BOSTON (CBS) — I’ve spent a lot of my adult life describing myself as “a lifelong holder of minority opinion.” And basically, that’s because it’s true.
Not surprisingly for me, it’s an Aaron Sorkin ripoff (West Wing Season 4, Episode 6). But it’s come in handy when I’ve gone against the grain in public, as I seem to with dizzying frequency. But thinking about it recently, I’ve sort of come to the realization that it’s not the popular opinion that I usually find myself rejecting, it’s the easy opinion.
“Trade Rondo.” “Blow it up.” “Tank.” “The College Football playoff is a joke.”
(Most predictable thing, in like the history of predictable things… after clamoring for a playoff for the better part of a century, fans would go nuts once we actually had one. Spoiler alert: When it goes to 8 –and it will go to 8 — there will be a 9th team, and so on.)
Anyway, majority opinion tends to be easy opinion, which I suppose makes sense. And on that lit, in Boston and in a lot of places, is another. That Carmelo Anthony is not someone you want on your team, that he’ll never win, and so on. So, let me just add this one to my list.
I’m a Carmelo Anthony fan.
So, yeah, I said it. And what better night to say it, when the 4-20 Knicks roll in to town, stories of locker room descention, that Melo challenged Tim Hardaway to fight, that Melo is willing to waive his no-trade clause, unless he’s not, depending on which hour of Friday it is.
And I get why you may not be a fan. I’ve seen it all in his 11+ years in the league. I get, for example, why George Karl isn’t. The same reason he probably wasn’t a Paul Pierce fan once upon a time.
And that, to me, has always been the comparison.
Paul Pierce returned to Boston on Sunday, without question, one of the most popular athletes in modern Boston history. We may be a the point where we don’t need “modern” in that sentence. The night No. 34 goes to the rafters will be a stand-alone, Larry Bird-night kind of deal. KG and Doc and Ray will be there making jokes. They’ll be trending on Twitter before that night is over. I wrote before the game about his legacy, his stats and most of all, his smile.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Just ask George Karl. Because two years before he would become 20-year old Carmelo’s coach, he had the basketball train wreck that was the 2002 US World championship team. A team whose off-the-court issues, turned into on-the-court failures, the poster child of which was a young player called selfish, moody and with whom it was impossible to win.
So yeah, that player was Paul Pierce.
You know the rest of the story, it happened in front of your eyes, and in front of my seat in the courtside days at the Garden. Doc Rivers arrives, they clash, Paul turned the corner in 2005 and has one of the best seasons of his career, becoming the ultimate team player, setting the stage for the arrival of his basket ball soul mates in 2007 and the return to NBA glory that was the birth right of the Boston Celtics.
I’ve been using that Paul Pierce path for Carmelo for a few years now, and so far, I can’t say he’s exactly walked it. But I also can’t say he’s had a coach like Doc, and I certainly can’t say he’s been given anything resembling a supporting cast.
I was looked at with two heads, or whatever the 2014 equivalent of that expression is, when last spring I went (wait for it…) minority opinion and said if given the choice between Carmelo and Kevin Love, that it wasn’t close. I’m a Paul Heyman Guy. I’m a Cedric Maxwell Guy.
And I’m a Melo Guy.
I have colleagues in our Celtics broadcast fraternity who could not disagree more. I get it. I also get that some of them didn’t want to draft Marcus Smart, and that one of them said he’d quit of the Celtics traded Al Jefferson away for that Kevin Garnett guy. So, yeah, another reason I’ve been more than comfortable ensconced in my blanket of unpopular, complicated and minority opinion.
(Another of which by the way is that long-term, I think not only will the Knicks be OK, but that the league will benefit and be stronger when that happens. I’m just not sure it will happen fast enough to allow Carmelo walk that Pierce route.)
This is not a trade rumor or anything to drive page views and mouse clicks. It’s just a simple fact. If Carmelo played the second half of his career in Boston, if he became the next Celtics superstar, the post-New Big Three cornerstone? He’d have his number hanging at the Garden one day, right next to Paul’s. He’s that good. And I believe (minority opinion alert), he’s ready to win.
But as it is, if nothing changes, and he spends the prime years of his career while Phil Jackson is just embarking on a five-year plan?
We may never find out.
(Yes, we have a new name for this segment. My friend J.P. came up with it, so blame him. It just felt a little more current to me. And now that I’ve spent almost 24-hours in what statistically would be considered my mid-40’s, I’m all for staying current.)
** Monday night’s double-OT loss in Washington was one of those nights. One of those “remember the night that…” kind of games. Spectacular on so many levels.
The game not only featured a Paul Pierce tying-three to send the game to a second overtime, after all the hall of fame players he passed on the scoring list playing with the Celtics, we got to see one more…
But the story was John Wall, and his day of loss… and eventually victory.
Some John Wall notes from the week that will make you cry in a different way: In Brad Stevens’ first 100 games as Celtics coach, only two players (Brandon Kennings, Kendall Marshall) recorded 14 assists against the Celtics. John Wall did it twice in 31 hours, and he became just the second man to drop 17 assists against the Celtics in the last 14 years.
TOP ASSISTS GAMES VS. BOSTON – SINCE 2001
19 – KIDD @ NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 1, 2001
17 – KIDD @ NEW JERSEY – APRIL 9, 2005
17 – KIDD VS. DALLAS – JANUARY 18, 2010
17 – WALL @ WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 8, 2014**
The 132 points are the most for the Celtics in the regular season since the night Ricky Davis, playing for Doc Rivers, went nuts against the team Doc now coaches when the Celtics beat the Clippers at Staples in December of 2006. Playoff wise, yeah, there was a certain Game 6 of the Finals in 2008 where they did it as well.
And entering Monday, the Celtics were the worst 4th quarter team in the NBA (-5.3ppg). They outscored the Wizards by 16 in the 4th to force the OT.
** Wednesday night’s 9-point loss in Charlotte was, believe it or not, the Celtics’ worst loss to an Eastern Conference team this year. In fact, when you look at the disparity, it’s pretty remarkable. Before Monday, the Celtics had played ten games against the East, and not only were 6-4, they hadn’t trialed by double-digits in any of the ten games. Against the West? Well, until the Lakers stumbled into town last Friday, the Celtics had played seven games against the West, lost all seven and trailed by double-digits in, wait for it, all seven.
2014-15 Boston Celtics
W-L — MARGIN — DOWN 10+
VS. EAST: 6-6 — +2.1 — 2
VS. WEST: 1-7 — -8.3 — 7
The Celtics, starting tonight, play seven of the next eight against the East, the one non-confernce game, against the last place Timberwolves at the Garden next Friday.
** Wednesday was the first game for the Celtics in Charlotte since the franchise changed their name back to the Hornets. If you don’t’ remember the last time the Celtics faced the “Hornets” in Charlotte…well, it was a busy day in New England.
Sean Grande has been calling Boston Celtics games since 2001. Hear his call of the games alongside Cedric Maxwell on 98.5 The Sports Hub starting 30 minutes prior to tipoff! Click here for a list of affiliates on the Celtics Radio Network.
MORE CELTICS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON
[display-posts category=”celtics” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4?”]