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Sports Then and Now

Boston Celtics Quest for Banner 18 Will Have to Wait

Posted on May 16, 2011 by Raj Prashad

Banner 18 or Bust?

Every Celtics fan must have gone through the 2010 summer slump, as we sat and watched the Lakers celebrate, then thought, “Next season is 18 or bust.”

Honestly, as a fan, was that fair of us or to the organization? Was it fair to think, “This team has to win a title, or this season will be a total failure.”

Most teams consider finishing the season .500, making the playoffs, getting to the second round, or making it to the Finals a success. In Boston, we have a championship atmosphere. This last decade has provided the greatest city on earth some breathtaking moments, but is it fair to think championship or bust on any given season?

I was one of those fans sitting there after game seven, saying “If Perk….If Rasheed….If If IF.” The offseason would prove difficult as many pieces, including Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were thought to be moving on. Then Danny Ainge made some incredible moves with such a restricted salary. Doc came back and Ray Allen re-signed. Then Paul Pierce made the ultimate sacrifice, he took less money to stay in Boston and allowed the management to do what they could. Ainge signed Jermaine O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson all for bargain deals. He got the legend of LA, Shaquille O’Neal, to sign for the minimum and put together a pretty solid bench. We were given hope. Hell, the motto for the regular season was, “It’s All About 18.”

The C’s put together a solid opening night against the Heat and looked like serious contenders, rattling off 14-straight wins early on. Needless to say this team looked phenomenal, then injuries happened, most notably Shaq, Jermaine, and Marquis. The Celtics got a good look at their entire team in this brief period of time. Ainge had to make a move. He knew this team would need an on-ball defender when the playoffs rolled around. Someone that could stop the likes of Lebron James and possibly Kobe Bryant was something this team needed. Ainge thought a three year, 9.5 million dollar deal was too much to match for Tony Allen, and Marquis Daniels was brought back to fill that void behind Paul Pierce. Daniels frightening spinal cord injury forced Ainge’s hand.

The mastermind behind the Big 3 made a desperate move and traded Perkins and Robinson for Jeff Green and the offensive minded Nenad Krstic. Green was a bigger body than Allen, but had the same defensive tendencies. Young bodies such as Luke Harangody and Semih Erden, a legit 7-footer, were moved to stock draft picks, as well as the injured Marquis Daniels, who was moved to Sacramento. Then the C’s brought in Carlos Arroyo, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic to bolster their bench. They did everything they could to make this team a contender, but it just wasn’t enough.

Other teams made huge moves during the offseason. Chicago stole away the Celtics defensive mastermind, Tom Thibodeau, as well as bringing in quality players such as Carlos Boozer. Miami completed the biggest signing in NBA history by bringing in three of the top players in the NBA through free agency. New York signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a 100 million dollar deal, then traded for superstar Carmelo Anthony. Ainge did everything he could to match the youth and talent the Eastern Conference put together with the limited money he had to spend.

The silver lining is bringing back the Boston Big 4

In the end, we had every reason to expect this Boston team to put together a title. After all the pieces fell in Miami, Chicago, and New York, it was hard to put in perspective just how hard it would be to replicate last season’s success. Maybe we discounted really how good Dwayne Wade and Lebron James can be, or how much Thibs meant to this Boston unit. Maybe we thought this team had the legs to finish the season with the No. 1 seed it held until the final months. Maybe we said Perkins and his knee were a game and 42 and a half minutes away from winning Banner 18. Regardless of what you or we thought, we didn’t have the complete understanding that things happen in a season that sometimes you don’t see coming. This is television, but it’s not scripted.

So to answer my own question, no it wasn’t fair to expect a title, but we have to be happy with what this team was able to do with everything riding against them. The C’s will be back next year, again with Doc, Rondo, Paul, Ray, and Kevin, and again we will expect Banner 18.

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