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A 2016 Celtics postmortem

May 4, 2016
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Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the hoop against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, left, and forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first quarter in Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Boston. The Celtics lost the game 104-92, which ended their season. (AP Photo by Elise Amendola) Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the hoop against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, left, and forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first quarter in Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Boston. The Celtics lost the game 104-92, which ended their season. (AP Photo by Elise Amendola)
Did anyone get a time of death on the Celtics?
I stayed on and watched until the bitter end, but I stopped looking at Twitter on my phone just after halftime, so if the medical examiner needs an exact call, he'll have to look at the tape.
But as the minutes ticked away on their season, my long strange trip through the stages of grief was surprisingly tidy. I mean, I got to acceptance so quick, you'd think I never lived through the Dino Radja - David Wesley - Eddie Pinkney - Dee Brown pumping up his Reeboks era.
(Editor's note: Remember Dee Brown? When we all thought he was going to be another Jordan or whatever? Jeez, we were idiots.)
I know I've been looking at all of this like a fan. I get it - I'm guilty of it for sure. And I'm quite sure that it was a dream that was never meant to have been dreamt. There was no way they were ever going to get past the Cavaliers, never mind how obvious the class differential between the Atlanta Hawks team that ousted them and their depleted roster was.
The seeding match-up was the worst possible luck of the draw, but to be honest, after watching all of the series play out, the Celtics would have been hard-pressed to beat any of the other teams that made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors and Pacers are a level above them and both the Hornets and Heat were peaking at the right time while the Celtics were losing pieces and parts the whole way down the stretch. Saying they were exposed would be wrong; they were undermanned and outgunned by a better team.
The future looks bright, but betting on the NBA Draft Lottery to decide your fortunes is about as reliable as buying seafood from a van parked in a vacant lot a hundred miles inland. Ask Rick Pitino about the certainty of the NBA Draft.
(Actually, scratch that. All requests to ask Rick Pitino questions these days must go through his attorney.)
But any planning about what could play out in the draft has to be viewed through the twisted prism of the lottery, and counting your chickens before they are hatched would be fooling the C's and their fans more than once, shame on them.
This offseason will be ridiculous; the salary cap is taking a huge jump. Everybody will be spending, even the usual have-nots. Boston has not traditionally been viewed as a top destination for free agents for a myriad of reasons, but with the core of players already on the roster, a top-six pick in the draft and perhaps the most attractive recruiting tool they have, your Popovich-in-waiting Brad Stevens, I would not rule them out in the Durant sweepstakes. I would also suspect that they will be involved in all of the Demarcus Cousins talks now that the Kings have rolled DC out onto the showroom floor.
Honestly, the only thing I think is for sure is that next season's roster will look significantly different than the one that took the floor for Game Six in Boston. Oh, and Lebron will be another year older and another step closer to full headphone baldness.
Call it schadenfreude if you will, but as far as I'm concerned, you've got to enjoy the little things in life along the way.

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