Celtics' Title Hopes Are Fading Fast
A very wise, elderly man once told me his interesting theory on getting old.
"When you are in your 60's, the doctors now can patch you up and make you almost good as new. It's when you get into your 70s, that's when the patches just start falling off. That's when you're in trouble.''
His theory reminds me now of the Boston Celtics and their hope for one more NBA title.
It's not happening. The patches are falling off.
The Celtics (27-11) still have the third best record in the NBA, but records are deceiving. Their fade has begun. The second half of this NBA season will only confirm what some suspected this summer.
Their window of opportunity already has closed.
Ray Allen, 34, Kevin Garnett, 33, Paul Pierce, 32, were marvelous when they won the championship in 2008. The league celebrated a wonderful accomplishment when they came together, put egos aside, and became the best team in the world.
We should have known it was one-and-done.
Losing six of their last 10 games isn't a fluke. It's a sign of things to come when you are patching up holes and springing more leaks this early in the season.
Garnett has missed nine of the first 38 games, still struggling with the surgically repaired right knee that submarined last season. Pierce has missed five games already, also with right knee issues. Allen, the oldest of the three, is likely next this season to start feeling the aging process and start missing games.
The Big Three all are among the top 42 scorers in league history. Garnett and Allen have scored more than 20,000 points. Pierce is nearing that mark. All three will be remembered among the greats in history. All three also are on the downside and time is catching up too fast.
They can talk all they want about saving themselves for the playoffs, but that's just code for wishful thinking. It's never a good sign when the best players are in street clothes at any time during a season. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol played 82 and 81 games, respectively, for the Lakers when they won the championship last season.
The Celtics will have trouble getting past the second round this spring. They were lifeless at home when they lost badly to Chicago Thursday night on national television. They already lost three times this season to the much younger and much more athletic Atlanta Hawks, exposing all kinds of holes. The Celtics are more than vulnerable.
Rasheed Wallace, 35, was supposed to be their coup of a free agent pick up this summer. He is out now with a sore left foot.
It's no fun being injured. It's even tougher when you're old and injured. You can't bounce back as well. The whole scene is just beginning to look like a flashback to 20 years ago, when the Celtics Bird-McHale-Parish-Johnson era was coming to a painful close.
Great players can hang on well into their 30s by using their experience to get by if they remain healthy. But those Celtics back then were battling through injuries every season, still good enough to stay close and win 50 games, but giving way to younger, more athletic champions.
That's what's happening now in Boston, everyone wishing they could all get healthy together for an extended period of time to build some continuity. Problem is, that's not happening. The Celtics are on pins and needles now every time Garnett winces. There is no switch for him to flick on and off. They don't have much time.
Point guard Rajon Rondo was a complimentary player in 2008, but he now is being asked to carry a load. And he is probably not talented enough to make it happen.
As the season progresses, it's likely that the Cavs will pull away and both the Magic, who also are struggling now, and the Hawks, will pass the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, which means no home court advantage beyond the first round.
The Celtics are a proud bunch with a great coach in Doc Rivers and they might have another strong run left later this season, but time will stop for no one. The patches are falling off.
And father time is about to pass by the Celtics.