, Newburyport, MA

June 16, 2008

What has the Celtics season meant to us?

Editor's note: With Game 6 of the NBA finals between the Celtics and Lakers lurking this evening, members of The Daily News sports staff share their thoughts on the NBA season.

Dan Guttenplan

Sports Editor

I'm not a Celtics fan, but I am a fan of what the Celtics have done this season. Growing up in Wilmington, Del., I supported all things Philadelphia. So I preferred Dr. J and Moses to Bird and McHale.

So when the Celtics acquired Ray Allen last summer, I greeted the news with a certain skepticism I reserved for Danny Ainge's personnel moves. The Celtics certainly didn't need another overpriced shooting guard who had never played for a championship team when they already had Paul Pierce. But when Ainge used the Allen acquisition to gain Kevin Garnett's approval for the biggest trade of the season, then I became sold on the Celtics being a potential 50-win team.

Still, in October, no one could've prepared me for what has transpired over the last nine months.

Give credit to Ainge for his foresight in acquiring Allen — a move that led to the Garnett acquisition, which, in turn, led to the development of so many young players like Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe. Give Doc Rivers credit for making the transition from a coach who pushed all the wrong buttons for a losing team to a coach who has outworked Phil Jackson in an NBA Finals. Give Paul Pierce credit for never reaching his breaking point and demanding a trade when the Celtics may or may not have tanked games at the end of the last season. And give Garnett credit for changing the face of a franchise and inspiring countless New England basketball fans in the process.

Congratulations, Boston sports fans. Your Celtics can now share the spotlight with the Patriots and Red Sox.

John Shimer

Staff Writer

It seems weird to think back to a year ago when I was one of the many openly rooting for the M.L. Carr philosophy — lose at all costs. And why not? The 2007 NBA Draft had two of the most coveted players in Greg Oden and Kevin Durant since the 2003 draft with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. After all, the Cs looked to have finally reached rock bottom.

Although the dubious lottery drawing late last May felt like the latest gut punch to a generation of Celtics fans that had not truly experienced an NBA title run, the vision and the patience of Danny Ainge to make the two blockbuster trades last summer will forever forgive his first four years of mediocrity. The subsequent pickups of James Posey, Eddie House, P.J. Brown, and Sam Cassell were just the direct result of those masterful summer maneuvers.

I believe the Red Sox will forever be king as far as Boston fans go, but coming off their second World Series in four years while currently holding first place in the A.L. East, it would be hard to imagine any scenario in which they would play second fiddle in town. However, that is exactly what Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and the rest of the Celtics have done.

In my all-encompassing sports fandom, a Celtics NBA title would rank up there with the first of the Patriots' Super Bowls and slightly behind the Red Sox triumph in 2004. But in New England, where fans subscribe to the Tom Brady mentality that the next championship is the best one, a Celtics title would further cement Boston as Title Town USA.

Evan Mugford

Staff Writer

This season has been unreal. I've been waiting for this moment for nearly two decades.

After leaving Chelsea and moving to Beverly when I was six, basketball suddenly became a huge part of my life. From recreation and summer leagues, games of horse, round robin, and "Who can grab rim?" on my outside court in addition to countless hours at my Sterling Center YMCA, playing hoops consumed every season of the year.

During these times, my brother and I molded into legitimate NBA junkies. But despite our infatuation with the sport, we had never experienced the Nirvana that was Celtics championship basketball. I was 3 when the Celtics won their last championship, and besides, Castle Gray Skull and He-Man had priority.

I grew up idolizing Reggie Lewis and had a life-size cutout of him with a basketball under one arm and a glass of milk in the other welcoming me into my bedroom. I remember Larry Bird Night, Rick Pitino's hiring, and Joe Johnson's star-crossed drafting. Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker and Eric Williams were my big three.

There's no doubting my love for the Celtics. I had balcony season tickets for their worst season in franchise history. I yell at the TV screen to put in Tony Allen for his defensive intensity, and I almost shed a tear when Delonte West and Al Jefferson were traded. I'm not fair-weather and green winds throughout my body.

There's too much yet not much to say about this year's team. Go Celts.