Sunday, April 10, 2011
I could have saved this article for after the upcoming season-ending game 6 loss to Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals, but why bother waiting when it's obvious what's happening with the Boston Celtics right now. Let's hop in the Hot Tub, the DeLorean, the TARDIS, or whatever your time machine of choice may be, and let's travel back to 1988....
The 1987-88 Boston Celtics were a year removed from a hard-fought NBA Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and more importantly, another year older. The Big Three of Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish were about halfway through the back nine of their time together, but they finished the regular season 57-25, far ahead of the Washington Bullets, the second place team in the Atlantic with a 38-44 record. The Celtics basically won the division by default. (sound familiar?)
In the first round they dispatched the Knicks, and then had to survive Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks in the second round in an extremely taxing seven game series. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the aging Celtics had nothing left in the tank, and the hungry Detroit Pistons avenged their playoff loss from the previous season, winning in six games. The Celtics would not make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals again until 2002.
The comparisons to the 2010-11 Celtics are STAGGERING. The player many are counting on to be the bridge between this generation of Celtics and the next generation (Rondo) has been inconsistent at best (Reggie Lewis wasn't ready for prime time in 87-88). A mid-season trade in 87-88 that brought Jim Paxson in was supposed to provide valuable offense off the bench, similar to the way the Jeff Green acquisition was supposed to benefit the 10-11 Celtics.
Neither was enough. Jerry Sichting, who was respected by fans and by those in the locker room, was traded for Paxson. Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, fan favorites and good locker room guys, were sent away for Green and Nenad Krstic.
Perhaps it's too early write the ending on this season, but after watching this Celtics team crap the bed on national TV against the Heat today, it's getting fairly obvious this team is nearing the end of it's resurgence that started with the Kevin Garnett trade. This year's version of the Bulls is a mirror image of that 87-88 Pistons team. Both play tough defense, both are led by their franchise point guards, and Bill Laimbeer's role is filled nicely by Joakim Noah.
Oh, and the defending champ in both seasons? The Los Angeles Lakers.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go spend the rest of the night watching Larry Bird highlights and waxing poetic about the old days. Needless to say, I'm terrified to think this team is about to have another Dino Radja-era approaching.