We were told this day would come.

“The Big 3” are now too old to beat title contenders. Certain players are getting defensive, through their words, not their play. And trade rumors involving previously “untradeable” assets are beginning to swirl.

This is the beginning of the end of the Celtics (4-8) as we have come to know them.

Tonight, not even a month into the 2011-12 season, the Celtics are playing a must-win game against a dreadful opponent in the 4-10 Toronto Raptors at TD Garden (7:30, CSNNE).

 

Monday night the Celtics welcomed back old friend Kendrick Perkins and his presence alone offered a quick glimpse into the highly uncertain future of the Celtics and the now-ready-for-prime time Thunder. The C’s played one of their best games of the season, but simply did not have the legs to hang with the youthful Thunder in a 97-88 loss.

They are now losers of five-straight games, the longest such streak in “The Big 3” era.

Following Monday’s game, center Jermaine O’Neal took a few shots at his critics.

“There’s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate from people who supposedly analyze the game,” O’Neal said. “You have to know what position the team has players in. The fact of the matter is that Doc [Rivers] has given each of us a role, so all of this debate about what I score … I probably won’t even answer that after this time. For all of you wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role.”

Adding to the sense of urgency on Causeway Street is the thought that captain Paul Pierce could be potential trade bait, according to a report by Yahoo Sports!, if the Celtics are unable to turn things around in a hurry.

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