BOSTON (CBS) – I would imagine most people are creatures of habit.
I mean, who doesn’t drive the same way to work, put things in the fridge the same way or sit in the same spot on the couch when Brady gets the ball down four at his own 20 with a minute to go?
But in this life, the NBA life, it’s far more manic.
I’ve sat in the same seat on the plane for 16 NBA seasons. I walk into the Garden the same way every night, you get the point. That’s how we do it, that’s how we keep sane. Finding routine where there usually is none.
So needless to say, this Celtics pre-season that’s drowned itself in change the way a 16-year old attacks his first bottle of cologne, has been a little jarring.
Probably for you too.
Especially when the coach looks like he’s not far removed from that first bottle.
Six years ago, the Celtics opened what would become their championship season, amidst unprecedented Boston success. The Patriots were in the middle of the NFL’s only 16-0 season (note to Mercury Morris…six years later, you’re still living a lie if you think the ’72 Dolphins wouldn’t have gotten rolled by the ’07 Pats), and the Red Sox had just won the World Series…again.
Tonight, with the Patriots 6-2, the Bruins 7-3 and the Sox, well, yeah, 3-2, the Celtics open a very different kind of season.
(More on the Sox, and the notion of repairing a sports-broken heart another time. But it was my true privilege to be one of their broadcasters this summer, and as if just calling major league baseball wasn’t enough, now this team I was with all year is nine innings from winning it all? Really? Boggles the mind…but I digress.)
Listen, I read the same websites you do…I see the same tweets…I’ve digested all the same picks.
No one seems to think there’s a reason to get excited about the Celtics.
Well, I’ll be in Toronto tonight, not at Fenway. So let me take a shot.
But before we look ahead, a look back at the very recent past. Not at the 2008 championship. Not at the 2010 Finals. More recent.
And yeah, I’ll be the one to say it. The last 2 1/2 years of what I innocently christened the “New Big Three Era” back in 2007? Yeah, don’t tell anyone, but they weren’t as productive on the court as our romantic memories years from now will have us remember.
CELTICS AT 7: 2013-14 Season Preview
I would quote a Billy Joel song from my childhood, that thing about the good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad it seems? But if I’ve learned anything from, well, my Dad or any of my broadcast colleagues here with the team, there’s no better way to sound painfully old.
Which, ironically, is exactly what the Celtics would have been the next two years without this summer of change.
So what exactly do I mean, not as productive as we’ll remember? Well, let me ask you this…over the last 2 ½ years…how good have the Celtics been? 60-win good? 55-win good? 50? Yeah…not so much.
Let’s look at two major milestones in the New Big Three Era to divide it into three. The Kevin Garnett injury in Utah in February of 2009, and the Kendrick Perkins trade in February of 2011. Take a look.
CELTICS NEW BIG 3 ERA (2007-2013)
Before Garnett Injury: 110-27 (.803) (66 win team)
After Garnett Injury: 109-55 (.665) (55 win team)
After Perkins trade: 95-79 (.546) (45 win team)
You don’t need a Drew Cannon degree in advanced metrics to know a downward trend when you see one. It was a three-year run that became six. It was a gift. It was everything we could have dreamed of six years ago and nothing we had a right to expect. And it all happened.
But it’s over. And really, was over the night LeBron James changed his legacy forever in Game 6 at the Garden. But that’s another blog for another time. So is the notion that the New Big Three Era was less successful than its namesake. (Spoiler alert: Apples and Oranges).
There’s no other way to spin it…it was time for a new start.
I don’t know when Banner 18 is coming. Neither does Danny. Neither does Brad. No one does.
But I know this. The pursuit begins tonight. And when that day does come, the day and the night another round of confetti comes raining down from the Garden rafters, and Adam Silver gives the trophy back, you can say you were there at that start.
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For Brad Stevens’ first NBA game…for Kelly Olynyk’s and Phil Pressey’s. You’ll be the one that can name tonight’s roster man for man. You’ll be the one that was there for the ups and downs of the coming winter. The night they upset the Heat, the surprise mid-season win steak, the night Jeff Green went for 46. All of the little things history will record but yet none of know right now.
Tonight, you can get in on the ground floor.
Nothing that happens the next six months can take away from the New Big Three Era. Nothing that happens will tarnish the franchise. It’s not an ending, it’s a brand new start.
So on a night the Red Sox stand one last step from championship immortality, the Celtics take their very first step.
No reason we can’t enjoy both.
Sean Grande has been calling Boston Celtics games since 2001. You can hear the 2013-14 Boston Celtics on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the new radio home of the Celtics!