Rebuilding a franchise is the most difficult and stressful aspect of being a general manager. If a GM does it wrong, it could take a decade to recover from previous screw ups. In order to rebuild a team back to being competitive, management must draft well and make the appropriate financial moves. Sometimes that means trading away old players and stocking your team with some ‘young guns’. In today’s world some franchises purposely tank to receive a high draft pick in order to select that “franchise player” who then is expected to build your team to greatness.
However for the Boston Celtics it only took one trade for them to become the doormat in the NBA to one of the best in the NBA. On a late July day, Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge shocked the basketball world when he pulled off possibly the biggest trade in NBA history. The Celtics traded for future hall of famer Kevin Garnett and one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the game, Ray Allen.
The media had a field day on this as most were predicting this Celtics team to be one of the greatest teams ever. With all star Paul Pierce already on the roster added with Garnett and Allen, the Celtics were dubbed as ‘loaded’ and ‘stacked’. They had three potential hall of famers, all in their primes playing on the same team. It would be a tremendous disappointment if the Celtics don’t make the NBA Finals, especially in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics were nicknamed “The Big Three” before the season even started. To give them a name like that already shows that this team was expected to do something incredible this year.
Just like they were expected to, they came out of the 2007/2008 NBA season like gangbusters, winning 20 of their first 22 games. The dynamic trio were the main cause for the eruption early on. It was evident there were no chemistry issues between the three. The bond right away was tight and washed away all the questions such as “can they play together?” The hot streak continued throughout the rest of the season as the Celtics notched up the best regular season record in the NBA. They never went on a losing streak more than three games and even their one three game losing streak only occured once. Going into the playoffs the Celtics were as close as a lock to making it to the NBA Finals as you’ll ever see. The media hype for a ‘Laker/Celtics’ showdown was and still is flowing. The Celtics show though that not all games are played on paper…
It’s the Atlanta Hawks. The Atlanta Hawks team that has no experience in the playoffs, is extremely young and even had a losing record going into the playoffs. By everyone’s account (except for some Hawks fans), this series was going to be a walk in the park for the Celtics. No way would the Hawks even stand a chance against “The Big Three”. No way would this series go past four games, let alone five games meaning the Hawks would win at least one. The Celtics were expected to dispose the Hawks like no other. In fact, not only were they expected to beat the Hawks with ease, they were expected to do the same for the next round, until maybe the Eastern Conference Finals.
However the Celtics proved once again of that old sports cliche – “Games are not played on paper”. As the Celtics throttled the Hawks in the first two games as expected, they had to play and ‘finish up’ in Atlanta. Unfortunately for Boston, NBA fans found out that the Celtics couldn’t finish it up in Atlanta. Instead they lost both games three and four and a game six would be guaranteed. The Celtics would win game six after an easy victory over Atlanta in game five right? Once again, the Celtics can’t pull out a victory on the road. Once again, there would be another game guaranteed to be played which would be game seven in which the Celtics crushed the Hawks in. So in the end, the Boston Celtics, “The Big Three” had to suffer a seven game series, in what should’ve been a four game series.
“We have to play better under stress, there’s no doubt about it,” Celtics head
coach Doc Rivers said per Boston.com.
It’s understandable that maybe the Celtics would come out flat for a couple games. Garnett, Allen and Pierce all have playoff experience, but not together as a team. No one would be surprised to see the Celtics may be coming out a bit rusty on the road against Atlanta. But to have their own coach say “we have to play better under stress,” with the players that they have and the experience they’ve gained in the NBA is inexcusable. It’s especially inexcusable when you’re playing against the Atlanta Hawks. If the Celtics were to be playing, oh let’s say the Detroit Pistons and had some struggle under stress, then it’s understandable against a team like them. However, being required to play better under stress by your coach against a bunch of ‘kids’ that are the Atlanta Hawks when your team has three all stars and a good bench is a disgrace. If Rivers truly believes his team needs to play better against the Hawks, he’s in for a world of trouble if the Celtics do move on to play the Pistons and, or the Western Conference winner.
After the Atlanta series, most expected the Celtics to come out fuming against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which they did. They beat down the Cavs in both games one and two, just like they did against Atlanta. Just like the Atlanta series though, the Celtics were deaf-ted by the Cavaliers, twice on the road. The Celtics ‘witnessed’ what LeBron James can do to a team that’s not confident, which on the road the Celtics aren’t. It’s clear that the Celtics aren’t confident in themselves when they play in opposing teams arenas. Even Garnett is showing lack of confidence after James dunked on him. So far the Celtics are 7-0 at home but 0-5 on the road. Not a good omen for a team that has been ‘poised’ to win the NBA Finals all year long.
It’s been said before on recent sports talk shows that the Celtics don’t ever need to win a road game in the playoffs because they dominate at home. They’re right, the Celtics do dominate at home, everyone has seen the destruction they do to teams in the Boston Garden. However do the Celtics really want to depend on winning all their home games? Especially against a team like the Detroit Pistons or in the NBA Finals against possibly the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s not going to work against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. They have the ability to beat the Celtics at home. With the Celtics incredible road woes, it could only take one win for the other team at Boston for the Celtics to lose a series. Now that’s obviously easier said than done as Boston has been tremendous at home. But with a team of that caliber, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce is unacceptable. Championship teams have to grind out the tough road wins, no matter the opponent, especially when those opponents have been the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s unknown whether or not the Celtics will move on to the NBA Finals. Some people are doubting it and even if they do make it all the way, who’s to say they’ll be able to just keep winning at home? Even with the tandem of Garnett, Allen and Pierce, it’d be hard to win all four games at home against Bryant and the Lakers. The Celtics main goal this year was to win a championship and right now, they still are the favorites. However if they keep sliding the way they are on the road, it’ll end up costing them in the near future and they’ll be labeled as the biggest ‘paper champions’ we will have ever seen.