There was a basket ball game and no fight broke out, not even mild resistance. It was so bad that Manny Pacquiao wants his autographed boxing gloves returned! It was so bad that France offered honorary citizenship to the Celtics' players. It was so bad that they are changing their name to the Puxatony Pfauxeltics--they retreat when they emerge from the dressing room onto the court and see their shadows.
After yet another errant shot the ball rolled from the midst of a group of Grizzlies toward Rajon Rondo. A Grizzly player followed, never quite catching up until the ball was literally at the feet of Rajon. The Griz retrieved it, Rondo never even having begun to bend over to pick up the rolling orb dangerously close to hitting his foot. Pierce's slashing drives have been reduced to lumbering forays where it is even money whether the ball is purloined along the way or blocked near the basket because he moves too slow and jumps to low to elude defenders. Perkins' pout has become his primary activity replacing positioning and contending for the ball. Garnett struggles gamely on, essentially playing on one leg in a parody of the man fighting with one hand tied behind his back. Ray Allen, most dependable (make that least undependable) of the Now-Mediocre Three, has a hot game every third or fourth outing rather than two out of three. None of the Aging Wonders (now looking more and more like the Wondering Aged) can keep a top-flight opponent from whizzing past them and mid-level ones are starting to look quicker and quicker.
The 2008 Champions were a serendipitous gelling. Last year was an aberration derailed by injury. This year is probably about what we should have expected as the three-year window slid closed. They are not as good as they once were. Unfortunately they are not as good once as they ever were. Father time steals a half step. Injury takes another step; and the injuries come more often and last longer. Big men tend to last longer (they don't get shorter) but KG's excellence was built on mobility. Playing on one leg is not a prescription for increased mobility. Swingmen flourish on athleticism. Ray and Paul have less and less and are the lesser for it. Last year, until the injuries, the progress of Rondo and Perk outweighed the decline in the Big Three. This year that is reversed.
Strange that Doc's post-massacre comments leaned toward the topic of change. Change what? There is no youthful talent to inject. There are no gifted second teamer's chomping at the bit to assume a starting role. Change the wheels on KG and Pierce? Oh but that it were so simple. Bring in Mr. Lazy to replace the flagging Perkins and energize the team? Can you say oxymoron? Start Quisey at swing? Daniels is a superb complementary player but an underachieving starting five needs more firepower not less. These are the two most likely candidates; the rest of the supporting cast consists of even-less-ready-for-prime-time players. Change the pace? Doc, Danny, and Pac all talk of running, and Tommy practically preaches it. Sweep the boards and make the quick outlet--oops, pathetic rebounding team. Push the ball up, Rondo, check. Fill the lanes with the hard-running gazelles--oops, flagging oldsters trying to conserve their wind. Well maybe Tony and Marquis as swing men but now the effective shooting range is about 14' and there isn't a fleet-athletic four unless you are talking about Scal (You weren't were you?).
Starting over? Well this summer half the team's contracts do expire. Unfortunately the other half are Perk, Rondo, and the Untradeables. If you were a real dreamer I suppose you could imagine that Garnett, Pierce, and Rasheed would recognize that their bodies (and careers) are done and forgo the $74M they will be paid over the next two years. Larry Bird did it and . . . well, nobody else that I can remember. Uh, is it good or bad news that the Celtics will draft 8-10 places higher than in the past couple of years. Will there be another pick sale this year like the last several? Will the owners be ready to buy considering that next year may well be a run-of-the-mill team well into the Luxury Cap? What's another 8-10 million for picks on top of $20M in luxury tax for a payroll of $80M. That's not deep pockets, that's a printing press.
How bad is it? Pretty bad! A call to the Celtics' ticket office now hits an automated menu: Press 1 for season tickets Press 2 for individual game tickets Press 3 to be transferred to the suicide hotline. [Discuss on CG Forums!]