February 22, 2008 — It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.
And, which is more: It was the Celtics in the midst of a January-February blah stretch; it was the Celtics on their way to #Banner17.
On this date 10 years ago, The #Banner17 Boston Celtics lost to the Phoenix Suns, 85-77. (Not a typo, just the offensive nadir for Boston.)
There are — hopefully — some possible parallels between that team and the Celtics today.
By Celtics247 staff including Ken Brock, J.D. Anderson, & Shreyas Laddha
At Phoenix that night, future Celtic great Shaquille O’Neal scored just four points, but gragged 14 rebounds for a Suns team that suddenly had some muscle up front. (Shaq was traded at the deadline.)
Paul Pierce had what he later called “one of the worst five games of my life,” shooting just 2 for 14 with three turnovers.
Kevin Garnett‘s recent return at the start of the trip wasn’t enough for the Celtics against Shaq and company. The Celtics didn’t lose a ton of ground, but suddenly sat just two games ahead of the Detroit Pistons in what would turn out to be an important battle for #1 seeding in the East.
#Banner17 and adversity
There wasn’t a lot of adversity for the Celtics that season, particularly before the playoffs. Still, if there was a low point, Boston definitely reached it in Phoenix.
The Phoenix game was the team’s third straight loss to start a give-game western road trip.
After a 29-3 start, the Celtics struggled in mid-January and February (cc: #Banner18 Celtics). Starting with a Jan. 9 loss to Charlotte, the Celtics went through a meh-ish 12-9 stretch, culminating with the Suns loss.
It didn’t help that Garnett was out from Jan. 26 to Feb. 18 with an abdominal strain. When will he be back, one reporter asked in early February. “Um,” Doc Rivers answered, “you know ‘Doc’ is a nickname, right?”
#Banner17 and #Banner18
Looking at the same stretch of the season, there just may be some how-you-deal-with adversity parallels to 2008. (See image nearby, from Basketball Reference.)
Here were some of the NBA headlines from that week.
— There was a team in the East with several finals runs under its belt, namely Detroit.
“Forget about Kevin Garnett and the Celtics,” Dan Bickley wrote in the Arizona Republic. “Here is the sobering truth… the Pistons are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and its not even close.”
— Both the Caveliers and the Lakers made big roster moves at the deadline (though not with one another).
“How the hell did you guys pull off the Gasol trade?,” Rivers asked Kobe Bryant, leaning over as they rode a bus together to the all-star game a few days earlier. “Hey, you’re talking?,” Kobe shot back.
Of course, in 2018, the Laker move appears more preparatory to clearing out cap room — and schmoozing LeBron for later this summer. In 2008
In the case of the Cavs… in February 2008, they picked up several athletic players, including Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, and then-young DeLonte West. LeBron James was pleased, and started playing with a little extra bounce in his step.
“I’m excited,” James said. “This isn’t the type of deal I expected… but I am grateful for the situation.”
“You come in the locker room today and it is very different.”
“In short,” to finish off our adaptation of Charles Dickens above, “it was a time very much like the present.”
— And finally, although it wasn’t a deadline deal, someone in the NBA was regretting a recent deal with the Boston Celtics.
“The Suns lament their decision to let Eddie House to Boston,” the Republic wrote.
The House trade was part of a deal that also brought in Rajon Rondo.
Ah, the more things change, the more — we trust — they stay the same.
Whether the 2018 Celtics in the coming months match what the 2008 Celtics did in the season of #Banner17 remains to be seen.
At this point, though, there are some reasons for hope.