This past week has seen C's records being broken, players and coaches making headlines off the court, and endless speculation about the future of the franchise. It's an uncertain time, as a dynasty starts to crumble in Boston and a lockout threatens to steal away a pivotal season in franchise history. There's a lot to talk about.
Postseason play is a thing of the past for the Celtics, but the enthusiasm for this team is still at a playoff level. That's not changing anytime soon.
Here are seven thoughts on the C's and where they stand at this critical, but confusing juncture.
1. In perhaps the most impressive single-game performance of the postseason to date, Dirk Nowitzki torched the Thunder in Game 1 for 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting, fueling a shootout Mavs win last Tuesday. Impressive feat, but devastating back in Boston — Dirk made all 24 of his attempts from the free-throw line that night, breaking Paul Pierce's all-time record for most free throws made without a miss in a playoff game. Pierce went 21-for-21 from the line in Game 1 against the Pacers on April 19, 2003. Oh, well. As they say, records were made to be broken.
2. Another interesting note on Dirk's explosion in Game 1? It reminded the Thunder that maybe, just maybe, they might be missing Jeff Green a little bit. The storyline has been raging on in Boston all spring that the C's are weaker without Kendrick Perkins; rarely have we heard pundits in OKC say the same about Green. But a little of that talk began to creep up in light of Dirk's big game — Green is long, he's athletic, and he's exactly the kind of guy you need against Dirk's presence. Then again, Dirk has averaged 28.2 points per game in his career against Green, and that includes the game back in December when he played only 11 minutes due to injury. Maybe the Green speculation is all talk.
3. Doc Rivers had a minor operation last week to remove a non-cancerous growth from his throat. Rivers has a way of catching these things early — he has a rigorous routine of having his throat and vocal chords regularly checked for any signs of damage. He's said in the past that Jim O'Brien, his predecessor in Boston, recommended it. "I'm glad I did it," Rivers remarked back in October. "I think most coaches should, because we yell and use our throats a lot. That makes you more susceptible."
4. On the bright side, Doc can sleep easy knowing he can afford the throat surgeries. In fact, he can probably afford thousands of them. According to a recent study by Forbes, the Celtics' leader has become the highest-paid coach in the NBA thanks to his new contract and the retirement of Phil Jackson. Doc leads the NBA at $7 million per season, while just up the road in Foxboro, Bill Belichick is raking in more cash than any coach in American sports, estimated at $7.5 million. (Terry Francona's paychecks aren't too lean, either. He's making $4 million in 2011 and has club options the next two seasons for even more.)
5. Here's one of the weirder Celtics-related stories you'll ever come across — in Holdenville, Okla., there's a prison inmate whose fanatical love of the C's has taken three years off his life. Eric Torpy, who was convicted of armed robbery and shooting with intent to kill in 2005, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Instead, he asked for 33, saying he wanted his sentence to match Larry Bird's uniform number. Six years later, he says he regrets his decision. "That three is a big deal, you know?" he told the Boston Globe. "Three years matters." You think?
6. Catastrophic news for Celtics fans worrying about the team's ever-increasing age — Kevin Garnett turned 35 years old on Thursday, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Allen as the third current Celtic to hit that fateful age barrier. KG looked like an almost-35-year-old this spring, losing a step defensively and hesitating to bang down low on the offensive end, but it would be premature to announce a death sentence for his career just yet. Just bear in mind: Michael Jordan won a Finals MVP at 35, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won one at 38, and Wilt Chamberlain shot 72.7 percent and grabbed 22.9 rebounds per game in his final season at 36. There's hope for KG yet.
7. As the young Bulls and Thunder tear it up in the conference finals while the aging Celtics watch on TV, there's been a lot of hysteria around Celtic circles the last couple of weeks. People are abuzz about big changes — Ray Allen opting out, Paul Pierce being yanked from the starting lineup, even KG retiring. My advice to everyone preaching these doomsday scenarios: Just relax a little bit. The Celtics are on the decline, yes, but their run as an elite Eastern Conference team isn't over yet. The game plan for 2011-12 shouldn't see any dramatic changes — Doc and Danny Ainge are going to run it back again next fall, and they're going to make one more push to win a championship. In the words of KG, they've got pocket kings and they're going all in.