Prisoners of the Moment. A dreaded consequence of being a sports fan solely with your heart. As a prisoner, you estimate a team’s success based on nightly results and change your opinion with the tide. The Lakers were not going to get to the playoffs prior to the All-Star Break sporting a three-game losing streak. The MVP was Amar’e Stoudemire and the Heat would finish eighth, if they were lucky.
When Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins there was a breath of remorse among this Celtics fan base. People automatically jumped to the conclusion that the team had been dismantled and would never have the chance they did with Perkins. The newly assembled Celtics went on to win five in a row, Nenad Krstic was the new double-double machine and it seemed as though this team was cohesive and efficient enough to figure things out before the race to the Finals. Wait, you don’t think they’ll make it out of the First Round?
I will admit, I have been panicked during this bad stretch in March. Where’s Jeff Green’s “explosive” offensive power? What happened to Krstic? He cowers with every miss instead of hustling like he was trying to stay away from the D-League. Hey, Troy! How’s that boot treating you? Same question Shaq and J.O. and Von and the list continues.
But, as a basketball fan, I can see with my eyes that the problem is not found in team statistics with or without a certain player. It isn’t because there is a defensive hole more than it is about veterans slumping offensively. It’s a mentality. The teams they have been losing to aren’t anyone they’ll be seeing come playoff time. The Clippers? Bobcats? Grizzlies? Pacers? (Okay, maybe they see the Pacers if they don’t get it together). Are you noticing a pattern? It’s an epidemic across the NBA at certain times of the year. Teams play down to their opponents, start the game without an aggressive attitude, find themselves in a hole and spend the last two quarters grinding it out. Ask the Heat and Lakers. They’ve had similar issues this year. Our veterans are tired, the bench is clueless and there is a lack of urgency, not talent.
This slump was going to happen with or without Perkins, point blank. Now, would Roy Hibbert have 26 points with Perkins or one of the O’Neals clogging up the paint? Probably not, but that defensive void in the middle is soon to be reconstructed starting tonight against the Spurs when Jermaine O’Neal will play somewhere around 10-13 minutes (if Doc is actually clock watching).
I’d be lying if I said I was absolutely secure with the team moving into the playoffs as-is, but I also would not be a basketball fan if I thought this was the end. Tonight is the perfect night to get the train back on the track. A short-handed Spurs team with the best record in the NBA is the antidote to ESPN brainwashing you to think the Celtics are done. Calm down, was that night in Madison Square not enough to make you believe that they will rise?
If you are schedule and standings watching, these are the games that still have some sort of significance:
April 7: At Chicago. The Celtics have the series right now having beaten the Bulls twice in the Garden. Shaq more than likely will not be available, which I have myself convinced is a good thing. Let the big man rest. If there’s one person I trust to just come in and understand the game, it is Shaquille O’Neal. I’m not sold on Derrick Rose. Yes, I said that. I think if you get him believing he is the only answer for the team to win, he will dig himself in a hole. I am much more frightened of the names Boozer and Deng. Those two are the real secrets to Chicago’s success. Winning this game may or may not move the Green into first place. We won’t know until we actually get to it, but it can only help the cause.
April 10: At Miami. The only thing that can make me care about the outcome of this game is whether it means anything in the standings. I don’t think having home court will matter versus Miami (look into their stands during the first quarter), but it will versus Chicago or the West. If they sweep the series, cool. If they don’t, avoid slipping to the three spot. That’s all, folks.
April 13: New York comes to the real Garden. Yet another possibility of a series sweep. I have a strange feeling this game will mean the Celtics can take over first place if they win it. The way Chicago, Miami and Boston’s schedules pan out during the last two weeks makes me believe that this last regular season game may be the biggest. Not because of New York, but because Chicago has tougher opponents (Orlando, New York) on the road as their last two games and it doesn’t matter who Miami is playing, when they have a chance to one-up the C’s, they like to go to the bathroom during introductions.
Enjoy the ride and quit reading headlines.