Winding down with the Celtics

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Winding down with the Celtics

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the blog! After a week off, I'm ready to roll, and still buzzing from yesterday's game. But before we get to the Celtics, here's one leftover travel-related question:

Is there anything more depressing than sitting in the terminal before the flight home from vacation?

Now obviously, this is relative. I can think of thousands of real life issues Kony, gas prices, American Reunion that are more depressing than waiting around an airport at the end of a great trip, but you have to admit: It's a sad experience.

Technically, you're still on vacation, but at this point, the buzz is just about gone. You've already waited in seven different lines, been snapped at by five different airline employees and been pissed off by at least 25 other travelers. If you're really lucky, you were randomly selected to have a stranger grab your penis!

For me, the worst part (aside from that last thing) is when the plane actually arrives, and a gang of new vacationers emerges from the tunnel. They're all so happy, so excited to kick off their own week in paradise. Most of them can't be bothered with out-going travelers they avoid eye contact like the waiting area is some sort of deranged leper colony but once in a while, you catch someone looking over and laughing like: Haha . . . losers. Have fun at work on Monday!

It sucks. The end of vacation always sucks. And it's during that 45 minutes or so spent sitting in the terminal, when it all starts to sink in. When you have no choice but to make peace with reality, and just hope you can squeeze out a few more happy moments before you officially land back at home. Maybe there's a great movie on the flight. Maybe you won't get stuck next a screaming baby. Maybe there's a tail wind and the plane lands 30 minutes early. You'll take anything! You just pray that the ending's not so bad, and that the great memories from this last vacation are enough to power you through until the next one whenever that might be.

OK, now let's bring this back to basketball and the Boston Celtics:

Right now, we're all stuck waiting in the terminal at Danny Ainge Airport.

It's been an amazing five-year vacation, but the end is near. We know that these Celtics won't win the title, and that whether it happens this week or this summer, the team's headed for a significant makeover and we're all headed for a reality check. We've seen the new teams Miami, Chicago, OKC de-board on the way to their own run at the glory. Some just cruise by without saying a word; others cant help but take pleasure in our misfortune. But either way, there's no escape, and there's nothing else to do but try to squeeze out a few more memories before it's too late.

And as far as I'm concerned, yesterday's loss to the Lakers qualifies as one of those moments.

Of course, you hate to see the Celtics lose. You always hate to see them lose. Especially to Lakers. Especially in a game that Boston could have and should have won. Take nothing away from LA; they got the job done. But the Celtics were up three points (with the ball!) with 1:30 to play. This was their game. And they lost it. And that's too bad.

But tell me something: Does it really matter? Would a win have made you think any differently about where this team is headed? Are the last 1:30 of yesterdays game the difference between the Celtics being contenders or pretenders?

No way.

It's over. Either we've already accepted this, or will spend the next few months sitting in the terminal and letting it all sink in. But while we do, it's worth soaking in every second of what this team gives us. Who knows how long it will be before we see the Celtics and Lakers go at it like they did yesterday afternoon? How long it will be before there's so much animosity between the two rosters and so much history out on the court? Who knows the next time we'll see the Celtics compete on that stage, in that atmosphere?

We don't know. We probably don't want to know. But with a few more efforts and afternoons like yesterday even in defeat the Celtics' inevitable reality will be a little easier to swallow. And maybe the flight home won't have to be so depressing

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.