It has taken me 11 games of careful observation but I'm sure now of what I've seen. I haven't seen it since about 1987 but there is no doubt about it now. After 20 years there are finally some genuine Celtics wearing the Celtic uniforms.
With the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen along with some seasoned vets and promising young talent the nucleus of a bonfide Celtic team with actual Celtic type players has been created.
Being born in Boston and having been raised a Celtic fan I'm very particular about calling a player a Celtic. I grew up watching Red, listening to Johnny and believing in the philosophy behind "Celtic Pride".
Everything I needed to know about what it took to succeed in life was learned watching the Celtics win championship after championship. Leading the league in championships while rarely leading the league in any particular statistical catagory. While they ever had a scoring leader, in the end, they always had the winning score. Players came and went, but the championships kept coming.
The key to reaching your goal was reflected in the way the Celtics approached the sport of basketball. Hard work, attention to detail and knowing the fundemental basics of the game was the foundation their success was built on. All the talent and ability in the world meant nothing if it wasn't applied with the right attitude.
Every player on a Celtic team wears a Celtic uniform. But, to me, that doesn't necessarily make them a Celtic. There's a lot more to what makes a guy a Celtic than the uniform. And the difference between a guy in a Celtic jersey and a true Celtic has always been what I look for when judging a basketball player.
A guy is a Celtic from birth. It isn't a talent or a skill. Its a character trait. You either have it or you don't. Celtics don't expect to win as much as they refuse to lose. They leave their egos in the locker room and their hearts on the floor. A Celtic isn't expected to do it all... just give his all.
Celtic teams knew collectively that all they could do was do all they could do. If they were true to that simple committment the winning would take care of itself. It wasn't the players success that made the team great, it was the teams success that made the players great.
There are guys who could wear a Celtic jersey their entire careers but never be called a Celtic. And there are those who never put on the jersey but are born Celtics anyway.
Dominique Wilkins played for the Celts but never... not for one moment... was he even close to being a Celtic. Ditto for Kareem. But while Magic Johnson played his entire career as a Laker he was as much a Celtic as Larry Bird in his heart and character.
I loved Russell, Cousy, Havlichek, The Jones Boys, Heinson, Cowens... all legends who epitomized what made a Celtic. But I never cared for JoJo White and still don't thnk of him as a REAL Celtic.
The Russells and Cousys were important, but no more so than the Howells or the Siegfrieds. Backing up a Parish or McHale was a Kite or a Robey. Role players whose contribution was every bit as important to the teams success. During those championship years the stars were the building blocks but the role players were the morter that held them together
Watching basketball in the 80's I saw some of the greatest teams the NBA ever offered. There were celtics all over the place. But Michael Jordan wasn't one of them. And while I hate to say it... Bill Laimbeer was. So wasn't Mo Cheeks, Joe Dumars and Kurt Rambis. Dr J fell just short of having what it took. Isiah Thomas never had what it took either.
But the last decade has seen a serious decline in the talent level as far as NBA players are concerned. The reason the Celtics have struggled isn't because they haven't had good players, its because they haven't had any good celtics. Even sadder is the fact that while there are good players throughout the NBA there are precious few celtics to be found among them.
Players Like Allen Iverson, Vince Carter or Latrell Sprewell are virtually anti-celtics in their style of play and attitude. They, like most modern players, have found that while there isn't an "I" in Team there is most definatly a "Me"... As in it's all about "Me".
And for all their championships there isn't anyone that even resembles a Celtic on the Lakers. But Tim Duncan is a Celtic that got away.
Antoine Walker was a great player but he made a lousy Celtic. He found fault with everyone except himself. While Eric Williams and Walter McCarty are born Celtics.
Since the last of the Big Three retired back in the 80's up until this year, Paul Pierce has been the only Celtic on a team of guys wearing Celtics uniforms. He is a Celtic with so much talent and heart that at times it got in his way. He often tried too hard. He took the loses personally. He's a great player. His personal stats get better with each passing year. For a lot of guys that's enough. Not for Pierce... He wants to win more than he wants to be great.
This year he's going to get the chance.
Two more Celtics have joined the team after years of wearing a uniform that didn't fit them right. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are two guys who were born to be Celtics.
You can toss out all the fears that these guys egos are going to clash. Forget about the problems of too many stars and not enough shots to go around.
There's no need to worry that the bench is weak... it's filled with just the kind of young kids and old vets that a team needs. Role players who will gladly do what the team needs them to do. They will all get the chance to contribute in an important way.
Pierce, Garnett and Allen are the kind of unselfish, team oriented players that will thrive in their new home. They will come together and make all those around them better as a team than they are as individuals.
They have been given the chance to create a team where there was none before. Their own team... they are three great players who will be the core of a great team. A genuine Celtic team. Worthy of the name that is the most storied team in NBA history
They were all the team leaders before... carrying a load. Now they will be leaders on a team... sharing the load. A subtle but crucial difference. They already know how to play and they will learn to play together easily.
They worked hard to become the great players they are today... but, in their heart and soul, they were each born a Celtic. How do I know? Because I've seen all the Celtics there have been to see.
And one thing I do know... I know a Celtic when I see one.