A lot can change in the matter of a month. Here I was, preparing to invite the New York Knicks to the big boy club after rattling off multiple impressive victories over playoff-caliber teams, when their 20-point beat down of the reigning champ Miami Heat (that’s an incredibly ugly four words) signaled that the Knicks were not only capable of keeping up with the best, but utterly dominating strong teams. Since then, the Knicks have cooled off, and while they’re definitely still contenders, I don’t think teams are as scared of playing them as much as they might have been four weeks ago. It certainly doesn’t help when your star player has a very public altercation and suspension involving his wife, Kevin Garnett and Honey Nut Cheerios.
Also in the middle of December, the Seattle Seahawks submitted one of the all-time greatest defensive performances against an Arizona Cardinal team quarterbacked by Manti Te’o’s girlfriend while simultaneously proving that no one cares about doping in football. But they do when it comes to baseball rumors and cancer survivors. It wasn’t even hard to tell who was taking Adderall since the offenders looked like they had just hooked up with a Smurfette. The Seahawk’s defense continued to do a great job until the final minute of their divisional round in Atlanta when they allowed Matt Ryan to un-Matt-Ryan himself, paving the way for a last-second game-winning field goal for the Falcons.
In the AFC, the New England Patriots were getting hot at the right time, until they ran into the Baltimore “Murderers” in the championship round. You may be thinking that I am referring to Ray Lewis who famously stabbed a man to death, hid the bloody suit he was wearing and paid off everyone involved. This charade ultimately led to him being called the greatest leader and role model of our generation. But that’s a cheap shot and unimaginative writing. Just remember that the man hanging out with the cute little kid in that Visa commercial very recently, brutally killed a man in cold blood. No, I won’t bring that up anymore even though Ray Lewis is a stabber (stabbist? Stab artist?).
The murderer I am referring to is notorious Patriot-killer Bernard Pollard. Honestly, I’m surprised his track record of breaking Patriots (Brady’s ACL in 2008, Welker’s ACL in 2009, Gronkowski’s high ankle sprain in 2012 and Ridley’s brief visit to the River Styx in 2013) isn’t more of a story than Ray Lewis getting medieval on a guy (oops). The game was in a stalemate until Pollard’s crushing headshot to Ridley, which led to a fumble and swung the momentum in Baltimore’s favor. I don’t blame Pollard for temporarily killing Ridley since the replays show Ridley leading with his head as the two collided. But I also can’t stand the fact that I knew this was going to happen a week before the game, spent the first half dreading the Pollard-induced injury that was sure to occur, let my guard down and regained my faith in humanity before, like Ridley, everything went black and I forgot my name and where I was.
As much as I’d like to dwell on my favorite teams failing (the Celtics’ season is going down the drain as quickly as Jason Terry’s trade value), if you’re only here for recaps, you’re out of luck. Instead, I will channel my youthful naivete and tell you that Paul Pierce, reinvigorated by his All-Star snub, will pace the league with over 30 points-per-game, rally his team to a championship and bring banner 18 to Boston before riding off into the sunset with Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, Ray Allen will be implicated in a massive sex scandal involving Kobe Bryant and the Miami Heat locker room. You heard it here first. That is, unless, a major injury occurs that drastically changes the way that this Boston team is constructed.
The Rondo injury just turned my optimistic outlook into a downright psychotic one. But I’m sticking to my guns and telling you that despite the loss of “Mutant-hands” Rondo for the season (Seriously, that’s got to be the worst superpower ever right?), I still see the Celtics making it to the second round of the playoffs. They’re only three games behind the seventh-seeded Bucks and four behind the Hawks, so there are plenty of opportunities in the steaming pile of mediocrity that is the bottom of the Eastern conference. While getting home-court advantage can only be owner Wyc “Bobby Kraft Jr.” Grousbeck’s pipe dream, Boston could gain a more favorable first-round matchup against either New York or Chicago. Losing an All-Star point guard certainly doesn’t help, but Courtney Lee has overcome his early season slump and Leandro Barbosa has shown the ability to run the offense in limited minutes, albeit in a completely different style than a Rondo-led offense. At least last Sunday’s double-overtime win over the Miami Heat shows it’s still possible to win against the best, and for those of you saying to tank the season, I think it’s more likely that Kevin Garnett commits seppuku before he lets his team lose games on purpose.
But this does put the C’s in a precarious position. The odds of the Celtics making any kind of deep run is essentially zero at this point, even though people have been saying that for years and it’s come back to bite them every time. I love this team, but unless certain role players make major improvements, *cough* Jason Terry *cough*, there’s just not enough talent surrounding Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to win consistently. The loss of Rondo also puts much more pressure on the two stars to take on heavier minutes to compensate for the loss of offense — something that could lead to another major injury down the road. Given the duo’s age, this is definitely a scenario that Danny Ainge has to consider if other teams are offering reasonable deals. At the same time, the Celtics, as they are currently constructed, are still too good to lose to the soon-to-be Charlotte Hornets, meaning that they are in the no man’s land of playing poorly enough to both fail to contend and miss out on the top draft picks. To complicate things even further, the Boston stars are all signed to extremely friendly contracts (Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, Sullinger), while the flotsam have egregious deals (Green, Terry, Bass, Lee). I only left out KG because he is being severely underpaid this year, but is signed until past his 39th birthday. This makes a straight-up trade incredibly difficult because you’re either getting cents on the dollar, or looking to deal with an incredibly incompetent front office. Normally, you’d just point straight to Sacramento, but their impending move to Seattle essentially has the team locked down. That just leaves complex multi-team deals to speculate on, so fire up the ESPN trade machine and apologize to your thesis advisor for being two months behind schedule. (Sorry Dr. Smith.)
A more likely scenario than Boston rising from the ashes (You’d think this would be their low point, but it was actually when Big Baby Davis revealed his pregame meal is spaghetti and pancakes) is the Golden State Warriors making a deep run through the rest of the regular season and playoffs. For more longtime readers (Hi mom!), you’ll remember that I pegged the Warriors as a team ready to play on the next level, but dysfunctional enough to bottom out too. I hope you took my advice and have been watching them all season because this team is good. Most of the attention is on the Los Angeles Clippers, and rightly so, since less than a decade ago, people were more likely to associate them with a youth sailing organization than a professional basketball team.
But I think this year’s version of the Warriors is capable of staying on the court with any team in the league. Though if history is any indication, the second you read those last words the entire team developed multiple career-ending ailments as an earthquake engulfed Oracle Arena — and only Oracle Arena.
Luckily, the loss of their home court won’t be too bitter of a pill to swallow, as the team is scheduled to relocate to a brand new stadium on the San Francisco waterside in a few years. With the impending 49ers Superbowl Victory (Yes, you heard it here first, too), the City by the Bay is about to become Titletown, USA. More seriously, the Warriors are essentially the New York Knicks 2.0. They’ve been winning without Andrew Bogut whose nearing return will add a Tyson Chandler-like paint protector to their renewed defensive focus and also push David Lee to his natural power forward position. The two big men are also surrounded by sweet shooting guards in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Harrison Barnes is getting better every day and not doing something incredibly stupid as frequently as I originally predicted. What this all means is that the Warriors could emerge from All-Star weekend to become legitimate title contenders, and with Vegas odds currently at 75:1 for a Golden State championship, put down this week’s beer stipend and enjoy your free money come June.