LONGSHOTS: Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
by Dave Long
Iím sitting there Sunday morning still stewing about what happened in Atlanta on Friday night and it occurs to me that if the Celtics lost later in the day, after waiting about 20 years to write about them in the NBA playoffs it might be over before I could.
Fortunately they didnít let that happen in the most ho-hum Game Seven Iíve ever seen, so they lived another day to face King LeBron and his Cavaliers, where Game One will be over by the time you see this. But since who knows what will happen after the way the Cís played on the road, I better get a lot of thoughts about the playoffs out of the way today rather than write the epic column on one topic and risk not being able to blurt out the rest before it ends. So here goes.
I knew the Celtics were in trouble when Dan Shaughnessy said the Hawks had zero chance of winning. And while he (barely) got it right this time, when predicting, he makes Pete Sheppard look like Nostradamus, whose Lock of the Day was yanked off WEEI because his percentage of being correct on calling ďlocksĒ was below the Mendoza line.
I can take losing incidentally better than most. For me itís how you do it. Iím fine if it happens when a team gives 100 percent while playing with grit and you just lose as the Patriots did in the Super Bowl. But in Atlanta, it was like the youngíns were bullies on the playground after the Celticsí lunch money and the veteran team just handed it over without much of a fight. I didnít like that.
Also I get how they got the name, but to me the real Big Three of this Celtics team is Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Rondo is more indispensable than the esteemed Ray Allen. Especially with Sam Cassell looking like the Eric Gagne of the basketball season through most of the series.
But Iíll say this about Ray: Iíve pretty much spent the year thinking he was mid-way through the back nine, but I checked his numbers recently. All except points per game and shots taken compare favorably with vintage Ray. The points are down in deference to those around him, so he took nine shots a game less than a year ago in Seattle. A drop like that for a shooter is a very big adjustment.
Have I mentioned this before? I love Leon Powe. Tough as nails.
Hereís the cautionary tale for those willing to throw Jacoby Ellsbury into that Johann Santana deal ó Joe Johnson. The Cís gave him up for Rodney Rogers in a late playoff season push in part because then coach Jimmy OíBrien had buried him. Now Rogers and OíBrien are long gone and Johnson toasted them in Atlanta. In trades like that, itís not just the guy youíre getting, but youíve got to know who should be untouchable.
Hereís one more ďIím so oldĒ from last week. Iím so old I remember paying $4 at the box office for a ticket 15 minutes before the start of the cataclysmic Game Seven in 1974 between the Celtics and the Knicks at the Garden. Thatís Boston, not Madison. Which is more startling, that an NBA ticket ever cost a mere four bucks or being able to buy tickets for Game Seven with any New York team on game day?
You donít suppose the suspension of Darius Songaila for Game Six in the Washington-Cleveland series after a rough encounter with LeBron James had anything to do with insuring that the NBAís major TV drawing card advanced in the playoffs, do you? I know I sound like Oliver Stone, but if it didnít, why didnít Jason Kidd get bounced for a much worse hit in the Dallas-New Orleans series?
Speaking of that, Marvin Williams was trying to hold Rondo up when he did to Rajon on Sunday what Kevin McHale did to Kurt Rambis below the Pete Tarrier line in Game Four of the 1984 finals with the Lakers.
From the ďWith Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?Ē department comes the story of the Papa Johnís Pizza chain making up T-shirts with LeBronís number 23 on it just below ďCrybaby.Ē What do you think would happen to business for a local one like those in the Dick Anagnost empire if they did one with Tom Bradyís number 12 on it? Iím guessing the buzzword would be boycott. Unless the late John Belushi were there ó then it would be FOOD FIGHT!
Hereís Mondayís headline on the sports page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cavaliers Praise Celtics, Dismiss Mystique.
And hereís the first entry in the blog under the story from a yahoo called bluebengal: ďWhere did this mystic CRAP come from. The last time we met the Celtics in the playoffs the Cavaliers we put them OUT of the playoffs and ended Larry Birdís great career!! They are more worried about us then we are about them. RELAX and play ball Cleveland. Nothing to lose (weíre the underdog here) and everything to gain!!Ē
Now I know what Barack Obama was talking about at that fundraiser in San Francisco.
Excuse me for going below the Pete Tarrier Line (though when weíre talking about the Celtics and the playoffs itís hard not to), but while his supporting cast is better than Michael Jordan had with the Bulls in 1986, this series brings to mind that one, where the team seems to be taking on one guy. In 1986 it was Jordan against the Big Three, along with DJ, Bill Walton and Danny Ainge. He had 49 in Game One. Danny held him to 63 in the Game Two double overtime Celtics win and in Game Three every one of those previously mentioned guys covered him at the same time and dared any other Bull to beat them, which they couldnít as the Celtics won the series and held MJ to 20.
In case youíre interested: Michael didnít take one three-point shot that day. He was 22 for 41 from the field and 19 for 21 from the line. And if youíre into the steroids conspiracy, when you check it out on YouTube as I did, tell me skinny, skinny 22-year-old Michael looks much different than Barry Bonds did while playing for the Pirates.
Iím getting ahead of myself I know, but if I get one sports wish for the year from the tooth fairy, I want it to be getting Kobe and the Lakers in the finals.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.