To say that our Boston Celtics have struggled coming out of the gate is an understatement – perhaps not of epic proportions, but an understatement nonetheless. There are challenging games and road trips in the weeks and months ahead, and head coach Doc Rivers is comfortable working out the kinks in the hope of peaking at the right time – playoff time.
I commend Doc for his patience, and I applaud him for not pushing the panic button. This team is good and is going to get better, provided everyone stays healthy and we get Avery Bradley back on time – not to mention another big man to fill the void for Darko Milicic.
Doc is clearly thinking big picture. But what about the bigger picture? The one in which a shifting NBA landscape has left the Celtics vulnerable to teams in warmer climates and teams with more to offer free agents beyond basketball.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]In the Western Conference you have the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston’s all-time nemesis and biggest rival. The Lakers have always had Hollywood and Southern California, and they have had the consistently better ownership and management from beginning to today.[/quote]
Before you lose it, understand what I’m saying. The Celtics went without a championship for 22 years, and throughout much of this time the team struggled through poor draft choices, bad ownership, and the unfortunate bad luck of losing one player (Len Bias) before he had a chance to help the C’s, and another (Reggie Lewis) who was just coming into his own when he died of a heart ailment.
The Lakers, by contrast, suffered a dip during the ’90s but rebounding quite well. Jerry West leaves and hands over the reins to a very capable replacement in Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers swindle the Orlando Magic out of Shaq, they land Kobe, they undress the Grizzlies to get Pau Gasol, and now we have the whole Dwight Howard thing. Dwight is a stud in his prime. The Lakers unload problem child Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play a game for the Philadelphia 76ers.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]And now we have the Miami Heat in the East, which looks to be a dynasty in the making. Everyone wants to play with LeBron. Everyone loves South Beach. It’s just a better atmosphere on January 19 than it is in bone-rattling New England. It just is.[/quote]
And then you have teams like the Knicks and the Nets, big market teams who will one day get their respective acts together and become legit title contenders.
So, where does this leave our Celtics? It leaves us on the outside looking in, if you are looking big, big picture. One more title and the Lakers have exactly the same number of championships as our Celtics. Two more, and we’re suddenly looking up at the Lakers, and no longer able to brag about being the team with the most rings.
I hate to admit it, but our Celtics suddenly have the feel of dial-up Internet access – old, slow, nostalgic. And I’m not talking about the players. It’s the whole package. It’s what we have to offer from an ownership perspective, from a management perspective, and from a free agent perspective.
Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in this league. But I just don’t feel like our Celtics are five star material, top to bottom. Do you feel like we have the best ownership in the league? Do you think we have the very best management in place?
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]It’s these areas where I have the most concern, because while I can’t put my finger on it, my gut tells me that the Lakers and the Heat are just better organizations from owner to janitor.[/quote]
I hope I’m wrong.
I hope Danny Ainge makes me eat my words.
Will our Celtics get it together this season? There’s no question in my mind about that. Doc is too good of a coach, and the roster still has a lot going for it. But does anyone in their right mind feel that the Celtics have a legit shot at Banner 18 when the playoff smoke clears?