Wednesday, January 26, 2005

January 26th, 2005

YOUR AFC (yawn) CHAMPION (ho-hum) PATRIOTS:

This is a jaded sports nation here in New England. Yankee Humiliating & World Champion Red Sox. Multi-Super Bowl Champion Patriots. The Bruins haven't lost a game a months! (What, they still play hockey in Boston, right?) We're spoiled. And I
LOVE it!

I, and many older than me, remember the Patriots. Not the Bob Kraft Patriots. The Sullivan family/Victor Kiam/James Orthwein Patriots. Not a lot of happy memories there. Even the only Super Bowl of that sad sack era was so horribly tainted. The drug scandals that rocked the team during that time period and Irving Fryars' erratic behavior tainted that season.

Personally, my Dad, the man who allowed me the privilege of watching sports (which my sisters still resent to this day: "We couldn't watch TV, but HE watches the stupid Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins.), had just undergone a quadruple bypass. This was 1986, not exactly the refined, precise medicine of today. The Patriots were a took a bit of back seat that winter.

On the field, they beat the Jets in the playoffs (OK, not much of an upset, I admit), then the Raiders (marred by Howie Long & Matt Millen clubbing the obnoxious Pat Sullivan. Somehow I don't see Jonathan Kraft taunting the opponents after a playoff game.), finally the Dolphins (SQUISH THE FISH, BABY!), before unraveling in the Super Bowl and having the Bears "Super Bowl Shuffle" all over there whipped butts.

On a side note, even the "Squish the Fish" game was anti-climatic to me. A few weeks
previous during the regular season, the Pats went down to the Orange Bowl on a
Monday night, and SHOUD have won the game. They had the Sons of Shula beaten,
on a rare national stage, and somehow lost the game. I knew that the second time
they'd handle the 'phins with aplomb. They certainly did, and then some. A great
defensive game that day by the Pats.

Anyway, to get back to the point, we are becoming numb to Patriots success. We're turning into those obnoxious fans that can't even fathom their team losing a single game. I remember brooding for the entire week when the Pats lost. I don't anymore. I shake it off before the game is over because I KNOW they'll rebound and come back strong.

No one was running out to get "AFC Champions!" gear in the blizzard. But if it there had been a blizzard after the first AFC Championship
game versus Pittsburgh (AKA Drew Bledsoe's Final & Finest Patriots Moment) we'd
be standing ten deep in the snow waiting for the stores to open. It was FRESH.
It was EXCITING. It was NEW.

I try to remember how it felt. Even '96 when the Tuna bailed out on the team and Max Lane couldn't slow down Reggie White. It was an amazing feeling. It didn't feel the same last year or this year. But I'm going to cherish it. I'm going to recapture that feeling. We could be 86 years away from another Super Bowl. I'm not going to waste it. I'm not going to gloss over it. I'm going to remember the days of Matt Cavanaugh, Steve Grogan, Tony Eason, and Scott Zolak at QB. Robert Weathers, Reggie Dupard, Tony Collins, and Marion Butts in the backfield. Marv Cook as the hope at tight end. John Hannah and four guys off the street playing on the line. Hart Lee Dykes and Irving Friar running from defensive backs while running from the law. And
the countless others who I dare not remember because they're hidden in the painful
past. These next two weeks I'll be on Pro-Football-Reference.com combing through
those horrible teams of the past to make sure I never forget to appreciate what
we have right now.

THE GREEN ARE FINALLY LOADING SOME BULLETS IN THE BARREL

It's time to take the plunge.

No, it's not the time to jump on the Celtics bandwagon-that's two or three years away. In two years the nucleus of point guard Delonte West, swingman Tony Allen, power forward Al Jefferson, and center Kendrick Perkins will finally give the Celtics a mature, young, athletic talented starting five that can compete with the powers of the NBA. Note, I said starting five when I only listed four. That's because the last starter on the Celtics 2007 Eastern Conference Champions team is still unknown.

Here's what I know: it had better not be Ricky Davis or Paul Pierce.

Davis, a great talent, is a few bolts short of a Frankenstein monster at best. He, and Jiri Welsch, make a deadly combo of hustle and instant offense coming off the bench to play the swingman positions (small forward/big guard or the 2 & 3 for you basketball purists). Starters? Nope.

Paul Pierce has somehow morphed into a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. How did
he go from legitimate NBA stud to an angry, Tracy McGrady-ish figure? The man
is begging for a fresh start somewhere else (kind of like his pal, Antoine Walker.
How's it going playing for the quasi-expansion Atlanta Hawks, 'Toine?). He needs
to go. Plain and simple. He's no longer a leader. His defensive play has inexplicably slipped. He has too many off-nights shooting the ball. He's just not an impact player anymore.

The base is there. It's time to clear the fat, give up on this hopeless season of fighting to reach .500 play, and trade some junk to get some Ping-Pong balls. As horrible as Danny Ainge's first draft appeared to be (Perkins is a legit future center, but he definitely is on the Mao's 5 year plan. Sorry, Marcus Banks. A shooting guard in a point guard's body doesn't cut it in the NBA.), last year's draft was tinged in red (as in Red Auerbach). Al Jefferson, if the draft was held again right now, would be a top 5 (maybe even top 3) pick, Delonte West, once he's healthy, will have people think they're seeing Dennis Johnson at the point (minus the pock-marked face), and Tony Allen, a pick in the 20's (which is where most NBA teams draft players with an eye on possibly, in three years, if they show remarkable improvement, consider bringing over from an overseas team), is already not only starting, but starring!

Yes, they're young and they're going to have a bunch of clunkers to go with the flash of hope, but the future waits for no one. Danny Ainge, build around these future stars in earnest immediately! Trade anyone else with value. Trade Paul Pierce for picks or expiring contracts. Trade Gary Payton at the trade deadline to a legitimate contender. Trade Walter McCarty and Marcus Banks for bag of balls if you can get it. Give Mark Blount away to the highest bidder (hint, former coach Jim O'Brien in Philly always loved him). Blow 'em up, get some more young talent. Draft another impact player or two. We've been waiting 20 years for the green to win a championship again-we can wait another couple years to do it right.

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All
Content By: Hal Bent - Copyright 2005.

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portion of the articles or photographs may be reproduced without the express written
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