You would have signed up in mid-December, just prior to this lockout ravaged season, for the Celtics to make it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Easily.
But in the words of Doc Rivers, on the day that Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in Boston, there were monumental changes in Boston's collective mindset regarding the C's way back then and in the months leading up to the end of this wonderful era: "From low expectations, to high expectations, that's what we want. That's exactly what we want."
Whenever you are two or three stops and two or three makes away from reaching the NBA Finals, there is reason to believe that just a "tweaking" of the roster is the best bet.
One can surely believe, however, that Ainge has much larger plans.
The Celtics boss likely believes that his team still has a chance to nab Dwight Howard, someway, somehow. They have enough cash to grab a decent free agent this summer (Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Nicolas Batum, Ryan Anderson, JaVale McGee and O.J. Mayo can all be had for the right price) or could wait until next summer to target the likes of Josh Smith (Rondo's old high school buddy). Over the past decade, Ainge has yet to sign a questionable player to a crippling long-term contract. And make no mistake, that is the best thing you can say about any NBA GM.
It's doubtful he will sign a medium-sized fish to a long-term deal. That is the main reason why Kendrick Perkins is not here today. Our expectations for Ainge and the direction of the franchise have changed dramatically from July 2007 to today. Our expectations for Rondo, now unquestionably the new leader of the franchise, have changed dramatically since this past December.
Today, one would sign up for the 2012-13 Celtics to make it back to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Easily.
More than anyone else, it's up to Ainge and Rondo to make that happen.
- Matt Burke is sports editor of Metro Boston. Follow him on Twitter @BurkeMetroBos.
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