News 3/31 Mar 31, 2009 8:46:03 GMT -5
Post by FLCeltsFan on Mar 31, 2009 8:46:03 GMT -5
Banner 18 hangs on Kevin Garnett
Celtics have no shot if Garnett can’t play
By Gerry Callahan | Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | www.bostonherald.com | Boston Celtics
Photo by Matt Stone
In his quiet moments, if he even has those, Kevin Garnett probably knows. He knows whether a few more DNPs will allow him to heal up and be ready for the playoffs or whether something more serious is going on in that right knee. He knows if this still will be an issue in 2 weeks when the playoffs begin or if it was just a little late-season speed bump.
He knows whether the Celtics [team stats] have any chance at all of hoisting their 18th banner at the end of this season because the whole thing depends on how he feels.
Anything’s possible? Are we sure about that? Garnett screamed those words last June when the Celtics claimed the NBA title, but no one in his right mind believes it now. One thing clearly is impossible: winning it all without the biggest of the Big Three, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and the Celtics’ tone-setter extraordinaire.
It has been 40 days since Garnett landed awkwardly on an alley-oop attempt in Utah and returned to Boston with what the Celtics called “a muscle strain” in his knee. At the time, Danny Ainge estimated that his star would miss 2-3 weeks, and for a while the injury did not seem like a deal-breaker at all. Perhaps it was even a blessing in disguise, some said, giving Garnett a chance to rest while Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis step up in his absence.
Well, the defending champs don’t look so blessed right now. Garnett missed 13 games before returning to limited duty, and now he’s gone again, out at least until Friday against Atlanta. While the Celtics have performed admirably since the injury - winning 12-of-19 - their hopes of repeating took a serious hit while the big guy was gone.
The team fell out of the race for the top spot in the East and trailed Orlando for second place going into last night’s action. If they don’t finish ahead of the Magic, the Celtics are guaranteed homecourt advantage in just one round of the playoffs. They likely will have to win in Orlando, in Cleveland, and in Los Angeles to take the title. Last year, with a healthy KG and a clutch James Posey, they couldn’t even win in Atlanta.
The Celtics won 66 games last year and finished nine games ahead of the Lakers. They were 21 games better than LeBron James and the Cavaliers. They were the best team in the NBA from wire to wire, and although it was a struggle in the playoffs, they closed the deal, making Ainge and Doc Rivers look like geniuses. Books were written. DVDs were issued. The Big Three were on the cover of every magazine but Oprah’s.
It was their year, their time, the one shining moment for this boldly assembled collection of aging superstars who had grown tired of wandering in the NBA wilderness without a chance at a championship. Here was their chance at last, and they took advantage. They won it all, and they did it with real selflessness and a sense of urgency.
Now the problem: It was always a seize-the-day scenario for Ainge, wasn’t it? It was always all about the 2007-08 season, from the Rome trip to the 39-point rout of the Lakers in Game 6 of the Finals. If this were a movie, that’s where it would end: with Rivers soaked in Gatorade and Garnett rambling uncontrollably about the top of the world.
No one ever talked of building a dynasty around this nucleus, and for good reason: The Big Three all are in their 30s and all have been playing hard for a very long time. Winning one title was going to be the easy part. Keeping it up was going to be tricky, maybe even impossible.
Garnett is almost 33 and already has played 5,000 more minutes than Larry Bird did before Bird’s body gave out. And with Garnett we’re not talking about Artis Gilmore minutes, either. We’re talking about a Steve Prefontaine pace: Just go ’til you drop. Pierce, 31, and Allen, 33, aren’t much different. There never was any question about the hearts of these champions; it’s the knees and ankles and lower backs that eventually would derail them. Happens to the best.
Meanwhile, the Cavs already have won 60 games and are coasting to the best record in the NBA. They are 35-1 at home. Their leader is 24 years old and about to win his first MVP. He’s tossing in underhanded, 75-foot shots for Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.” His smiling face is on all the magazines. It’s LeBron’s time now, which puts in the Celtics in an interesting position as they head into the playoffs.
They’re underdogs now. Long shots to even get out of the East. You can almost hear Garnett now: No one respects us, no one thinks we can do it, no one gives us any credit at all. He has a new rallying cry, which is good because he needs one.
Winning without a healthy Kevin Garnett is not possible.
Not in the playoffs. Not a chance.