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It's been a week of emotional highs and lows for the Celtics, after welcoming in former C's Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston. The two were back at their old place of work, for the first time Sunday, just two days after they were thrashed in the same arena and four days after their last win.
Just under a week ago things seem to settling into a routine for the Celtics. Although (as expected) they have struggled to compile wins, Boston had played most opponents though, never submitting to defeat. Even against the Heat last week in Miami, Boston played hard. Despite losing, they held their heads high and traveled to D.C. the next night to beat the Wizards. Yet ironically it was the trip home that sparked a change in team attitude.
Friday night Boston welcomed Oklahoma City into the Garden, certainly one of the more prominent teams in the NBA this season. The Thunder, (as a healthy squad) would undoubtedly be heavy favorites for victory in this contest. Coming in, the Thunder had been on fire having won (then) five in a row. Yet they were without the hottest shooter on the planet; Kevin Durant, who has been averaging 40 plus per game for the last couple of weeks. Oklahoma City was also without point guard Russell Westbrook for this match up, without Durant alone is one thing with both stars in suits, this leveled the playing ground a bit. One could argue that a gritty, die hard squad like Boston could steal a game at home against the pride of the Western Conference. After all, the Cs, have pulled off a few victories this year, against top competition that were to say the least; unpredictable. Yet in this case, the Celtics played like the "Tank Squad" most predicted they would resemble this season, as compared to the cardiac kids they've been.
Players like Phil Pressey make you love the league again, with his pure passion for the sport. The guy, that has given this team, it's hustle and attitude isn't even on the court. Coach Brad Stevens, has been so good at relaying his message, that he even has, the fan base believing in this unit. Believing perhaps the myth that this squad was assembled with the future in mind, to build and create new stars to raise the championship banners of tomorrow. Not, (as we all perceived to be the reality) that this team was merely constructed to tank in an effort to compile players for the future via the draft.
For the first time this season I saw something in the eyes of the Celtics, I hadn't seen since the Jim O'Brien days, resentment. The team looked, as if they never gave themselves a chance. A pouting collective of over grown babies. Why? Where did this come from? This sudden acceptance of self doubt, and angst. The fact remains, talent changes everything. Stars have talent, they also sell tickets, merchandise and luxury boxes.
In the last seven days two other significant events also transpired. The return of star Rajon Rondo and his appointing as the team captain(a position held for years by Paul Pierce). The question we had all been asking was, how well would Rondo work with new coach Brad Stevens?, is still up for debate. However we may have been witness to the first crack in the relationship. The rumors are not exactly whispers anymore about his estranged relationships with past members of the staff. It doesn't take an expert to detect an aura off Rondo, that could be interpreted as disrespectful. For months the team has been behind Stevens and his philosophies, while Rondo has sat almost idle rehabbing. This young impressionable team may now fall down the wrong path, set by their new captain. This can not coincide with Stevens' message. Expecting Rondo to be a good citizen while the team continues to be out matched is (in my opinion) an unreliable expectation.
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