Thursday, June 19, 2008

For Red

Boy do I love a parade! We are going to take a little hiatus from Red Sox coverage as DC breaks down the Celtics Championship. Just another Trophy for Titletown! (read: Boston). His words after my italics:

Make no mistake about it, sooner or later Phil Jackson will probably pass Red Auerbach’s record for championships and in the process a small part of every true Boston Celtics fan will die. But this mass murder wasn’t going down this year! No sir! Not on KG’s watch! Not as long as Ray-Ray could still find room to shoot! Not while The Truth still had air going in and out of his lungs! No no Philly-boy, you sit your butt down and remember who you’re dealing with… hell, that man owns the floor you’re playing on! And trust me, somewhere up in the great Boston Garden in the sky; Red’s just now finishing up the biggest victory cigar he’s ever sparked up.

That’s right sports fans, the quest for banner number 17 was completed last night in an absolute beat down of the bad guys from LA. The “New Big 3” took care of business like they’ve been doing for the last 9 months. It’s been a long time coming, but this series reminded me just how much I hate the Lakers. Put them on the short list with the Yankees, Manning Brothers, Rocky V and wedding DJs who don’t own a Journey cd. This team has been a joy to watch all season long. They put egos aside and played basketball how it was meant to be played. They played defense, passed the ball and radiated the passion and intensity that we’re always complaining today’s athletes are lacking. On this team the stars were the hardest working role players and the hardest working role players were allowed to become stars. Thanks to the New Big 3, we got to spend this winter and spring watching a style of basketball that this town hasn’t seen since THE Big 3, and for that we should be eternally grateful. They woke up the leprechaun and gave back our Celtic Pride!

Unfortunately, this blog (being a baseball site) has totally ignored the Celtics all season, so I have the task of wrapping up an entire season and team before any of this has really sunk in. And what better way to do that then an old fashion, player by player wrap up with some Red Sox analogies thrown in for those of you who are yelling “Hey, this is supposed to be a baseball blog!” Ok let’s get this started, at the bottom…

Brian Scalabrine & Scot Pollard: These guys get lumped into one person because let’s face it, they were nothing more than unattractive, really tall cheerleaders for the bulk of the season. For all you Sox fans out there, think of Pollard as Kevin Millar. He’s hilarious, he has wacky hair, everyone loves him and he’s an extremely mediocre player. Scalabrine looks like Michael Rappaport and they pretty much are on the same level of talent when compared to their peers. Let’s just say, he’s no Pacino.

Tony Allen: This guy is insanely athletic! I’m pretty sure he can jump through the roof which would make him excellent at installing skylights in your living room. The best part about him is that he totally drank Doc’s special defensive cool-aid and has become a great on the ball defender. Unfortunately, he typically goes a little too fast for himself on offense and frequently loses control of his own body resulting in turnovers and Celtics fans losing control of their bowels.

Sam Cassell: Brought in mid-season because this team lacked a veteran backup point guard (and let’s face it, he’s KG’s buddy), Sam-I-Am didn’t provide a whole lot on the court. However, everything you read says this guy is one of those veterans who brings chemistry, guts and a winning attitude while somehow keeping everyone loose. You need those guys. My guess is that the best thing Sam did was harass Rondo in practice, teaching him how to be a big time playoff point guard similar to the way Mike Timlin made Papelbon crazy enough to be a deadly closer.

PJ Brown: Another mid-season acquisition, Old Man Brown started the season out of basketball. Seriously, this guy was bagging groceries or walking dogs or sitting around with millions in the bank when the Celtics came calling. This guy is Billy Mueller. He’s simply a solid pro. You win with him and you don’t even realize he’s the one who’s getting the job done. He grabs boards, plays solid defense and makes the young punks on the other team earn their lay-ups by slamming them with a hard foul.

Glen Davis: Oh I’m sorry, you don’t know who this is? Ok let’s try this…

Big Baby: Ok back on track? Excellent. For those non-basketball fans, let me explain something. The NBA draft is pretty much a one round draft. They pick 4 rounds, but really, all the good players are in the first round. That being said, Big Baby was an absolute steal in the 2nd round. This guy is an unassuming worker. He obviously loves to play and has become an absolute fan favorite because of it (seriously, has this guy stopped smiling since the day he was drafted?). He’s on this team to bang bodies and get rebounds and he does it without complaining about his erratic playing time or his lack of scoring opportunities.

Leon Powe: This is the feel good story of the Celtics. It seems like every championship team has one, and Leon is it. The guy had such a hard life that the NBA did a special piece on him at half time of Game 2. On the court, Leon is a leaner and more athletic version of Big Baby. This guy is totally jacked! He plays great defense, jumps in on all the hustle plays and every now and then will score some points. The Celtics are most likely hoping that one or both of these guys (Powe and Baby) will become younger versions of PJ Brown.

Eddie House: This guy is the definition of contagious energy. He’s like a kindergartener with extreme ADD on the last day of school after polishing off a case of Red Bull and a dozen double chocolate donuts for breakfast. He’s the guy the Celtics decided should stand at the end of the row during pre-game introductions just to fire up the starters and the crowd. If he was on the Red Sox he’d be the one making up all the crazy hand shakes in the dugout and lighting Manny’s hair on fire just for kicks all while leading the team in triples. He’s Orlando Cabrera from 2004. He’s also a backup point guard with questionable ball handling and defensive skills. But he’ll nail more back breaking threes then you can ever imagine and is turbo charged hustle. Just writing this paragraph makes me want to start running around waving my arms.

Kendrick Perkins: This guy is an absolute stiff! I hate the fact that he’s our starting center. He’s big and immobile, has very few offensive moves and is constantly getting into foul trouble at which point he sits on the bench and pouts. Of course, if you ask him (and he always assumes that the refs have) he’s never committed a foul in his life. I’ve never seen anyone give the innocent act as much as this guy. Honestly, if he punched you in the face, he’d follow it up by telling you that he’d never met you. We did learn in this series however, that he’s a necessary stiff. Our defense looked helpless during Game 5 without him clogging up the middle. This is likely because the one part of his game that is good is that he’s an excellent shot blocker.

Rajon Rondo: The starting point guard on this team is the guy Boston fans want to embrace and love but he’s just so damn frustrating. Rondo’s ball handling, passing and defense are amazing in large part because he has extraordinary quickness and freakishly long arms. This guy looks like Stretch Armstrong. The frustrating thing is that Rondo’s jump shot has not evolved and he looked terrified to shoot the ball throughout the playoffs. It got so bad that other teams weren't even covering him and he still wouldn’t shoot. This lost him crunch time minutes in the finals. That being said, the Celtics don’t win the championship without this guy and he’s going to be our point guard of the future. His development should be incredible too with Sam Cassell, and former point guards Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge all hanging around.

James Posey: I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, this guy wasn’t even a starter. Why isn’t he listed with the rest of the bench?” Well, that answer is simple: I LOVE me some James Posey!!! This guy was the 4th most important player on the Celtics throughout the playoffs. It got to the point where you just KNEW he was nailing any open three pointer he put up. But more important that that, James Posey is our defensive MVP. Don’t believe me? Call up Lebron, Kobe, Lamar Odom and Tayshaun Prince and see what they have to say. This guy took a pay cut to come here and play on this team. All season long Posey came off the bench as a defensive stopper. When we needed a big board or someone to dive on a loose ball, there was Posey chomping down on that mouth guard and getting on the ball. This is the guy who does all the little things. This is the guy that true Celtics fans adore and casual fans are apathetic about. Sox fans… this is your Timmy Knuckles. Pats fans… this is your Troy Brown. This week, the Celtics should end their victory parade by sitting James Posey down in Government Center, stand the Big 3 right behind him and have him sign a contract in front of millions of screaming fans.

Ray Allen: With apologies to the Basketball Jesus, has there ever been a player with a prettier stroke from 3 point land than Ray-Ray? Watching him shoot a basketball is like watching JD Drew swing a bat. Even when they miss its still the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. For all you overbearing parents out there, if you want to force your child into basketball, make them sit and watch video of this guy shoot. Trust me, they’ll thank you later… once they get over that “I hate you” stage.

Kevin Garnett: I honestly don’t think I can say enough about this guy. He has single handedly made me a die-hard Celtics fan again. This guy is the most intense athlete I have ever seen. Imagine Papelbon only if he started screaming and head-butting V-tek during a mound visit. Imagine Youk only if before every game he was shown on camera yelling and throwing baby powder into Jerry Remy’s face. I genuinely think there have been times this year that some of the Celtics players were terrified of this guy. Imagine how much he must scare the OTHER team! This guy is a bull and anyone not wearing green might as well be waving red capes at him (and we know how that generally ends up). This guy has passion to spare and plays the game with enough emotion that you get the feeling that his teammates are willing to play hard just so they don’t let him down. Watching this video makes me feel like I could run through a brick wall if KG asked me to. KG is the hardest worker on his team. How many superstars can you say that about? If Doc Rivers and super assistant Tom Thibodeau mixed the defense cool-aid then it was Garnett who filled the glasses, handed it out and told teammates to drink it or else. Finally, he has embraced the history and tradition of the Celtics which has made for a lot of amazing moments like this.

Paul Pierce: Nobody had a better playoff than Paul Pierce. This guy put his ego aside all season, welcomed all the newcomers with open arms and then secured his place in Celtics lore. This guy has worked and worked for so many terrible Celtics teams that you got the feeling he would literally have to die on the court before he’d allow his team to lose. This guy wasn’t out for stats, he has those. All he cared about was winning this title and he earned it. Pierce lived up to his nickname: The Truth. He had more than his share of “hop on my back and I’ll carry you” moments and by the end of the playoffs it was clear who the Finals MVP should be. Paul Pierce has now permanently taken up a place in the hearts of every Celtics fan along side all the other greats.

In a lot of ways, this very special Celtics team was overshadowed by negatives. The NBA officiating scandal and the bone-headed way David Stern has handled it along with the late start times made the finals extremely difficult to watch. Parents were forced to choose between putting the kids to bed or allowing them to stay up and watch history, decide between the health of their children or helping them to experience the rebirth of a great rivalry. I myself was routinely going to work on less than 4 hours of sleep because these were games that I refused to miss. Honestly, given the opportunity I would go back and do it all over again. These were fun games to watch and for the first time in years I can honestly say, I can’t wait for next season!