Revenge is a dish best served spinning through the lane off the plate of Kyrie Irving, and though they’re at home right now “waiting out” the play-in games to learn their opponent, the Brooklyn Nets are undoubtedly licking their chops.
Though the Boston Celtics may be theoretically the most talented team left in the four-team tournament field, as well as the odds-on favorites to emerge and play Brooklyn in the first round of the actual NBA Playoffs, they’re also easily the team the Nets are most enthusiastic about encountering.
Why? The butt of so many years of jokes will not only be favored in that series, but should be favored to sweep.
Watching the Celtics bench all seven of their top rotation players in the season’s final game against the New York Knicks told you all you need to know about where their momentum stands heading into the tournament. With their seeding locked in and nothing to be gained (in theory) by pushing Jayson Tatum or Kemba Walker, Brad Stevens instead opted to march grimly towards the executioner, hoping his troops decide to rally themselves instead over the course of the next few days.
Jaylen Brown won’t be returning, and Tatum can’t do it alone, of course. He could use a fully-unleashed running mate at point guard. A dazzling scorer with no restrictions.
Kyrie Irving might help. Ha.
Over the past several years, “NBA Twitter” has become a cesspool of copy-pasted replies, knee-jerk reactions, and people arguing with counterpoints they’ve invented in their own heads. As the famous tweet goes, every day, someone logs on to boast about Steph Curry’s stat line, commenting, “But I was told Steph wasn’t a good shooter…”
Nope. You were never told that.
In this thoughtless realm, though, it’s become canon to proclaim the Celtics-Nets trade involving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce heading to Brooklyn in exchange for several years’ worth of draft picks to be an historic fleecing, the worst of the worst in this league’s long history (a history most of NBA Twitter can agree has lasted between three and five years).
Except, well…the veteran leadership never materialized in Brooklyn, sure. The Celtics were able to draft Tatum and Brown, absolutely. But neither team won a title in the intervening years. Neither team made an NBA Finals between that transaction and today. And, at this moment, the Nets are much closer to doing so, assembling a closet of stars after establishing a culture while the Celtics bank on two young bananas without the third centerpiece.
Again, Irving might be helpful. Where’d he play before heading to Brooklyn? One of those green-with-envy teams that’s always acting disrespected, if we recall correctly.
If Nets-Celtics materializes next week — And it might not! This rudderless Celtics team that loves falling behind by 10+ might just do it again twice! — not a sole in Boston will be ready to watch it, but they will do so anyway.
They will do so after years of making jokes at the Brooklyn Nets’ expense, believing they had buried them in a deep enough hole, not realizing they forgot to fill it in. They will do so after nearly a decade of gritting their teeth through trade deadlines, always ready to explain why the price Danny Ainge was asked to pay for top-shelf talent was actually not worth it in the long run. They will do so even as they realize that “long run” didn’t run long enough.
They will tell you Kyrie Irving simply didn’t want to be in Boston long-term (same with Mookie Betts), even though he made it quite clear upon arrival that he was emotionally invested in the franchise’s success. Any souring of the relationship couldn’t be their fault, right? Even though Anthony Davis’ father swore his son would never play for the ownership group that traded a hobbled Isaiah Thomas and hung him out to dry after he delivered their greatest single season since 2007-08?
Nothing is ever the Celtics’ fault, in the same way that nothing can ever be changed. The C’s fleeced the Nets a generation ago, and it’s been written in the stars ever since that the two franchises’ fates cannot be flipped.
Except next week, if the Nets do draw the Celtics, Boston will be staring down the barrel of a gun making flimsy excuses about the “disease of more,” when really more points might’ve helped them even the score significantly.
Who knows? Perhaps in a few years, when Brown and Tatum’s futures are uncertain and the Celtics are in need of some veteran moxie, the Nets can come up with a past-his-prime James Harden trade package.
It’s going to cost you, though.