Gordon Hayward went down, and I said “Maybe next year.” The Celtics then won 16 straight. I said rebounding, or lack thereof, would kill this team throughout the season. The C’s finished 9th in the league in that category. Kyrie Irving went down with a knee injury to end the season and I said “Forget it, they’re done. They don’t even stand a chance against a team like the Sixers.” Now, they’re up 2-0 on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and have shown zero sign of slowing down.
This team has been so energetic, inspiring, and fun to watch that they have slapped the fan right back into me. I mean (not to take Colbert’s two favorite words), how do you not love Marcus Morris screaming in Tristan Thompson’s face as he hits a contested layup through contact. And how do you not LOVE Marcus Smart cocking back to give it to J.R. Smith after that dirty S.O.B. shoved Al Horford in mid-air. Reading through this, you’ve got to be wondering: Dubs how the hell did you get to this point after all that doubt since day one? The answer to that is simple: spirit. That is the one element of this team that I never took into account when looking down the line for these Celtics.
As a sports fan you will forever hear the saying, “The best teams are those that are able to overcome great adversity.” At every turn this season, the Celtics have proven the ability to do that, and did it with spirit (that word again) and enthusiasm. So, when reflecting on where I went wrong it’s easy to pinpoint, but difficult to understand how I missed it. Guys like Jaylen Brown and “Scary” Terry Rozier have stepped up and played like worldbeaters for this team in the absence of superstars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Speaking of worldbeaters, how about boy wonder and rookie sensation Jayson Tatum? The more I watch this dude on the court the more I see a second coming of Paul Pierce. The way he plays the game with such grace and lack of paranoia as a rookie has people, like The Truth himself, hailing him as a “superstar in the making.” And let us not forget about Al Horford. The man we call “Big Al” has stepped up as the unquestioned leader of this team, both on and off the court. He has been the man the young players look towards in times of stress, and has been exactly what the Celtics need when a big play has to be made.
Let’s not even talk about the fact that Brad Stevens did not receive a single vote from his peers for Coach of the Year. The man has been fantastic from the days of Gerald Wallace and Jason Terry, to the dynasty he is beginning to build. Expect him to be around for awhile, geniuses like him don’t come around often. And yes, I was the one who doubted Stevens earlier on, much like I did with Marcus Smart, and both of them have stuck to the theme of proving me completely wrong. Sure, Smart may have shot 26% from the field this year (yeah, not great), but his knack for shutting down anyone on the court defensively and making clutch plays in the most crucial moments are qualities that one cannot attach a price tag to. I always talked about how I wanted Smart gone, and now I can’t imagine what this team would be without him in green next season.
Since 2008, the Celtics and their fanbase have had to deal with the unstoppable monster we call LeBron James. Whether that was with the help of Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, LeBron somehow always found a way to break our hearts. Heck, he was singlehandedly responsible for the TD Garden never getting to see Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce ever step on the floor together in a Celtics uniform again. So forgive me if you read my angry tweets and see that I’ve officially claimed this a “feel it out” series for the Celtics. After all, LeBron had a terrible Game 1 and everyone deemed that a “feel it out” game for the King, so why not proclaim the same for a team that has absolutely embarrassed Cleveland for every moment they’ve been on the court?
For my whole life I have uttered the words “next year”, as a Cowboys and Mets fan that is the motto that helps you get through the unbearable heartbreak and disappointment of each season, and I have kind of gotten used to being complacent and satisfied with saying it. But this is Boston. This is the City of Champions! The Celtics and their fans don’t take no for an answer, you kick us in the mouth and bloody us up and we respond “That’s all you got?” And for some reason I lost sight of that. So, as we all anxiously wait for Game 3 on Saturday, let’s not be afraid to look ahead and get excited. Sure, there are two games left to win, but these Celtics have shown something the Cavs have yet to demonstrate: a will to win. I could not be happier to be as wrong as I was, and even from New Jersey you bet this Celtics fan will be reppin’ the green and chanting “LET’S GO CELTICS” until the very end.
In the words of Jaylen Brown, “We don’t back down from anybody.” #CUsRise