That doesn't mean Boston is totally free from the Finals discussion.
Nope — the C's are still rife with interesting storylines this week, especially right now as the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks prepare to do battle in Game 1 of the Finals on Tuesday night. What have we learned about the C's this spring? How can we reflect on this past year? And what does it all mean for the future.
Here are seven thoughts on a C's team that will watch this year's Finals from their own living rooms.
1. Here's what's at stake for the Celtics in these Finals — they're holding on for dear life to the title of "great NBA success story of the century." The C's won only 24 games in 2007, then turned around the following year and won 66 and a championship. Miami's turnaround hasn't been quite that striking, but the story is better because the superstar big three are all in their primes and ready to win multiple titles. If the Heat begin a basketball dynasty in 2011, will America forget the 2008 Celtics?
2. To that end, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck has already come out and said he wants the Heat "to lose so badly" — but he insists that it isn't out of any schadenfreude toward LeBron James and his teammates. Instead, he says he's rooting for Mavs owner Mark Cuban. "I love the guy," Grousbeck said on WEEI last week. "He’s just a good guy. He genuinely roots for us against other teams. He is a Celtics fan when he's not a Mavs fan. And we're going to return the favor."
3. There are two former Celtics in these NBA Finals. One of them is Eddie House, who played almost three seasons in Boston before being traded to the Knicks last season. The other? Trick question — it's Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who played three seasons for the C's in between 1984 and '87. His best year was probably the 1985-86 championship year, when he played 77 games off the bench and averaged 2.6 points per contest, shooting 48.7 percent. Hey, it's not much, but he's doing a hell of a lot better as a coach.
4. As I see it, there are two possible ways that these Finals could affect the Celtics' personnel for next season. No. 1: If the Heat get nothing out of their old, slow, offensively inept big men, then maybe they decide to throw a bunch of money this summer at Glen Davis, who's a free agent. No. 2: If Brendan Haywood outplays Tyson Chandler in these Finals, then maybe Chandler and the Mavs part ways. He'd look really good as the long-term replacement for Kendrick Perkins on the Celtics.
5. Here's the only good thing, from Boston's perspective, about the Heat winning the Eastern Conference finals. It makes the Celtics the only team in the NBA to go all year, regular season and playoffs included, without a single three-game losing streak. The last two teams standing in that race were Boston and Chicago, and the Bulls bit the dust by losing four straight against the Heat in Games 2 through 5. (Impressive that the Celtics managed to lose a five-game series without dropping three straight. They had to go two losses, win, two losses to pull it off, and they did exactly that.)
6. Rajon Rondo has gotten a lot of criticism for not developing his all-around game, most notably adding a jump shot, to help the Celtics win another championship. But according to Rondo's former teammate (and still current best friend), Russell Westbrook has it even worse.
Here's Kendrick Perkins on ESPN last week: "Russell's [been treated] worse than Rondo. Rondo's lasted a little bit, but Russell lasted for the whole playoffs, no matter if he played good or bad, he was getting criticized about something."
Sounds like Perk has quickly become a team player in Oklahoma City. Also: Perk's right. Westbrook has faced an incredible amount of scrutiny this spring, even after stellar performances. He's got it rough.
7. We'll wrap up with one little note that has very little to do with the playoffs: The Lakers' hiring last week of Mike Brown as their next head coach has sent ripples through the NBA. The coaching puzzle will likely fall into place now with Kevin McHale landing in Houston and Frank Vogel remaining in charge in Indiana. As for the last opening — Golden State — the current favorite is probably a Celtic. Don't be surprised if Lawrence Frank flees Boston very, very soon.
Times are changing, for the Celtics and for the NBA as a whole.
Let's enjoy these Finals, even without a green jersey in sight. It should be quite the series.
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