Celtics show their vulnerable side -- not unexpectedly
Posted: Thursday January 17, 2008 11:36AM; Updated: Thursday January 17, 2008 11:36AM
Scot Pollard sat in front of his locker before a recent game at TD Banknorth Garden and agreed that, yes, with all the attention given to the Celtics' Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, people have tended to overlook the "Pollard Factor." The 11th-year center, who has toiled (mostly in obscurity) for six teams, elaborated on that point.
"As someone pointed out to me," Pollard said, "you also have to look at what happens to teams after I leave. They tend to fall apart. It happened with Indiana, Sacramento and, now, Cleveland."
Pollard's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek, of course, which is where you would expect it to be on a guy who wears a ski cap bearing the message "Male Escort" and claims, "I got it from my wife."
Across the way, backup forward Brian Scalabrine, whose 1.9 scoring average matches Pollard's, was asking strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo when he had time to stretch him.
"You wanna do it now?" Doo asked.
"I just want to make sure it's not interrupting anything else for you," said Scalabrine, whose entry into games prompts a wild response from the fans, just as it did in the four seasons that he played for the Nets. (Translation: Scalabrine wanted to make sure that no one in the regular rotation needed stretching.)
Between Pollard and Scalabrine stood backup guard Eddie House, talking half to himself and half to anyone in the vicinity, revving himself up with chatter, as he always does. I asked him how he fit into this Celtics puzzle. "I'm one small piece amid three big pieces," he said. Then he smiled: "But I am a piece."
The Celtics have one of the crucial elements of a hastily assembled power team: strong support from the reserves. Pollard, House and Scalabrine are all established vets who know the score, as does sixth man James Posey, who won a championship ring with the Miami Heat in 2006 and whose minutes are bound to increase as this season goes on.
In fact, the Celtics' overall chemistry seems to be fine. And, trust me, many journalistic detectives have been scouring the lab, as I did a couple of weeks ago when I hung around the Celtics for several days. The three major pieces seem to have adjusted to each other; the two young starters (point guard Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins) seem to take any criticism well and want to get better; and no one seems to have tuned out coach Doc Rivers.
But the Celtics have shown a mortal streak recently, losing three of four (including back-to-back games to the Washington Wizards) before Wednesday night's solid 100-90 home victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, their record is still 31-6, best in the league, but the seemingly magical season that began from the opening tip-off on Nov. 2 has run into that brick wall known as reality.
Of course it has.
The Celtics were never a 70-win team, probably not a 60-win team. But can they still be considered a championship-caliber team considering they are trying to make the leap from winning 24 games last season? That's a more difficult question to which we'll return in a minute.