I'm a Celtic fan.
One summer at camp, I remember playing an ice breaker with our basketball counselor. Say your name, where you're from, and your favorite basketball player.
"My name's Matt, I'm from Dobbs Ferry, NY, and my favorite player's Michael Jordan."
"My name's Alex, I'm from Westchester, NY, and my favorite player's Michael Jordan."
"My name's Dave, I'm from West Hartford, CT, and my favorite player's Paul Pierce."
"He plays for the Celtics. He's really good."
I was a smart little squirt. No one knew Pierce's name, and those who knew it dismissed it until last year, when Garnett, Allen, Posey and Rondo helped the Celtics win a championship, and end a decade of Celtic despair.
One year later, the Celtics must share their dominance with the Magic and the Cavs, but they've had to face more challenges than these two other games.
Sure, the Magic lost Jameer Nelson, arguably one of the country's best point guards, but at least they didn't lose Howard, the heart and soul of the team. This is the very role player that the Celtics lost in Kevin Garnett.
For awhile, it looked like the Celtics would be okay. Earlier this year, they played one day when Garnett had a bad flu and spread 20-point buttah on the opposition's bread. But that was a short leave for Garnett.
Now, we finally get to see what happens to the Celtics over months without their power player. They struggle against teams they used to blow out. It's not Garnett's play; Garnett averaged about 15 and 8, which isn't that important. But it was his presence. His energy. That's what plugged the Celtics into the NBA Finals.
But lately, every game is a struggle. A gauntlet to get through to the playoffs when their franchise player will return. I gotta admit, it's not like the team has become less entertaining. It's always fun to see which of the Different 3 will step up. Ray Allen one night, Glen Davis' bandaid another night, Rajon Rondo tonight.
But can they win a 7-game series against these East teams that will push them around without inside presence from Garnett, or even Powe? It's a troubling question for a Celtics fan like me. They'll need to reach deep to get that Pot o' Gold at the end of this playoffs rainbow. While three have stepped up, they need that extra person. If they only got someone in free agency...
...OH WAIT. THEY DID.
Maybe it's time that Stephon Marbury stepped his game up, and proved why he was the big deal he was this past year.
And if Marbury fails in that department, we've always got our man Pierce.
-Dave "Ladykiller, but I'm no Tom Hanks" Smith