At first, it’s business as usual. The familiar faces and numbers, the would-be dynastic members of the dominant Boston Celtics we’ve watched throttle the NBA for the last four years all take the court and you get that feeling. This is a good team, well-rounded and balanced between multiple hall of famers who trust each other, a daunting, daunting thing.
Now, it’s nothing new to feel anxiety as the bench starts to work their way out there, a look mirrored many, many times by Doc Rivers. Not since the end of the 08′ championship run when the likes of Posey, Powe, Brown and House were picking up the second unit has Boston really felt good about its bench situation. We know that, we accept that. It’s part of the price for having 80,000 plus career points in your starting line-up, the reserve money isn’t too deep.
But this year, Danny Ainge has taken a different approach to the bench question, even as one of the tightest-looking eastern playoffs in years looms ever closer. The bench he so carefully constructed in the off season (which was decimated by injuries) is no more. They’ve been shipped out wholesale and replaced by a collection of NBA journeymen. And Jeff Green. If you haven’t done a double take when Nenad Kristic and Troy Murphy leave the scorer’s table you’re either too high or made too many weird trades on NBA 2K11. Probably both. And now, reports are that Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo are about to get their own green jerseys. There is a very good chance that next week the Celts could field a second unit completely comprised of dudes who are living at the Marriott currently. You read that part about Arroyo, right? Perhaps you can think about that as you ponder Luke Harangody’s 18 points for the Cavs the other night as they beat the Knicks (again).
Of course, that’s not to say Danny’s roster shenanigans won’t be effective. (Kristic and Green are already showing promise.) It’s just… well, how many examples can you think of where an entire supporting cast is axed and the show carries on without a hitch? I know there are some other circumstances at work (for instance, our championship starting core is still largely intact). But in the meantime, let’s indulge a bit and think; Who else has pulled a Danny and shaken things up in such a manner? Here’s what I came up with after five really hard minutes of thinking (coincidentally, the amount of time I spent on the toilet this morning) :
1. Axl Rose – Appetite for Destruction was huuuuuuge. I only liked metal songs about vikings/dragons/satan/chthulu up until I heard “Mr. Brownstown”. Then I learned a whole lot about L.A. that I still assume is true, all while rocking out to such an amazingly tight band. Sure, the drummer was just ok, Izzy and Duff were junkies and Slash’s tongue reportedly turned black from drinking Jack — but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Finally, finally, I could argue back against my older brothers and their “no one is more rock n’ roll than Iggy Pop/Motorhead/The Clash” rhetoric. This was as rock n’ roll as it got.
Then, Axl did some tinkering. Izzy Stradlin, writer of many G’nR classics? Gone. Slash’s childhood buddy, drummer Steven Adler? Eh, beat it, loser. Keyboardist? Uh, ok, I guess, why not? I mean, you didn’t need it, but whatever, Axl. Your band. What’s that? You’re going to cover Bob Dylan? With a reggae breakdown? Wearing catcher’s gear? I’m not following you.
Of course, Use Your Illusion Parts I through IV or whatever was a massive success, full of hits and (more importantly) one song that made it to my Never-Play-That-&@*%er-Around-Me list. We got videos with dolphins flying around and Slash soloing in a church. All I wanted was Izzy back, and no more synth-strings. (I didn’t really care about Nate Robinson — I mean, Steven Adler. That change needed to happen.)
2. The X-men – Ok, the sixties were full of change and allegories. That’s what Time-Life tells me, anyway. So here is this great comic book analogy for racism and tolerance, five outcast teenagers dressing up and fighting racism (and magnetism) under the super-vision of a telepathic geezer in a wheelchair. Excelsior! Very high concept, as ideas go. Except no one really cared that much about the poor Uncanny X-kids. There were way better super heroes out there like Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four.
So Marvel comics pulled a Danny Ainge (oddly enough the term was already around then) and booted most of the team. Rich kid with wings? Peace out. Dude with huge feet? Seriously? You were on the team? Get out. Laser beam eyes, hot red head, we’ll keep you two. Then, in one of the most brilliant (i.e., profitable) moves in the history of comics, Len Wein brought in a whole new squad of international muties to fill out the all-new, all-different X-men. Wolverine was the biggie, and if you predicted that a tiny Canadian would be the biggest star, than you’re telling me you knew Steve Nash would be an NBA MVP when he was at Santa Clara. And you were definately too high that time. They also added a sexy African goddess, a teleporting demon and an actual Irish super hero (if you’re trying to think which new Celtic corresponds with each new X-men, well… I just successfully wasted two minutes of your life). More importantly, though, they revamped the spirit of the X-men, they added previously absent layers, and by the beginning of the 80’s, The Uncanny X-men was the biggest comic book in the world.
So which will it be, I wonder? Will this year’s Celtics be the Use Your Illusion team, successful but lacking soul? Or the all-new, all-different X-men team, stronger and weirder and ultimately superior? Because I’m reasonably sure it has to be one of those two things, I usually think of good stuff when on the john.
We’ll know soon. For the next week or two, though, I don’t think I’ll be the only one squinting at the names on some of the Celtics’ jerseys and muttering, “What’s that dude’s name again?”
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