With Celtics and Bruins, seeing is believing


With Celtics and Bruins, seeing is believing

By Rich Levine

With just about two weeks before the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Celtics and Bruins are positioning themselves at the gate.

Ones feeling fine, gearing up for a postseason that could erase nearly 40 years of nonsense. The other's delivering Bostons messiest finish since Uta Pippig.

But moving forward, what should we expect?

The Bruins' picture is the clearer of the two. Basically, with six games left, a seven-point division lead and the second-place Canadiens still shaking off their TD Garden deathblow, Bostons on the fast track to the Northeast crown.

The Bs have won four of five games, including statement wins like Tuesday nights over the defending champion Blackhawks (even if Chicago went a little 1997 Marlins in the offseason), Sundays playoff clincher at conference-leading Philly, and most notably, last Thursdays beatdown of the Habs. Theres a chance the Bruins catch Washington for the second seed; theyll probably end up third, but either way, get them an annoying bumper sticker, because Life is Good.

Its the Montreal game that did it. Thats the night this team really started to separate itself from ghosts of Bruins past. That was game about grit and heart. It was supposed to be a fight. And those are the games that the Bruins teams typically lose. Instead, they clowned Montreal like they were hockeys Washington Generals. They treated the Canadiens like you did the computer in NHL 94. They treated them how other teams used to treat the Bruins.

After a loss to the Rangers, Boston came back with two straight wins to maintain that momentum. On top of momentum, the B's have the best goalie in hockey, and in the NHL playoffs, goalies steal more games than refs do in the NBA. The Bruins have depth, youth and experience. They get contributions from both a 19-year-old and a 43-year-old, which doesnt win them any prizes but, in a weird way, tells you something about who they are: a collection of guys who are all over the map, but just might be clicking at the perfect time.

Weve been here before with the Bruins, but right now, you have wonder if its time to adjust your expectations; legitimately get your hopes up. Theyre doing it now, why not then? Or at least thats what we want to think.

But we cant.

Throw some hardwood on the ice, and the Celtics are currently up a half-game on Miami for the second seed in the East. Boston also owns the tiebreaker, but at the same time, its hard to imagine it will matter. The Cs have looked gross. Theyre losing to bad teams. Theyre losing to good teams. They have issues with the coach, issues with each other. The locker rooms more dysfunctional than Sober Valley Ranch.

The Celtics are 5-7 in their last 12 games, and over the final nine will play six playoff teams including the Spurs, Bulls and Heat.

Can they hold on to the second seed and avoid a first-round battle with Philadelphia? Well, sure . . . especially if Miami keeps playing like it did on Tuesday. But like the Bruins, the Cs might be destined for the three seed.

But seeding isnt Bostons main concern. There are more pressing issues. Like how much theyre now forced to rely on the ONeals or the fact that in interviews, every single opposing player seems to mention how different the Celtics are without Perk. Theres the fact that the teams far less reassuring than they were last year. No ones saying, Just wait until the playoffs. Everything will be fine by the playoffs! Things have gotten so bad that Ray Allen skipped out on the media after the Pacers game. This never happens. He and the media might have the most symbiotic relationship in sports; if he's bailing, something's off.

Its gotten bad enough that part of you wants to start preparing yourself for disaster, and start asking the questions: What if Rondo never grows up? What if Big Baby never cheers up? What if the ONeals fall and they cant get up?

Theres been a serious push to panic, and wonder if this this might be the end of the road.

But we can't.

With the Celtics, like the Bruins, the present is pushing us drastically in one direction, but historys pulling us back.

For the Celtics, historys like a suicide hotline. Its the memory of last year. Regular-season disaster if not as bad as this one, definitely close and certainly more drawn out turned into playoff dominance, and for no other reason than it was the playoffs. We remember looking back, and thinking about how silly all that drama was back in February and March, and how we promised to never get carried away again.

For the Bruins, history is Buzz Killington. Its the memory of the last three seasons. The inconsistent play. The mind games. The making you believe and then delivering a swift lead pipe to your kneecaps. In 2008: They fight back from 3-1 against the top-seeded Canadiens, force Game Seven and then lose 5-0. In 2009: As the No. 1 seed, they fight back from 3-1 against Carolina, force Game Seven and then lose in overtime (at home).

In 2010: Much, much worse.

And no matter whats happening now, those memories are hard to break. You can hate all you want on the Celtics' struggles, but you wont be shocked if theyre still playing in June. You can hop on the Bruins bandwagon, but guarantee youre wearing your seat belt (unless it's one of those new band wagons with a built-in ejection seat.)

You know at some point its going to happen. At some point the Celtics will get bounced in the first round; the Bruins will break through into the third. Unfortunately, and fortunately, that time will come, and it will erase everything that we know to be true. But for now, Boston's like that old Jim BreuerTracy Morgan SNL sketch: Wong and Owens, ex Porn Stars.

"This is all we know!"

We also know how quickly it can change. After all, we spent almost 15 years talking about a curse that had supposedly been in place for 86 years. Then Foulke flips to Mientkiewicz and its garbage. The curse is dead. We never talk about it again or give it one drop of credence. We take every last copy of that book and . . .

OK, sorry. Point is, it will be very easy for the Celtics to lose our unconditional faith, just as easy as it will be for the Bruins to earn it.

Its just that seeing is believing and nothing else matters.

Everything else is what we think we know. And as recent history's taught us, what we think we know about the Bruins and Celtics is about as reliable as the latest timetable on Shaq's return.

Nothing's real until it happens. Perceptions are always predicated on the past.

And in two weeks, both Boston teams will come out of the gate trying to prove someone wrong: For the Bruins, it's the people who say history will repeat itself. For the Celtics, those who say it won't.

We can have it both ways. We can have it neither. But we won't know until we see it. And thankfully, we don't have to wait much longer.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Who cares if the Cubs are campy?

Who cares if the Cubs are campy?

Sports fans are dedicated. They watch round-the-clock coverage, read every word they can and refresh Twitter endlessly. 

This isn’t because they love sports -- maybe they do -- but because they love complaining. 

An estimated 90 percent of sports discussion is complaining. The coach is terrible, the star is overpaid and, because the team didn’t win, they Don’t Have What it Takes. 

There is such thing as actual sports discussion, but quite frankly it isn’t all that interesting to everyone. The average person doesn’t care about a team’s base defense, lefty-righty matchups or who’s playing the half-wall on the power play. 

So, they stick to complaining. As the Cubs take part in the World Series for the first time since 1945, here’s a complaint that’s resonated: There’s too much other stuff. 

They’re interviewing old people in the stands. FOX keeps showing Bill Murray. Eddie Vedder was in the clubhouse celebrating with the team. 

People are actually basing their rooting interest on this, and while the above video is one of the most genuinely funny clips I’ve ever seen, it might be the most sports-fan move in the history of sports-fan moves. 

Seriously, who the hell cares? 

Dooes the long-suffering Cubs fan love that junk? Probably not, but do you think they've spent even a second thinking about it? Of course not. It isn’t taking away from their experience because that long-suffering Cubs fan is spending every second between pitches stress-eating, stress-drinking or stress-whatever-else-ing. 

We know this, of course, because Boston went through this in 2004 and the years that followed. Red Sox Nation was every bit as campy as what you’re seeing in Chicago now, and if the Cubs can go on to win the World Series, I’m sure they’ll take any and all nonsense that comes with it. 

Red Sox fans did a decent job of handling this at first. They embraced the shots of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner at the 2004 World Series and didn’t throw a fit when Jimmy Fallon ran onto the field in St. Louis so he could shoot one of the worst movies of all time. For Sox fans, those things were no different than the endless ads for My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss: just stuff that was going on during the stress-eating/drinking/whatever-else-ing. 

Yet, as the years went on, predictably, they went back to their first instinct and complained. The team was still winning World Series, but it got too cute. The term “pink hat” -- which for about two and a half years every guy ages 14-31 claimed they made up -- became a thing. This was a derogatory term for fair-weather fans, specifically ones who were women, because it would be impossible for a die-hard Red Sox fan to simply buy a hat in a color they liked. 

[Side-note: The Red Sox wore and sold alternate hats in the 1997 season and nobody batted an eye.]

[Other side-note: People who say “pink hat” are actually the worst. Sports don’t exist just for you, you weirdo. Even if that person isn’t as big a fan as you, they’re giving money to the team you like so the team you like can go buy free agents. Stop it.]

Did the “pink hats” hurt the 2007 Red Sox? Of course not. Josh Beckett still got to swear on TV and J.D. Drew still got to hit that grand slam. Everyone got what they wanted. Is a lady who’s probably going to die in a couple years sitting in the Wrigley stands hurting Jon Lester on the mound? No. It's really not a big deal.

Then came the bricks. From the moment the Red Sox began selling bricks to be placed in various spots of Fenway in 2011, everything was the bricks’ fault. Angry about the Adrian Gonzalez trade? Stupid ownership with their bricks. Chicken and beer got you down? Bricks. Taking Terry Francona’s side in the split? Probably. He wasn’t the one selling bricks. 

The bricks are still mentioned to this day, years after the team won a third World Series title in a 10-year span. You did not have to buy the bricks to remain a fan of the team. It was a totally optional thing. You still got to watch and go to the games without the bricks having anything to do with your life.

The bricks were sold -- at a silly price -- because some people would buy them. Then the Red Sox got that money and remained super rich. 

Sure, the team got too business-oriented in the process. Ownership became all about grand gestures, and it might have led to Theo Epstein’s departure. That’s serious collateral damage, even if Epstein didn’t believe in staying for one place forever anyway. 

Still, look at the end result. A lot of people used to actually pray for the Red Sox back in the dark days. Many undoubtedly spoke to/swore at God after watching Aaron Boone’s solo shot in the bottom of the 11th in 2003. Imagine if he answered by saying that you’d not only reach the World Series, but win three of the next 10, but that some hats would be different and the owners would come off as both money-hungry and out-of-touch. You’d sign up for that, PED accusations and everything in between. 

You don’t have to love the entire fanbase or the coverage to love a team. You certainly don’t have to love ownership. You should, however, take the good with the bad. As the adage goes, winning solves everything, even bricks.

Garnett to add ‘raw insight and commentary’ to TNT NBA coverage


Garnett to add ‘raw insight and commentary’ to TNT NBA coverage

BOSTON – Kevin Garnett may have retired from the NBA as a player, but you knew the future Hall of Famer wouldn’t stray too far from the game. 
The 15-time NBA All-Star, who won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008, will be a contributor on TNT’s NBA coverage this season. 
“I'm excited to join the Turner family,” Garnett said in a statement. “I’ve been a fan for a long time, so I’m thrilled that it’s a reality now.”
In addition, the network says he will appear weekly this season while providing “raw insight and commentary.”
As one of the more engaging players in this generation, it’s great to know that there will be a home for Garnett to continue providing his always-colorful thoughts on basketball-related matters. 
While the network says in a released statement that he will provide his commentary from a standalone set which will involve him interacting with special guests from the entertainment as well as sports community, I’m eager to see how he fits in with their NBA Three – Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and his ex-Celtics teammate Shaquille O’Neal. 
Because when KG’s around and he sees a mic, you never know what he’s gonna do.