuilding is hard.

Watching the downfall of the 2014 Red Sox, just nine months after witnessing the glorious triumph of the 2013 team, is strange and jarring. The team's avalanche of July trades may ultimately prove to be smart baseball moves, and years from now, we may well look back on the summer of 2014 as the moment Ben Cherington made a bold decision that paid off. But that doesn't change the fact that right now, in the moment, we're hurting.

It all just feels like too soon. We just watched Jon Lester and John Lackey and Jake Peavy come through as the three aces of a championship team. Lester beat cancer and pitched a no-hitter and clinched the team's previous title in 2007; Lackey overcame a lot of on- and off-field drama in Boston and turned into a productive starter; Peavy arrived at the trade deadline last summer and was an instant success. By winning a World Series together in '13, all three of them etched their names permanently in Boston lore. This just happened. As one Boston writer beautifully put it, "the champagne stains are still in the locker room rug at Fenway Park." Now those guys are all gone.

I don't know much about Yoenis Cespedes or Allen Craig or how productive they'll end up being, but I know that no matter the long-term result, there's an unquantifiable component of being a sports fan. If you set aside "value" and instead look at the big picture of why you watch in the first place, it's always hard to say farewell to guys with whom you had such an emotional attachment.

Anyway, let's talk about those Celtics.

Fans in Boston are dying for a major shakeup to the men in green. They have been for over a year now. Ever since Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on draft night in 2013 on a deal to ship out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the writing has been on the wall. A complete teardown is in progress. Sooner or later, Danny is going to rip the whole thing apart and start over from scratch.

At least that's the plan. So far, though, the Celtics' front office hasn't exactly seen that plan through to completion. KG and Pierce are still gone, and a war chest of draft picks is here in their place, but that's it. The C's still have a mismatched roster, they still have all the picks and they still have Rajon Rondo. In short, they have a lot of assets, but it's unclear what they're for. It's also unclear whether Rondo is just another trade chip or a genuine cornerstone.

In March, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck made headlines when he speculated that this summer, "there could be some fireworks." He even specified "sooner rather than later." That got everyone's hopes up - until June came and went without a peep other than the Nos. 6 and 17 draft picks, July passed with nothing in free agency besides retaining Avery Bradley, and now in August, it appears Kevin Love is a lost cause as well. Have fun in Cleveland, K-Love.

It's not a fun time to be a Celtics fan. This town is dying to get back to title contention the way it was a half-decade ago, but the road back to glory is long and winding and the Celtics can't even seem to find the on-ramp. We've had to cope with reality and adjust our expectations - instead of "build a winner NOW!" the mantra became "let's wait until the summer." Now the summer's passing is by, and it's looking like it might take a year or two instead. Maybe more. Who's to say?

Give the Celtics' ownership group credit - they're trying to be forthright about the whole process. Grousbeck’s partner in crime spoke up a couple of weeks ago and graciously offered to clarify his colleague's "fireworks" prediction - Steve Pagliuca said that the term really just means that "Danny is fearless in trying to get something done," which is nice to hear though it doesn't tell us anything we haven't heard a thousand times already. For the moment, we're in a holding pattern - and that's not the fault of Grousbeck or Pagliuca or Ainge or anyone else in particular, it's just where we are. The circumstances aren't right for anything to happen just yet.

If you've read anything I've written on this site in recent months, you may have noticed: I've written a lot lately about the theme of Bostonian impatience. Boston wants championships, and we want them now. And that's not even a negative way of characterizing the city, if you ask me - it just means we care. We're invested. We put a ton of time and emotional equity into watching our teams - win or lose! - and we want it to pay off. It's frustrating when it doesn't.

We get restless. We feel as though we've been lied to (which we kind of have). We start getting impulsive and looking for every possible trade scenario. We've been sold on this idea of a rebuild for going on 14 months now, so we want the other shoe to drop, and pronto. 

Here's the thing, though. This is gonna be hard.

We're just now seeing what's happening over at Fenway post-"fireworks" and it's not pretty. The gutted Red Sox with their Triple-A pitching staff have limped to four losses in their last six since the trade deadline. The future looks bleak, unless something major (two somethings major, really) goes down this winter. The Red Sox may have acquired legitimate pieces in exchange for the players they dealt, but it may take a long time for those pieces collectively to amount to anything.

Now we're waiting to see if the Celtics can continue that same painful process. That's not a lot of fun.

That's also not to say it's wrong - just that on an emotional level, as a fan, you find it hard to enjoy. How tough would it be to part with Rondo after just losing Lester too?

It's a weird question because the two players are oddly similar in a lot of ways, and they've both had the same lasting connection to Boston. They both got their start here at the same time - Lester made his first start with the Red Sox on June 10, 2006, which was precisely 18 days before Rondo was drafted. They've both been fixtures on the Boston scene for the last eight years, through thick and thin. Both players have shown us the good, the bad and the ugly over the years. For Lester, that was the two Series rings, the heartbreaking lymphoma struggle and "chicken and beer" respectively; for Rondo, it was the '08 title, the ACL tear and numerous suspensions and altercations. Both men have been unpredictable and somewhat prickly, but they've also both been undeniably masters of their respective crafts.

The Red Sox got great value for Lester. Yoenis Cespedes? Wow - that's a way better return than anyone predicted. And maybe someday, the Celtics will get just as big a score for Rondo. But there are a lot of different ways to gauge value in a megadeal like this - some might look at VORP or PER, while others might think about the legacies of the players involved and the emotional impact a deal has on the fan.

There's no wrong way to answer these types of questions. There's no wrong way to be a sports fan. But while a lot of people are clamoring these days for the Celtics to move Rondo ASAP and start building for 2018, I think there's also something to be said for the comfort of keeping a familiar face and the sentimental value of the one vintage Celtic we have left. Will valuing these things make the Celtics a better basketball team? I honestly don't know, but that's not necessarily the point.

Here's what's ironic: We're having this conversation in Boston in August 2014, a month removed from a actual literal fireworks show that was rescheduled from July 4 to the 3rd. We only moved the event up because of an impending thunderstorm, but it's still hilarious - we literally can't wait for our fireworks in this town.

When I hear that same sentiment expressed about the Celtics, I get it. I really do. But I also can't kick that thought out of the back of my mind. It's that thought that if the big blowup does happen - or should I say, when it happens - it's not going to be easy. The champagne aroma is gone from the TD Garden, and it might be a minute before we see the next bottles put on ice.

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