Friday, June 28, 2013

Deconstruction's Not Just For Literature Anymore

The sum of human (will, my own) sports knowledge would be much enhanced if I could learn at what point in the spring of 2013 Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all first thought of the Boston Celtics "This show's over."

It'd be even more enhanced if we knew at what point the four men confided their shared conclusion to each other. Then we'd be on our way to true understanding of the apparently-but-couldn't-possibly-be sudden upheaval of the franchise.

In sports as in many aspects of human existence,the participants in an experience are often the last to realize what's going on in it. That the Big Three With Two Imports Era of Celtics history is no more was apparent to outsiders as early as the end of the 2011 season, let alone this one. In strict basketball terms, Ainge would've been well advised to have taken the wrecking ball to the roster last summer at the latest. Despite a career marked by one of the quickest and most enthusiastic GM trigger fingers of all time, he didn't. Perhaps he was blinded by the dangerously seductive brilliance of Rajon Rondo (which had to be why Rivers re-enlisted before that).

Rondo got hurt, and after a false winter dawn, night descended on the Celtics of 2007-2013 for keeps.  Which wouldn't be a remarkable sports story at all, except for the extraordinary level of collusion in the liquidation of that team by its architect and major participants.

The level of mutual consent needed for Rivers to become coach of the Clippers and Pierce and Garnett members of the Brooklyn Nets is what fascinates me. It might've been tacit consent, but consent there had to be. The Celts dissolved themselves in a nolo plea.

Had he been bloody-minded, Ainge could've held Rivers to his contract. GMs have done that and worse for spite in pro sports many many times. He didn't. Garnett had the contractual right and Pierce the effective right to block their trade to the Nets, who've seldom been a happy destination for players through NBA history. They didn't. At some point, probably not as a group but certainly among each other, these four old pros had to have confessed that this stage of their professional lives were over, and it was time to salvage what each could from its termination.

That's how old pros in any walk of life are supposed to look at things and how they're supposed to behave, but such is human frailty that when it does happen, it's news. It's an event that speaks very well of each of the four proud, talented men who arranged their no-fault separation without benefit of
(too much) counsel. Heaven knows they have their frailties. Overcoming frailties is way harder than making the NBA playoffs. It should get as least as much applause.

In terms of salvage, Rivers will do best at first. All he has to do to win is get along with Chris Paul, which ought to be a cinch after Rondo.  The gravitational force of doom that emanates from the Nets franchise will, I fear snare Garnett and Pierce in its pull. With luck, they could be on a team moderately better than the Knicks were this season, a golf clap forecast if ever there was one.

As for Ainge, he's got the 2013-2014 Celtics. At this point, that's Rondo, the 2012-2013 Celtics' bench, and the 2013-2014 Nets' bench. Let's just say I don't think Phil Jackson heard about the trade and said "Wow, I better give Danny a call."

Oh, and he's got draft picks galore. Until about 1990, that would've been a cheery prospect. Today, when freshman centers rehabbing serious knee injuries are high lottery picks, draft picks are seldom the stuff dreams are made of and often the stuff  more lottery picks are made of.

Still, Ainge did the right thing. However faint, hope of a better tomorrow is infinitely better than futile CPR of yesterday, not to mention working with vital personnel you know full well would rather be elsewhere. The Celtics' boss was willing to act on his best judgment even when he must've hated said judgment. Good for him.

Maturity, which I hope to experience someday, is not among the most celebrated virtues. It's a very rare one in the odd multibillion dollar industry of staging children's games and charging people to watch them. Maturity is the story of the dissolution of the Celtics. The team blew itself up because grown-ups acted like grown-ups. Oh, and of course there was money involved. I said grown-ups, didn't I?

Rivers, Garnett and Pierce will all return to the Garden next season. Put it out there in advance. Anyone in attendance who boos them is and always will be clueless. Not just about basketball, either.


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