Dan Shaughnessy has an overly pessimistic article on the Celtics today:
In the cold, dry, colorless Celtic winter of 2003-04, we speak of the golden days of 2002 as if they were part of the Bird-Parish-McHale era. The mere sight of [Indiana's Kenny] Anderson practically kindles memories of Sam Jones and Frank Ramsey.
The Celtics of 2002 are all gone except for Paul Pierce, Walter McCarty, and Mark Blount. That's right. In the name of progress -- moving back so you can move forward -- the Celtics have been blown up since they came within two wins of making it to the NBA Finals.
Now a visitor, Anderson went across the hall to commiserate with Pierce before last night's game...
They are a sub-.500 team treading water in the great middle of the NBA's deep sea of mediocrity. They are a unit too dependent on one scorer, too often willing to stand and watch Pierce perform. The second-half rebounding last night was pathetic (Indiana had a 12-2 edge on the offensive glass after intermission and took 20 more shots than the Celtics). Players are still getting to know one another, and O'Brien is figuring out a way to integrate Davis into the program...
Like it or not, living in the present is the only way to go. Antoine Walker is not walking through that door, folks. Eric Williams, Tony Battie, and Kenny Anderson are not walking through that door.
No more talk of missing persons. No more talking about 2002 like it was a banner year. These are your Boston Celtics. Get used to nights like last night.
Geez, talk about overstating the importance of one loss. Fine, not re-signing Rogers was a bad move, but now we've got new ownership and Ainge making personnel moves. The team with Walker, Battie, Williams et al wasn't going back to the Conference Finals. Shaughnessy admits the Celtics are still putting the pieces together after a trade, so why end the column "Get used to nights like last night"? Isn't there the chance the players will become more comfortable over time and O'Brien will find the right combinations to put on the floor--perhaps like what happened after the Walker trade and the team, following a struggle the first month of the season, went on a five-game winning streak?
Shaughnessy's pessimism schtick is tired (especially with regard to his bogus "curse" load of crap about the Red Sox). As I've written before, we need to have a little bit of patience while the team gets itself together. But there's definitely talent here, which means there could be playoff success in the future for them. And by the way, what would happen if the season ended today, Dan? The Celtics would be the East's seventh seed, hardly a disaster.
I admit, last night's game was bad, especially considering the Celtics went from leading by 15 in the second quarter to trailing by 19 with a few minutes remaining. The offense bogged down when they kept trying to get the ball to Pierce way out high with Artest hounding him. Boston actually shot over 50 percent on the night but took 20 fewer shots than Indiana. Being outrebounded by a 47-34 margin doesn't help. (box score
Artest was the star of the game, finished with five steals to go with his 28 points, and he even pulled down Pierce's shorts on one play. The refs didn't see, Pierce hiked up his pants quickly, ran off a screen, and nailed a three in Artest's face. Expect to see the clip of Artest pantsing Pierce over and over on highlight and blooper reels. Even though this one was kinda funny, it also shows how Artest continues to be a thug of a player who thrives on intimidation. It's unfortunate, in a way, because Artest is so skilled he really doesn't need to pull that crap. His hands are amazingly quick reaching in for steals.
Jermaine O'Neal also continues to be someone no one on Boston has a chance of guarding. He had about the quietest 21-13 possible. Reggie Miller sucked for three quarters but then finally drained a few threes in the fourth quarter. People are going a little overboard by saying it was "shades of the old Reggie" though, since he was 4-12 on threes for the game, which is nothing special. If you take 12 threes, you'll probably score a decent amount.
We saw some good intensity from Mihm and Davis, I thought, who are hopefully getting more accustomed to being in Boston. Mike James had another strong start offensively that he couldn't maintain, as did Jiri Welsch, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half. The big problem remains Vin Baker, who had another weak outing with six points and one rebound. Remember when he scored 20 a few times early this year? I fear he's hit a wall in the comeback.
Tonight the Celtics have a back-to-back in Chicago. Fortunately Pierce only played 29 minutes last night, a season low, which means he could be fresh tonight. See Bulls Blog
for more on Chicago, a team that's been hard hit by injuries but still managed to beat the Celtics at the Fleet in November.