Patriots fans can now find solace in that according to most NBA experts that they and the Celtics were underdogs when playing for the championship in their respective leagues. Sounds pretty laughable doesn't it? An 18-0 and 78-24 team viewed as the presumptive underdog? As a fan of both the Celtics and Giants, all I need now is for the Steve Phillips' of the world to tell me how the Yankees won't win the World Series in 2008 and I'll be a very happy man.
If you've read my earlier columns, you'd know I've made clear my displeasure of these so-called "experts" not giving enough credit to the Boston Celtics. Whether it was the league not liking the "bland, pale, un-marketable" franchise, which boasts the most tradition and titles. Or ex-coaches, execs, players and commentators harboring old bitter feelings of jealousy, racism and hatred of the once and now proud franchise.
The experts said the Celtics were stuck after the lottery balls went awry. Blasted them for only getting Ray Allen and then questioned if they'd gotten rid of too much for Kevin Garnett. Then went on to criticize the team as having no depth, "The Big Three and Scalabrine." After that it was questions of age or if they could all jell and co-exist on the floor at the same time.
There were then questions as to whether the Celtics could topple teams in the Eastern Conference such as the Cavs, Pistons and Bulls. Following that it was the matter of the Celtics being able to win against quality teams, then quality teams from the Western Conference, then win against quality teams on the road, then quality teams from the Western Conference on the road.
Had the Celtics not lost KG to injury for a short stretch after the All-Star game and had they not just coasted down the stretch (though they won more of those games than not at the end) the Celtics probably could've bested or tied the Bulls record of 72 wins. But it wasn't about the regular season for these Celtics, they had far greater aspirations as mentioned right from the beginning but few seemed to be listening or believed their lying eyes.
When the Celtics got to the playoffs questions arose about Doc Rivers ability to win in the post-season. The Celtics at times during the Atlanta series never looked better or worse than they did the entire season. The naysayers rose up again, if the Celts couldn't win on the road they were toast.
The Celtics then got to what ended up being their most difficult series against Cleveland. Yet even as Boston knocked out the Cavs in a hard fought seven game tilt against the defending Eastern Conference Champs and quite possibly the best player in the world in LeBron James. The experts seemed to forget those two "inconvienent" facts and still wouldn't give Boston any credit.
Moving onto Detroit, most picked the Pistons because they were battle tested, playoff proven and could win on the road. Fair enough, though Cleveland and James had singlehandedly dispatched of them with ease in last year's Conference Finals. What did the Celtics do but win more games on the road than Detroit did, including the series clincher on in The Palace at Auburn Hills.
Finally to the NBA Finals where everybody was drooling over Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson and how they'd breezed through a seemingly tough but beat up Western Conference and this time unlike the regular season they'd be bringing Pau Gasol.
But to paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bensten, "the Boston Celtics had seen the Atlanta Hawks, they'd played the Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Lakers were NOT the Atlanta Hawks." Old "Head and Shoulders" wouldn't be passing "Red." Kobe was barely Michael Cooper let alone Michael Jordan. There was no Shaq, no Magic, they certainly weren't Worthy and By Scott did they ever get Kareem'd! Heck after game six the Lakers might've well been that other team from L.A.
Perhpaps the "experts" were just trying to keep everyone interested by creating far sexier storylines than a 66 win team in the regular season coasting to a championship. Be we fans know better, we know if the C's had lost, it would've rivaled the biggest choke 'round Boston since Billy Buck. Instead the Celtics celebrated their first title since that fabled year of 1986 and brought it back home to Beantown, even though only one in five dentists agreed that they were truly the best.