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That Celtics 'dynasty' is starting to look like a one-and-done

Bringing Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce together resulted in a memorable title run in 2008, but as age and injuries pile up, it appears Boston's window could be closing.

January 31, 2010|By Mark Heisler

The Celtics' Last Hurrah is:

A) Ongoing.

B) Next season.

C) Available on DVD. It was two seasons ago.

Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were 32, 31 and 30, respectively, when they joined up, so it didn't look like the start of a new dynasty.

People did get excited when they won the title their first season, 2007-08, laying out the favored Lakers as if it was still Bill Russell against Jim Krebs.

When the Celtics started last season 27-2, people got really excited.

The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan, longtime keeper of the flame, compared them to the great '86 team with its four-Hall-of-Famer front line of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton.

Another Globe story noted: "The overwhelming feeling is that they can't get much better."

Even after injuries devastated them in the spring, last summer's moves for Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels seemed to restore their dominance.

Before this season, Coach Doc Rivers talked about playing a defense that would be remembered, like the '85 Chicago Bears', and players talked about breaking the Bulls' record of 72 wins.

Walking the walk, almost, they started 23-5, punctuating it with a win in Orlando on Christmas.

Now look at them.

No. 3 in the East . . . 6-10 since Christmas . . . limping home from losses in Orlando, where Rashard Lewis zipped around Garnett for the winning layup, and Atlanta, where the Hawks completed a 4-0 season sweep and the P.A. announcer called to the departing Celtics, "Now is it a rivalry?"

Garnett, who has left for injuries twice, is "dragging his leg," as TNT's Reggie Miller put it, and has it wrapped from ankle to knee in a mummy effect.

Said Ryan last week: "Good thing they won it in their first year.

"In two years, I can't imagine where they'll be. This is it."

The way things are going, "this is it" sounds more ominous in Boston every day.

Last hurrahs I, II

They came, they saw, they conquered, and they could be through in three years?

For the NBA, the Celtics revival was like a welcome trip back to a familiar tradition.

For Boston, which barely remembered there was an NBA, it was like getting a team.

Now, 2 1/2 years later, it's hard to remember what a miracle this team was, rising from the ashes of an agonizing 24-58 season that gave them a shot at drafting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant . . . only to draw No. 5.

They had four playoff appearances in 12 years. Rivers was dangling. General Manager Danny Ainge was hated for unloading Antoine Walker.

They played in a new, generic arena that kept changing names. Once when they auctioned off temporary naming rights as a gag, a Yankees fan won and told them he want- ed it to be the Derek Jeter Center.

That was the summer Ainge traded his No. 5 pick to Seattle, which was dumping salary, starting with its biggest, Allen, who went to the Celtics.

With Minnesota's Kevin Garnett up for bids, Ainge won that one too, raised eyebrows or no raised eyebrows, as Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale, the former Celtics great, gave them KG for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and three guys who have moved on.

Celtics fans were ecstat . . . er, pleasantly surprised.

As Boston blogger Ken Tremendous wrote for Sports Illustrated in the summer of '07:

"When I heard Randy Moss was coming to the Pats, I thought, 'Finally, a long-ball threat for [Tom] Brady!

"When the Sox acquired Eric Gagne, it was, 'Two closers! We're so lucky!'

"And when news of the Kevin Garnett deal came across the wire I thought, 'I only wish the Celtics were still in Boston.'

"Then I was told that they are still in Boston . . . so great!"

That was exactly how it turned out, too, great.

Very last hurrah

Now it's 2 1/2 years later, the sand could be running out of the hourglass and the skies are cloudy all day.

This Celtics team has never had size. Before Wallace arrived, Garnett was the only rotation player over 6-9 in bare feet.

They never had depth. Half their bench came off the waiver wire, including last season's bust, Stephon Marbury.

They have suffered injury after injury, which happens when you're old.

On the other hand, they were always as tough as there was.

Last spring without an injured Garnett, the Celtics came within one win of the Eastern finals, with a 10-point lead in Game 6 in Orlando.

After losing Garnett last season, Rivers was taking no chances this season, ordering him to the sidelines for a game Dec. 22, and for 10 more on Dec. 29, saying, "I didn't like the way Kevin was running."

In Boston, the mantra is now: Seeding isn't important. You have to win only one road game to win a series. Health comes first. It's inarguable, with San Antonio's Gregg Popovich doing the same thing with Tim Duncan.

Of course, the ideal is to be younger and healthier so you don't have to choose.

Today the Lakers will encounter the cornered Celtics in the Boston they heard about from the Showtime Lakers of the '80s, the days of fake fire alarms in their hotel and Lakers officials calling Celtics in the middle of the night.

Boston fans don't even have champions in baseball or football to go back to. For the first time in a long time, what's left of the Celtics in Last Hurrah III is what's left of them.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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