It was going to be so bad, man.
The Celtics were going to shake off their frustrated regular season, calmly disassemble and discard the East’s unready up-and-comers, and catch Golden State in the Finals just as age, boredom, internal strife, the strain of Kevin Durant’s impending free-agency, and the ravages of the West playoffs conspired to make the Warriors vulnerable for the first time in three years. They were going to end the Warriors’ rotting dynasty and launch the Third Boston Age. Kyrie Irving was going to win Finals MVP and everybody—but most intolerably Kyrie himself—was going to interpret it as certification of everything that makes him perhaps the single most annoying space-brained nitwit in the NBA. Gordon Hayward would be the team’s entire delegation to a creepy congratulatory Viking Moot at the White House. The front-office was going to celebrate the championship by trading still-improving young players and abstract assets for Anthony Davis and lock the team into at least a year and perhaps up to a half-decade of utter invincibility. Danny Ainge was going to be on the covers of however many sweatily aspirational Activated Business Man magazines there are left, fronting fawning profiles in which he preached as though having invented the virtues of long-term planning and flexibility and foresight. The Center for American Progress was going to recruit Brad Stevens to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Paul Pierce was going to claim credit for it all somehow. Bill Simmons was going to emit visible light. Bostonians were going to be happy. It was going to be a fucking nightmare.
That’s what I believed, anyway, as recently as a little over a week ago, when the Celtics snatched home-court advantage away from the Bucks with a Game 1 win. I was preparing myself for it to dawn over the NBA like a black anti-sun, the next horror to slot neatly into this nightmare universe as though scripted for it at the dawn of time by the fucking devil. The Celtics, and not just any Celtics but these awful, awful Celtics, were going to be the fucking champions, and everyone was going to have to live in a fermenting hell-world overfilled with joyous Celtics fans, the worst of all humans.
Instead: Huzzah! The vile Celtics are in hell now, punted there last night by the mighty and virtuous Bucks. Everything about them is bad now. Giannis Antetokounmpo wiped his butt with them, which is no great shame, but so did Pat Connaughton and George Hill.
Kyrie spent the last four games of the series shooting his own reputation into the trash and mostly airballing it. I’m not even sure the Boston braintrust would want him to re-sign after this; the most contrarian thing he can do now is exercise his player option to stay there. Ainge is the idiot who, by coyly broadcasting his promise to trade the team’s stock of young players for Davis if only the New Orleans Pelicans would wait until the summer, poisoned and destroyed the fragile internal ecosystem of a team with once-legitimate and now-ruined championship ambitions. Stevens is Macrobiotic Jim Boylen; he alienated the organization’s prized young players for the sake of coddling Hayward, who sucks. Jaylen Brown is Evan Turner with better muscle tone. Terry Rozier is Shabazz Napier with delusions of grandeur. Hayward is Gamergater Omri Casspi and the franchise owes him $67 million over the next two seasons. Jayson Tatum has terminal Kobe Brain and was by some measures the worst isolation scorer in the NBA this season; Kobe’s final vengeance against the last franchise ever to beat him in the Finals was to ruin its most promising young player in decades. The Pelicans would be insane to take Tatum for Davis if Zion Williamson is on the table. By the end of its feeble postseason run, Boston’s three best players were soon-to-be-33-year-old Al Horford, who can opt out of his contract in a few weeks; 29-year-old Marcus Morris, whose contract will expire on July 1; and Marcus Smart, whose name speaks for itself. No established free agents want to come play exactly 26 minutes and take precisely 11 shots per game in Stevens’s goober Hoosiers fantasy.
The Celtics may be mere weeks away from having a reboot forced upon them, and that might actually be more desirable than Kyrie coming back. Paul Pierce will spend the rest of his life getting clowned for his reaction to Game 1. Boston is a land of wind and ghosts this morning, or anyway I hope so.
What is next for this puke franchise? I don’t have to give a damn! I just know that today sucks for every member of it and for everyone in its broader diaspora of shit-eating Plastic Paddy–ass fake Irishmen out there across America, and that is enough. In fact it is great. The world needed a break. It needed something to be happy about, for once. What even is this warm swelling feeling in my chest? Is this hope? I think maybe it is hope. I hope Larry Bird falls down a manhole.