Fall from grace

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Fall from grace

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON We always joked about what might happen in Cleveland if LeBron decided to split.

And on Tuesday night, those jokes played out on the parquet.

Basically, every potential consequence of LeBron taking his contraction talks to South Beach has turned into a reality. Throw in a couple of tough injuries and a head coach who doesnt exactly have the best track record in the motivation department, and youve got disaster.

The Cavaliers' 17-point loss to the Celtics was their 18th in a row, and their 28th in the last 29 games; yet another brutal showing in a season thats grown so ugly that even Popeye Jones is offended.

And its only natural for Celtics fans to get at least a little satisfaction out of that.

After all, over the last three years, theres been an unbelievable amount of anger and animosity built up towards the orange and yellow (or whichever of their million uniform combos theyre wearing on a given night).

In the 2008 playoffs, the Cavs took the Cs to the brink of elimination and would have ended their season if not for a legendary performance by Paul Pierce and the genius of PJ Brown. In the two seasons that followed, the Cavs won a combined 127 regular-season games (the Cs only won 112) and twice finished the as the Easts No. 1 seed. At one point, they beat Boston eight straight times at the Q.

And over that time, whether or not it ever played out that way, the Cavs always felt like the biggest threat to the Celtics Eastern Conference supremacy. Other than the Lakers, who only popped up twice a year anyway, Cleveland was the Celtics' biggest rival.

And then, with one pathetic playoff series, followed by one pathetic TV special, the Cavs were dead.

In an instant, they became the team we all casually joked they would.

Now, theyve just become a joke.

For years, the CavsCeltics games were two of the best three home games of the seasons. They were the games that always gave off the biggest playoff vibe. They were the games that felt like they actually had playoff implications; where if you had tickets there was always that moment when you thought: You know, I could probably sell these for A LOT of money right now. You never did. But you knew it was a big deal that you were going.

But that was then. Now, you might have trouble giving away those Cavs tickets. Now its the kind of game that the Cs use as a tune-up for their long-injured starting center, where you see Luke Harangody in the first quarter, where you watch without ever worrying about the outcome.

Now, the Cavs are . . .

I dont know, who the hell are they?

Christian Eyenga? Samardo Samuels? Who knew Manny Harris was actually in the NBA?

Theyre the worst team in basketball.

And while that might not all be about LeBron (theyd be a little better with a healthy Anderson Varejao and a less-scorned Mo Williams), it doesnt change the reality. In less than six months, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone from a 66-win, Finals favorite to a team thats on pace for 16 wins and enough ping-pong balls to make Forrest Gump all tingly (although maybe not anymore since hes got to be in his late 60s).

The Cavs were maybe the sharpest thorn in the Celtics side. Now theyre a withered old toothpick. And that should be reason to celebrate in Boston. After all, we've celebrated every Cleveland loss for the last three years. It's only natural to see that uniform, fall back into that mode, and maybe have some fun with this runaway dumpsters of a season.

But on closer inspection: It's impossible.

With the Cavs, the animosity's gone. The hatred's all been transferred to Miami. There's nothing else left, and in the end, you just feel bad.

It's not like you want the Cavs contending every season, but nobody deserves to go down the way they have.

Its like, imagine if your worst enemy just some guy you really hate went on The Bachelorette. Except for this season, the twist is that the Bacherloette was the guy's actual wife.

It was him, a bunch of other single guys, and his wife.

Totally embarrassing, but this guy loved his wife THAT much. He was willing to do anything, just to get her back.

Now imagine he goes through the whole thing, all the ups and downs, and makes it to the Final 2. Then on the last show, the wifebachelorette invites his entire family to the set, kneels down before him on national TV, and picks the other dude.

Admit it, youd feel bad.

And if not then, youd definitely feel bad when you ran into the guy six months later and learned that since the divorce hed been fired for appearing on the show, gained 50 pounds and now spends his lunch at Centerfold's All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

Now that's sad. Whoever it is.

And anyway, you start talking and realize that since his wife left, the guy's not even that big of a jerk. Turns out she was always the worst thing about him.

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

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

A. Sherrod Blakely breaks down the DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans