Tag Archives: Boston Celtics

NBA Quarterfinals: Worst to First

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

The NBA Playoffs will get underway on Saturday, and hot off the press after last night’s action, we have a full slate of first round match-ups to sink our teeth into. While this particular writer is shedding a tear because the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t even come close to making it (again), this season’s playoffs promise to be one of the more entertaining ones in recent memory. The Boston Celtics were able to snag the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since their 2008 title run; a huge milestone in the Brad Stevens era and one that will likely raise the expectations of Boston fans as the playoffs get underway.

There are four teams in this year’s playoffs that didn’t make it in 2016: The Wizards, Bucks, Bulls and Jazz. The Wizards, Bucks and Bulls all made it back in 2015, but the Jazz haven’t made it since 2012 when they were swept by the Spurs in the first round. With all of the changes that happened last off-season, we’re in for one insane playoff stretch, and it all starts with the first round on Saturday. We took a look at all of the matchups and ranked them by interest level, so when you sit down in front of your T.V. on Saturday, you’ll know what to turn on. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NBA Playoffs first round match-ups, ranked from worst to first.

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  1. Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Meh.

The Toronto Raptors did pretty much what you’d expect them to during the 2017 season. They kept up with the Celtics and Cavaliers and contended for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, eventually finishing third and drawing a matchup with the Bucks. The Raptors do have some new faces this season that they can use to their advantage in this series; primarily Serge Ibaka.

The key for Toronto is going to be their ability to shut down the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The bigger guys on the Raptors’ roster are going to have a handful trying to defend Giannis, but if they’re able to slow him down and Kyle Lowry has a good series, there’s no reason why the Raptors can’t win this in 6 games. It could be one of the more competitive series in the first round, but aside from Antetokounmpo, there’s just not enough star power to make this an interesting series.

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  1. San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

This feels like a movie we’ve seen before. These two teams have squared off in a playoff series four out of the last seven seasons, and the tread on the old tire of interest is wearing a little thin.

The highlight in this match-up is the battle of the brothers. While Marc and Pau Gasol may have both passed their prime by a few years, it adds a little bit of intrigue to a series that will otherwise be overshadowed by a great Western Conference series that we’ll get into later. The Grizzlies upset the Spurs as the 8 seed back in 2011, however, and it would take a shocker like that to get us to turn our heads away from some of the other great action going on around the NBA.

  1. Washington Wizards (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)

Well, here we are again. Another year, another Hawks team that hovers in the middle of the playoff race and will be gone by the Conference Finals. Of course, the big difference this year is that they have Dwight Howard. I don’t see many people out there pushing the idea that Dwight Howard (of all people) is somehow going to push Atlanta over the hump, and this is a Wizards team that could be poised to knock them out early. After missing the playoffs last season, Washington is the four seed this year, earning home court advantage and a chance to knock off a very beatable Hawks team.

The Wizards went 3-1 against the Hawks during the regular season, the most recent of those being a thrilling 104-100 victory back on March 22. If Dwight Howard can somehow wake up from the five year nap he’s been taking and make a meaningful impact for this team in the playoffs, we might have something to talk about here for the Hawks. If not, it will be business as usual, and they can start making their tee times by the end of the month.

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  1. Boston Celtics (1) vs. Chicago Bulls (8)

The Chicago Bulls’ motley crew of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo did enough to squeak in to the playoffs at the last second as the 8 seed. At different points in their career, all of these guys were dynamic players who could shift a playoff series just by stepping on the court. Butler is still that player, Rondo can impress occasionally, and Wade, when he’s not battling injuries, is a serviceable veteran player who can hit big shots when it matters.

The end result of all of these things is a team that is often inconsistent and frustrating, but if everything were to click at once, they could make this a series. That is going to mean slowing down Isaiah Thomas, however, and that is no easy task to say the least. Thomas is averaging 28.3 PPG in his last ten games, and the Celtics have a renewed sense of confidence after claiming the 1 seed in the east. Although it is a 1 vs. 8 matchup, these two teams split the regular season 2-2, so we could be in for at least a six game series if all goes well for the Bulls.

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  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

If the Cavaliers had drawn a first-round match-up with the Bulls, this might be a little bit higher on the list. Of course, we’re always up for watching a great duel between LeBron James and Paul George, but this doesn’t appear to be more than a small roadblock for the Cavaliers. An interesting side note here, however, is that Lance Stephenson is back with the Pacers, and the last time he was in the playoffs, he was whispering sweet-nothings into LeBron’s ear. With that in mind, we ask Lance Stephenson please, give us more great theater like this. I want to turn on SportsCenter and see more of Stephenson trying to get under LeBron’s skin. Yes.

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  1. Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trailblazers (8)

For the casual NBA fan, the name Jusuf Nurkic might not ring a bell. Nurkic was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls in 2014, then traded to the Nuggets on draft night. Now, standing at 7ft 0in, he is the second tallest player on Portland’s roster, and he could play just enough of a role to make this more than a four game sweep for the Warriors. If Damian Lillard can also put the team on his back, we could be talking about a five or six game series, but don’t hold your breath. Golden State is just getting warmed up.

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  1. Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

The Los Angeles Clippers are in a weird spot. They have largely underachieved the past few seasons, but in a conference dominated by the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, it’s not like they ever had much of a chance. They’ve been playing very well lately, however, and their starting five are as good as anybody’s in the top of the conference (ok, maybe not the Warriors, but who cares).

The Jazz, on the other hand, are a new product. They last made the playoffs in 2012, and the only holdovers from that team are Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward. The Jazz were sneaky good this season, finishing with a record of 51-31. For comparison, that is the same record the Cavs and Raptors finished with this season. They might not be much compared to the powerhouses of the West, but they could become the little engine that could if they’re able to advance to the second round and steal a few games from the Warriors. Don’t sleep on the Utah Jazz, you heard it here first.

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  1. Houston Rockets (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Now here is the juiciest of juicy match-ups. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden in what amounts to the MVP-Bowl of playoff series. It’s fun enough watching these two go at it for one game, but the possibility of 4,5,6, or perhaps even 7 make this must-see television for the first round. This is what everyone is going to be talking about. During the regular season series, Houston went 3-1, with both teams averaging well over 100 points in each of the four games (Houston averaged 115, while the Thunder averaged 111).

The fireworks, however, came in their final match-up of the regular season, when the two teams combined for 262 points in a 137-125 Houston victory. The interesting stat in that game? James Harden was Houston’s fourth leading scorer, while Westbrook dropped 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. If they’re able to beat the Thunder and the ever-bucket-draining Westbrook in this series when Harden has a quiet night like they did on March 26th, there just isn’t much wiggle room for the Thunder to be able to take this series. Russ will have to play like a madman, and we’re assuming he will. Will it be enough? Who knows. That’s why they play the games.

 

Ray Allen Says Isaiah Thomas Should Win MVP. Why Isn’t Anyone Else?

When you’re in an MVP race, it’s always nice to get some love from the greats to help sway voters in your favor. Recently, Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas got a nod from the recently retired Ray Allen.

Allen was recently a guest on The Rich Eisen Show, and he was asked for his opinion on the current MVP race.

“Right now, I’d have to say Isaiah Thomas.” Allen said. “I like Isaiah… You take him off that roster, I don’t know how successful they’d be.”

Judging by these comments, it seems Allen views the MVP in a very literal sense. He argues that without Isaiah, the Celtics wouldn’t be any good.

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The assertion that the Celtics wouldn’t be good without Thomas is in contrast to several remarks made earlier in the season by Boston media personalities who thought the Celtics did just fine without Thomas during a stretch in December.

“11 assists on 13 buckets. Is it just me or does the ball move better without Isaiah Thomas?” tweeted Tony Massarotti, co-host of Felger and Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Comments like this seemed to irk Thomas, who was battling a groin injury and was forced to sit several games.

“They gotta write something. They say the stupidest things so they get the headlines and everybody can talk about it,” Thomas said. “I can’t control that. At this point, I laugh about it now. Because it’s like, if you really think that, OK, that’s fine. I know what I mean to my teammates, I know what I mean to this organization and to Brad Stevens.”

From that point on, Thomas went on an MVP-worthy stretch that not only catapulted the Celtics to second in the East, but launched Thomas right in the thick of the MVP race.

In early February, CBS Sports had Thomas in a three-way tie for first in the MVP race with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. At this time, Thomas was second in the league with 29.9 PPG and led the league in fourth quarter scoring. At the time, Bill Reuter of CBS Sports wrote “Will it last? No idea. But for the time being he belongs right here, in the mix for the MVP with Westbrook and Harden.”

Contrary to Bill Reuter’s nod to Thomas, Ray Allen’s remarks come at a time when hype around a potential MVP title for Thomas seems to be cooling down outside of Boston media.

Since Reuter’s article was published on February 8, the narrative of the MVP race seems to have changed. That same source, CBS Sports, published a lengthy article today detailing a new tie for first: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. In a feature-length article with over twenty paragraphs, Isaiah Thomas was not mentioned once. What gives?

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Part of the reason Thomas has faded out of MVP contention is that a lot of people suddenly remembered that Kawhi Leonard is really good. Leonard and the Spurs’ rise in the Western Conference has outshadowed the Celtics’ Eastern Conference domination, and while Thomas is good, he has been relegated to a secondary tier of MVP candidates along with the likes of John Wall and Kevin Durant.

The truth is, while Thomas has played great since his peak in February, it hasn’t been enough to capture the attention of voters enough to pull away from the gargantuan forces of Westbrook, LeBron, Kawhi and Harden. Most of his MVP attention came after a stretch where he scored 37, 41, 44 and 38 points. It would take another extended stretch like this for Thomas to get serious MVP consideration, whether fair or not. He’s second in the league in scoring and he’s leading the Celtics to their best finish in years, but that simply isn’t enough when you’re going against a guy who is nearly averaging a triple double for the season in Russell Westbrook.

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So while Allen’s claim that the Celtics wouldn’t be much without Thomas may be true, it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to win votes.

The final push for Thomas, however, may have to wait several days. He is currently dealing with a bone bruise in his right knee and might miss the weekend’s games.

Allen also said in his interview that he believes the Celtics will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. So far, this is shaping up to be a thrilling finish, and you can expect Thomas to do everything he can to ensure the Celtics can make that claim a reality.

 

Cavs vs Celtics Last Night… Eastern Conference Finals Preview?

Last night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers had a definitive playoff feel. The Cavs are currently atop the Eastern Conference, while the Celtics are now hot on their tail with last night’s win. The fallout of the Celtics’ 103-99 win raises many questions, but there is one that is on everyone’s mind after last night: is this an Eastern Conference Finals preview, and if so, did the Celts show us they can hang with the defending champions?

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In short, yes. The Celtics were able to grind out a thrilling fourth quarter and beat the Cavaliers, and they did it by sinking big shots in big moments. This showdown between these two particular teams had the type of hype surrounding it that we haven’t seen since the Celtics’ big three era, back when LeBron couldn’t get over the hump and win a championship in his first stint with Cleveland.

Though the Cavs may be undeterred by this loss, it shows that the Celtics could keep up with Cleveland in a 7-game series. In recent years, the Cavaliers have all but steamrolled through the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the 2016-17 Celtics have shown that they have other plans.

Of course, the Celtics won’t be able to rely on 31 points from Isaiah Thomas every game. In order to beat Cleveland, they would need a total team effort, something that they have shown they are capable of putting together. The prospect that the Celtics could actually do this, however, is exciting for Boston fans to say the least.

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Perhaps the most encouraging part of the win for the Celtics is that they did it despite a triple-double from LeBron James. It was James’ seventh of the season, and not many teams are able to beat the Cavs when he’s hot like that. The Celtics took LeBron’s best shot and still came out victorious.

The recent injury to Kevin Durant has also shifted the playoff scene. If he is unable to get to a healthy level by the time April rolls around, it makes the Western Conference a whole lot more interesting. At that point, the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets would come into play. A more even Western Conference would mean more wear-and-tear, which could be good news for the Celtics or Cavaliers, depending on who makes it in this hypothetical situation.

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At the very least, the Celtics showed the world that they have arrived as contenders. The next step in the Brad Stevens era will most likely have to run through Cleveland, and last night, they showed that they can keep up and win. If you thought this game was intense, mark your calendar for April 5th. The two teams will meet again at the TD Garden in one of the final games before the NBA Playoffs begin.

 

What you might have missed?

The past weekend has been crazy. Rumors are swirling in the NBA, Super Bowl Media week started, two tennis legends are back on the mountain top, and the NHL and NFL all star game ensued.

NBA

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Rumors continue to swirl about Carmelo Anthony, but just how true are they? Well…unfortunately, for Anthony, it looked like his stock is way down and the Knicks are looking to get rid of him for next to nothing for the caliber of player he is. The Clippers, Celtics, and Cavaliers have been linked as potential suitors for Melo. The Celtics have come out and said they weren’t interested, but they might be interested in being the third team  in a deal to help the Knicks and Clippers complete a trade. The stumbling Cavs are likely out as well as the combination of Lebron, Kyrie, and Melo would probably sour in Cleveland very quickly.

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The rumor mill is also firing up with Jimmy Butler’s name in the center of it. Rajon Rondo’s comments about the Bulls on his Instagram page didn’t go unnoticed. Tempers are flaring and what was thought to be a contender in the East, has fallen a long way off. NBA analysts have talked about the Bulls calling the Celtics in regards to a trade between the two teams involving Butler.

NHL

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The NHL All star skills competition and game took place this weekend in Los Angeles. The Atlantic came out on top in the skills competition with 9 points, but the highlight of the night was when Ryan Kesler’s son took part in the final shootout competition. Kesler’s son took the puck down the ice and dangled Montreal goalie Carey Price and slid the puck 5-hole, then followed it with an even better celebration.

The All Star game took place Sunday afternoon in the new 3v3 format. The Metropolitan division took the crown with a 10-6 victory against the Atlantic, with Wayne Simmonds getting the MVP award.

Tennis

 

Roger Federer and Serena Williams made history this weekend in Australia taking home the men’s and women’s title in the Austalian open, the first major championship of the year.

Roger won his 5th Aussie open title and 18th major championship overall, the most in the open era. Federer took on his longtime rival Rafael Nadal and took him down in an epic 5 set match.

Serena Williams cruised through the competition winning her 7th Aussie Open title and her 23rd major championship overall, a record in the open era. Williams took on her sister Venus for the first time in a final since 2009. Serena coasted to a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

NFL

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The NFL held their first skills competition since the mid 2000’s and it was an extreme waste of time. If you didn’t watch it, you did not miss out. The Pro Bowl however was a much more entertaining game with the AFC edging out a victory 20-13. It was a rare defensive battle where there was multiple turnovers and somewhat entertaining football, something we have not seen a lot from in past Pro Bowls.

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On top of the Pro Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots made their way to Houston. Media week is under way and the rest of our NFL coverage including predictions will be posted later this week so be on the look out!

Wizards Wear All Black vs. Celtics, Avoid Embarrassment By Actually Winning

If you were to rate the NBA’s most heated rivalries, Celtics/Wizards would not be very high on the list. As a matter of fact, many people might not have even realized that the two teams have any sort of beef with each other, but the Wizards set us straight on that last night.

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The Wizards showed up to the Verizon Center in all black for last night’s game against the Celtics, presumably to show them that they weren’t f***ing around this time.

It was the third time the two teams would face off this season. In the first game, John Wall got into a spat with Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder did the only logical thing to respond- touch John Wall’s nose (yeah, we don’t know either).

Due to the heated nature of the first two games, the Wizards must’ve felt like they needed to channel their inner Oakland Raiders and wear all black to set the tone:

Second only to predicting a championship and not winning one, nothing is an all-in risk like wearing all black for intimidation and getting beat down at home, so the Wizards immediately raised their stakes in this mid-season match up.

As for the Celtics in this situation? They entered last night’s action with a 26-17 record, tied for second in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors. Toronto has been free-falling lately, however, dropping four games in a row to the 76ers, Hornets, Suns and Spurs.

Before the game, a reporter showed Isaiah Thomas the videos above, to which Thomas simply replied “that’s cute”.

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Thomas would go on to lead the Celtics with 25 points and 13 assists, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome a combined 58 points from Bradley Beal and John Wall; the Wizards would go on to win 123-108.

Despite the loss, the Celtics find themselves in a very favorable position in the Eastern Conference. If the Raptors continue to slide, the Celtics have a wide-open lane to second place in the east. On top of this, five out of the Celtics’ next six games will be home at the TD Garden. This includes a pivotal game against the Raptors next Wednesday that could push them to the top of the division with a win.

 

NBA Weekend: What to Watch

This weekend, the NBA features a decent slate of games, so if you find yourself bored waiting around for a crazy NFL Sunday, check out some of these match-ups.

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There are several awesome games tonight. The Miami Heat will travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers, a matchup that used to be somewhat interesting, but is now just a reminder how quick things change in the NBA. In 2010, Heat vs. Cavs meant LeBron was going to be booed at Quicken Loans Arena. In 2014, LeBron returned to Miami with the Cavaliers to face Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. Now, Wade is in Chicago, Bosh has no foreseeable NBA future, and James has been back in Cleveland for over 2 years.

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The Toronto Raptors will travel to Boston to face the Celtics, with the Celts trailing the Raptors by 1.5 games in the Atlantic Division. Al Horford missed a crucial game-winning layup earlier this week, so we’ll see if he can rebound against a division rival.

Other games of interest around the league Friday include Rockets at OKC on ESPN, followed by Suns at Lakers.

On Saturday, Miami will tip-off in Chicago, and for the second time Erik Spoelstra will coach against one of his former superstars. The Heat have certainly been placed in a tough position after losing Bosh and Wade in the offseason, and will have to retool if they hope to content in future seasons.

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The Warriors will face the Grizzlies as they look to continue their dominance of the Western Conference, and the Pelicans will travel to LA to face the Clippers on NBATV to round off the Saturday action.

On Sunday, there isn’t a ton of action, but the game that stands out the most is Celtics at Thunder. Russell Westbrook has been on a tear as of late, and the Celtics will be fresh off a home game against the Raptors.

 

Stop With The Player Slandering Already

Ask any 16 year old girl and they’ll tell you how prominent trends are in 2016. Planking, coning and vine are a few from the past. We even had a period where people were attempting at-home cosmetics to increase their lip size in a lackluster effort to look like a celebrity. The reasoning to this day remains a mystery to me.

However, a long lasting relatively ugly trend in New England sports has passed the test of time.

Player shaming, of course has run rampant and no franchise is innocent. Most recently the movements of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins have caused quite a stir in the north east. Specifically looking at Jamie Collins, who was traded less than a week ago to the Cleveland Browns for a third round draft pick.

Almost instantaneously the feeling among New England Patriots fans was a stage of shock. Which quickly dissipated as mindsets shifted to something along the lines of “Bill is always right!” or “Trust the system! He wasn’t that good anyways! The Patriots are nevah wrong!”

With the rumor of Collins requesting “Von Miller money” emerging from behind the scenes in Foxboro only helped fuel the fire. This, of course was quickly suffocated by the man himself.

Now, there’s more than enough history to show that in most situations, “Bill does know best.” Up to this point, the proof is definitely in the pudding. But that’s also not to say that the return was potentially a little less than most expected. Especially when you take a look to see where “the hoodie” has hit and missed in the draft. For all intensive purposes, if we could get another Duron Harmon in the third round, you could argue the trade is a wash.

Regardless, there’s plenty of shame to be distributed among the other professional sports teams in Boston.

For Boston’s beloved baseball team names such as Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jacoby Ellsbury and John Lester, have all been dealt for one reason or another.

After some digging, an article from August 1st 2008 surfaced, highlighting Manny’s departure from Boston. Needless to say, Ramirez did anything but hold back with his opinions of how players are treated in the city of Boston once their time is up.

In regards to Nomar, it’s no surprise that the general thought process in the years that followed was the noticeable lack of production at the shortstop position. Overshadowing the trade was the remarkable run Boston would make as they captured their first title in 86 years.

Similar to the Red Sox, the Boston Bruins have made major splashes of their own, for all the wrong reasons. Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Phil Kessel were highly sought after draft picks. One by one were traded away, and before the door could hit them on the way out, the media already began their attacks. Tyler Seguin was labeled as an unfocused party boy after the controversial trade to the Dallas Stars. Phil Kessel was branded as a locker room problem. Dougie Hamilton reportedly wanted Boston to sign his brother.

To put things into perspective, Phil Kessel just won a Cup in Pittsburgh and was the driving force behind the run. Tyler Seguin has teamed up with Jamie Benn in Dallas and the two of them recorded seven assists in last nights game. Dougie Hamilton has remained in neutral since being traded, but nonetheless, he possesses more potential than Joe Morrow.

Heading to the parquet floor, we have the Celtics.  A notoriously famous sports franchise that has reconstructed itself to fight yet again for a championship. What the most impressive thing about it all is how they’ve demolished the old foundation and re-surged so quickly.

Buried beneath the collective efforts of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was Rajon Rondo. Appearing to have eyes on the back of his head at times, Rondo has an unnatural ability to feed his teammates the ball. Instrumental in the teams 17th banner in 2008 and returning to the finals in 2010.

Where things began to get tricky was after the “big three” left town and Rondo was tasked with carrying the load. He and coach Brad Stevens did everything but get along. Rondo lusted to push the pace, while Stevens wanted to slow the game down and focus on establishing solid team defense.

In the end, Rondo lost the case and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Dubbed “addition by subtraction” by the media, while it perhaps appeared to be at the time, people lost sight of the big picture. Rondo acted as the back bone to the big three without the recognition. In the end, the treatment he received from the fans that once adored him, was egregious.

Being a Boston sports fan, peoples perceptions get foggy and forget how lucky we are regardless of the sport. The teams are a family and when you begin to tear the layers away, it at times has detrimental consequences. So, before you praise your GM for trading away that once popular player, consider all they’ve done for you before you start slandering them.