Fernandez: Vermont Celtics fans lament lost season

by Peter Fernandez

The surging and surprising 8th-seeded Miami Heat finished The Big Greens’ unrequited season with a Game 7 spanking in front of Beantown fans at TD Garden, 103-84. The Celtics are yet another New England team to come up short only a month after the Bruins’ shocking playoff loss to the Florida Panthers in a game 7 OT defeat, 4-3. It could be a long, hot summer for Boston sports fans considering the once mighty Boston Red Sox are now a cellar-dwelling 29-29. This autumn’s Patriots look to better last season’s respectable 10-7 record, but a post-Brady Super Bowl appearance is only a pipe dream.

At 57-25, The Boston Celtics owned the second-best NBA regular season record behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who were also upended in the playoffs by the Eric Spoelstra-coached Miami Heat squad. He has helmed the Heat over the past 18 seasons. In that time, the Celtics went through five different head coaches. Spoelstra possesses three NBA titles, and their General Manager, Pat Riley, has nine if you count the one he earned as a valuable substitute behind Jerry West with the Lakers in 1972, the five coaching the Jabbar-Magic-Worthy-Showtime Lakers, and three more in 2006, 2012, and 2013 as Heat GM.

Peter Fernandez

The Heat now possesses a “winning culture,” something the Celtics invented and practiced until 1986. Celtic rookie Head Coach, Joe Mazzulla, was thrust into the lead role after last summer’s firing of Ime Udoka. Mazzulla, 35, has seemingly borrowed from depressing and incoherent Bill Belichick interviews, as he is also stiff-lipped, defiant, short, and rude. This reporter/fan has been watching the Celtics since Bill Russell became the first African-American to coach in the NBA in 1966, and I genuinely admired those hard-wood pilots from Heinsohn, KC Jones, Doc Rivers to Ibe Udoka, except for maybe Bill Fitch (1979-83) and screaming Rick Pitino. Now the Celts have Joyless Joe Mazzulla. Belichick and Spurs coach, Greg Popovich, are notorious curmudgeons, but they’re old, arthritic, angst-ridden teachers with mucho titles. Mazzulla, 35, may be a good coach, but he just ain’t the Heavyweight Champion of Charm & Civility and was just resigned for another year.

Denver will win the NBA title this month in six games, as the Nuggets have already taken Game 1, 104-93, but Miami’s undrafted upstarts behind Jimmy Buckets and Bam Adebayo, Max Struss, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, and Caleb Martin all shot poorly in their first finals matchup.

Regarding Boston’s exit, the Beantown lads dug themselves a 0-3 hole to the Heat and staved off defeat three times before a Jayson Tatum sprained ankle spoiled any chance of them becoming the first NBA team to come back from that deficit. Mazzulla could share the blame as he was out X and O’d by Spoelstra. All-Star and Second-Team All-NBA guard Jaylen Brown committed 8 TO in that 7th game! I Had to Google it to believe it.

Instead of trading the second-best Celtic player, perhaps Brown, who makes over 28 million dollars a season, could learn HOW NOT TO DRIBBLE so much in traffic. If the Celtics could obtain Timberwolves’ big man, Karl Anthony Towns for Brown, I would make it so, Mr. Zulu, because Robert Williams is a great rim-runner, shot-blocker, and an inspiring team player, BUT, he is oft-injured. If Williams was as healthy as Tatum, Brown, Smart, and White, we coulda, woulda, and shoulda won it all. The Texas A&M product is not as injury-prone as Zion Williamson, but Williamson owns his own hospital. It’s disappointing not to see a talent like the ex-Duke star flourish because his Pelicans could be vying for a title.

The Celtics have not owned a 1st Round Pick for some time now, but in June’s NBA draft, they do have two second-round picks, and remember, NBA All-Stars Nikola Jokic and Chris Middleton were second-round picks. The 2023 NBA draft opens June 22 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, with the Number One Pick , who is certain to be Victor Wembanyama, a 7’2” French center, with the agility of a 6’2” guard. Last May’s Draft Lottery seemed a little too good to be true for the San Antonio Spurs as they finished with a record of 22-60. The Detroit Pistons owned the worst record at 17-65, and both teams had a 14% chance of winning the first pick, but the Spurs turned out to be the “luckiest team.” Detroit now owns the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, despite having the same lottery odds.

San Antonio has proven itself to be one of the most successful small-market NBA teams with a winning (but not lately) tradition. Perhaps the lottery balls were indeed marked because San Antonio Coach, Greg Popovich has done such a great job developing mega-talented 7-footers, like David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Could you really see Wembanyama playing in Detroit, Houston, or Charlotte? Just wait till next year, Celtic Fans!

The author is a children’s book author and Vermont resident.

Categories: Commentary, Sports