Posts Tagged ‘Paul Pierce’

Kobe Bryant is Fading Away and Other Aging NBA Stars

October 13, 2014

I’ve been watching a lot of preseason NBA ball this past week, and it looks like Charles Barkley is still correct. Eventually Father Time conquers all.

There’s a litany of aging NBA stars playing out what may be their last professional contracts over the next couple of years – Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen if he signs somewhere, and maybe even Tim Duncan (that group in 2006 would have been the best team ever). I’m leaving Dirk off the list not because he isn’t an aging star but because it looks like his style of play will allow for a gentler slope of decline. Timmy probably belongs off the list with Dirk for a similar reason and because Pop takes such good care to protect him from the rigors of the 82 game season.

I’ve seen all of the Lakers preseason games, and 36 year old Kobe Bryant bears an uncomfortably close resemblance to 38 year old Michael Jordan of the Washington Wizards. The skillset is still there. He has all those familiar moves carefully crafted over an NBA lifetime spent winning scoring titles and championship rings. But the grace is gone, that athletic lift that put Kobe in another stratosphere.

Bryant has always taken and made a lot of tough shots. That’s part of his mystique. He can get up a shot with a chance to go in from anywhere at any time against anyone. But it’s getting to be more difficult to add easier, more efficient scoring possessions to those tough ones. The blow-by ability off the first step is harder to come by. The explosive dunk over the top of a help defender in the lane is a rarer highlight. Losing that ability to slash into the paint at breakneck speed and fly through the air at the rotating defender cuts down on trips to the free throw line. One drive per game that used to result in a drawn shooting foul that is now counted as a missed shot or a turnover becomes a huge hit to a player’s efficiency rating.

For the first three preseason games, Bryant has a TS% of 0.416. He has scored 34 points on 36 shot attempts with only 11 free throws attempted in 3 games and 0 made three pointers (he’s only attempted 1 three-pointer). Three games is a meaninglessly small sample, especially in the preseason. And the first two games weren’t so bad (3-13 in game 3 brings the total efficiency down a lot), but I watched the games, and I see real problems. Too many fade away jumpers against set defenders. Too few open shots off quick hitting attacks. Too many dribbles to get into the lane. It doesn’t take much in terms of a slower step or lower elevation to put the defense in position to impact those field goal attempts.

I saw all the same things with Jordan in Washington. A string of games where he seemed to play pretty well but when you looked at the box score his shooting was under 45%, and he barely got to the line followed by a putrid 30% shooting game and very few high 50% or unicorn-rare 60%+ shooting games to balance things out. In his youth and even the tail end of his prime, MJ would pepper his game log with really great shooting nights to offset the mediocre games. As a Wizard that just didn’t happen because even when he was making the majority of his tough shots, he still wasn’t getting himself enough easy opportunities (free throws and layups). So games that would have been 50+ points on 70% shooting for a younger MJ wound up being 35 points on 55% shooting for #23 in blue. They were exciting to watch, all the more so because so many of his makes were on tough, contested shots, but the end result was that what should have been a spectacular game was merely a good game. This is the territory that Kobe appears to be entering.

The problems Steve Nash faces are even more obvious. Once the premier fast break and pick and roll point guard of the league, Nash now lacks the quickness to get by defenders or turn the corner coming off screens with a live dribble. Pressure defense bothers him because he’s not a threat to blow by an off-balance defender and get into the lane. His handles are still good. His shot is still pure. And he was never a speed demon. Logically it would seem like his game could survive getting slower, but that little bit of separation he used to get is narrower than ever. He can still bounce in a perfect pocket pass or whip a lefty behind the back no look to the corner, but his scoring threat is severely reduced, which in turn means those open passing lanes are harder to come by as the opposing defense reacts less and less to his attempts to drive and shoot.

The defense is going too. Kobe can still put in a very solid effort one on one, but his days of wreaking havoc on opposing team offensive schemes are gone (and have been for a few years really). Nash was never much of a defender. Even KG isn’t dominant defensively anymore. He’s still sound in his rotations. He’s still seven feet tall. But he doesn’t close out on shooters like he used to. He can’t switch and stay in front of a dribbling guard for multiple seconds to snuff out a possession. His show and recover and other help defense actions are all a step slow.

Shaquille O’Neal was the first superstar I saw go from hyper-talented but raw rookie to dominant superstar to faded legend. I missed the first stage of that arc with the Jordan / Barkley generation, and I missed the first two stages with Bird and Magic. But the KG / Kobe era is close to me because I’m the same age as those players. To me they still seem like they should be young bucks in the prime of their careers, but stardom in the realm of athletics doesn’t work that way. So it’s time to lower our expectations and just enjoy the good moments when they come up. I’m sure Nash has one more game in his bones where he controls the tempo, gets the defense on a string, and makes his teammates all look like stars. And Pierce will hit a game winner and shout to the stands. And Bryant will toss in 50 hard-fought points. It just won’t happen often, and it won’t be easy.

Neil Young told us that it’s better to burn out than fade away. MJ and Kobe have taught us that even when your athletic flame has burnt out, you can still hit a fade away. Thank god that highlights are forever young.

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2014 NBA Playoffs – Game 1 Quick Takes

April 21, 2014

BROOKLYN NETS over Toronto Raptors – The Nets came out in the face of a great Toronto crowd and stole home court advantage on the backs of aggressive nights from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and big late game buckets by the old former Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. That said, the Raptors shouldn’t feel too bad about this game. They were dominant inside and able to get into the paint off the dribble, and they kept the Brooklyn bigs in foul trouble all game. Better games from Terence Ross and Demar DeRozen should go a long way as well. On the other hand, the Nets are unlikely to miss 14 straight three point attempts again.

ATLANTA HAWKS over Indiana Pacers – I’ve been a Pacers believer since last year’s conference finals, but I’m ready to stick a fork in these guys. Their defensive principles are slipping, and with their on-again, off-again relationship with shot-making that doesn’t leave them with a leg to stand on. They need to stop penetration, stick to the Hawks’ three point shooters, and exploit the size advantage they enjoy at every position by attacking in the post. How ironic would it be if the Hawks pulled off the upset after all the noise about how they don’t even belong in the playoffs because of the East / West disparity?

WASHINGTON WIZARDS over Chicago Bulls – The third team in the East to win game 1 on the road, the Wiz showed that they are a better team than their record when healthy. Or, more to the point, when Nene is healthy. The big Brazilian is out of shape, but his size, savvy, and skills proved enough to offset Joakim Noah, and the younger Wiz exploited their perimeter athleticism to outgun the more plodding Bulls. I predicted a Chicago victory in this series, but I’m starting to think I may have underestimated Washington’s potential. I look for Chicago to really mix it up and make the game a physical, slowed down mess in game 2. They can still win the series if they can control the pace.

MIAMI HEAT over Charlotte Bobcats – The Cats had little hope of getting more than 1 game against the defending champs going into this series, but with the injury to Big Al Jefferson, that hope has basically been extinguished. Miami now has the three best players in the series (and may have prior to Al’s injury anyway) to go along with all their experience and confidence. Looking like an easy sweep for LeBron James and company. If this were pro-wrestling, Michael Jordan’s entrance music would cue right now, and he’s run into the arena, hit LBJ with the Stone Cold Salute and Stunner special, powerbomb Dwyane Wade through an announcer’s table, and lock Chris Bosh in the Crippler Crossface until he tapped out. Then, it would turn out the ref was Pat Riley in disguise, and Pat and Alonzo Mourning would beat Michael into the ground with steel chairs. MJ’s entrance music is “Indestructible” by Disturbed.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS over Dallas Mavericks – The Spurs first handful of buckets in this game all came on lay-ups. Dallas could not deal with the Tony Parker pick and roll action or the interior passing that the Spurs use when team try to wall off penetration. Rick Carlisle is a great coach, and the Mavs will make good adjustments where possible, but it’s been a long time since they’ve had a victory over the Spurs, and at this point it looks like a personnel issue rather than a strategic one. I believe Jalen Rose’s read on this match-up was that Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki would have to put up a combined 50 to outduel Tim Duncan and Tony Parker’s Spurs machine. That seems about right at this point.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS over LA Clippers – Exciting overtime game was somewhat marred by uneven officiating. The Warriors did enough to win, but they also got the benefit of early foul trouble for Blake Griffin on some pretty light contact. On the other hand GS lost Andre Iguodala to fouls, and he was their designated JJ Reddick chaser. Mark Jackson’s decision to put Klay Thompson on Chris Paul paid off even CP3 had a huge game – he had to work hard to get his buckets, and the team actually had to move him off the ball to get him some rest. With the Warriors’ team shooting, they are always a challenge to scout, and it will be interesting to see how Doc adjusts in game 2.

OKC THUNDER over Memphis Grizzlies – I don’t think the Grizz could have drawn a tougher opponent. OKC is one of the few teams with enough size to match up without having to double, and as savvy and tough as the Grizz guards are, there’s no accounting for Russell Westbrook’s athleticism and ferocity. Kevin Durant and Furious Styles (TM – Jalen Rose) are back in synch on offense as well, which is a huge problem for any team. Memphis has the goods to take a game or two in this serious on toughness and cleverness, but the talent disparity is too much across seven games.

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS over Houston Rockets – I predicted the Blazers to steal this series, and they have started off by stealing home court. The game was very tight, as the OT and score obviously indicated, but it was tightly played throughout with neither team showing any real ability to impose its will on the other. Both teams rely on the three point shot too a great extent. I picked the Blazers because I think LaMarcus Aldrige has a better ability to make tough contested shots than anyone else in the series, and that might be what it comes down to. The injury to Patrick Beverly could be a huge loss to the Rockets. Jeremy Lin is a starting quality point guard, but Beverly’s defense and toughness represented all of the perimeter defense Houston had to offer. Without him Damian Lillard may be impossible to corral.

Barkley and Shaq vs. Blake and Dwight

November 21, 2013

In the weekly TNT broadcasts, Charles Barkley and Shaquille Oneal have been highly critical of Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard.  Tonight Charles is announcing the Clipper’s game live, and his criticisms of Blake will come in real time.  Are the gripes legit, or is this a case of retired player sour grapes?

From here I’m going to break this into two separate comparisons, Barkley vs. Blake and Shaq vs. Dwight.

In Chuck’s case, he seems to be genuinely frustrated that these two former slam dunk champions haven’t become more complete basketball players, which is funny because so many pundits were always harping on Barkley for not fulfilling his potential back in his playing days.  Mostly the knock on Charles was that he only played defense when he felt like it and didn’t keep himself in great shape, and those were fair criticisms.  Barkley’s hang-up with Blake and Dwight is more about offensive skillset and execution, and whether those are fair criticisms or not is debatable (I happen to agree, but it isn’t a no-brainer question).

Statistically, Barkley at Blake’s age was further along.

Age 23-24:

Barkley – PER 26.4 WS/48 .233 VORP 5.65

Griffin – PER 22.3 WS/48 .193 VORP 3.97

Charles was way more efficient on a per possession basis, and he played way more possessions.  From a production standpoint, Barkley was the better of the two, and if that proves to anyone that he has a legitimate claim to be able to give Blake advice, then so be it.

In terms of skill set, Charles and Griffin are actually similar in a lot of ways.  They both play that 3-4 swing forward role, able to match up effectively against small forwards because of their superior agility and power forwards because of their superior strength.  Both have the same weaknesses defensively, namely they are a little slow of foot to chase speedy small forwards off of screens or keep guard-forwards in front off the dribble, and they are a little bit short to contest the shots of the taller power forwarders (Griffin is listed at 6’ 10” but looks closer to 6’ 8” and tends to play in a crouch – Randolph and Pau shoot over him easily).

On offense I’d only consider looking at them over the same age range, 21-24.  There are some stylistic similarities.  They both love to get out and run and finish above the rim.  They both have superior ball-handling skills for their size and strength.  They both like to spin off the blocks and have good touch when finishing around the rim.  Griffin has more ability to catch and finish above the rim.  Charles had more ability to carve out space and get shots off in the paint.  The big difference, and the reason that Barkley is always harping on Blake’s lack of a post game, is that Charles was a dominant force in the post, while Blake is not.

Barkley had an unusual post game because of his height. He rarely used a hook shot and instead based his post game with all it’s countermoves off a power move towards the middle of the floor.  Longer defenders would seem to be a problem, but he had such a leverage advantage that he could usually root them out of position and use his quickness and explosiveness to get into position for easy layups.  He also had a bang and quick spin drop step, a one handed jumper to the middle, a turnaround over the opposite shoulder, and very reliable up-and-under reverse.  Blake has two post moves he likes, a spin move off a quick dribble and a hook / scoop going right.  He’s shown flashes of having a turnaround but rarely uses it.

I think what Charles wants to see from Blake is a commitment to establishing low post position and a quick, decisive attack out of that space.  This is not bad advice, but Charles needs to take into consideration that Blake does a lot of his work on cuts and off the pick and roll.  Getting better is of course a good idea.  But getting better hitting midrange jumpers off the pick and pop and getting better at making free throws would be a much better idea.  Blake has that Barkley-like combination of strength and agility, but actually needs to work on the same skills that Karl Malone developed over his career.  Playing with Chris Paul seems to be a lot like playing with John Stockton.

Shaq’s over-the-top expectations of Howard may be a little bit pettier.  He puts down Dwight as a way of maintaining his own legacy as the last great behemoth in the game, or that’s how it comes across.  From disputing the Superman nickname to calling for ridiculous 28 points 15 rebounds per game averages, Shaquille’s constant disparaging remarks have a personal undertone.  That said, Shaq is correct that it seems like Howard could achieve more if he was a little more determined to get post position, demanding of the ball, and polished in his moves.

Statistically Shaq was much better than Dwight.

Age 20-28:

Shaq – PER 28.2 WS/48 .227 VORP 5.92

Dwight – PER 22.7 WS/48 .186 VORP 5.18

Dwight actually has a higher TS% than Shaq, by 2%, but Shaq has a much higher usage, a much higher assist rate, a slightly higher offensive rebound rate, and much lower turnover rate.

Shaq and Dwight are a less apt comparison than Chuck and Blake even though they may be a more obvious one.  Shaq was 7’ 1” and ranged between 325 lbs and 375 lbs when he played.  He was incredibly massive and very agile for that size, but most of his game was predicated off of brute strength.  Dwight is listed at 6’ 11” but is probably closer to 6’ 9” and while he’s very powerful physically, he probably weighs in the 260 range, gigantic but not otherworldly so.  It is possible to keep him off the block and hold position against him.  His game is largely predicated on speed and hops.  Frankly so much of O’Neal’s success came because he could establish position against anyone and the width of his shoulders made him unfrontable, and Dwight will never have that.

O’Neal is basically looking for Dwight to improve in all areas on offense from running the floor, to crashing the boards, to posting up.  Again, these are great things to improve, but it’s unclear how much growth Dwight really needs in these areas.  Could he run the floor better?  Sure, but other than Karl Malone, you could say that about all big guys.  For a center with rim protection responsibilities, Howard changes ends very well.  Could he dominate the offense glass better?  Maybe.  He doesn’t have the advantage that Shaq did where Shaq was able to get his own rebounds because his power moves cleared out the paint for him and his standing reach didn’t require second jump effort to haul them in.  Dwight generally makes an athletic move when he shoots on his own, so he’s not necessarily on balance to follow that up with a tip in.

Post play is an area where Dwight is underrated in terms of his efficacy but could obviously still improve a lot.  Howard is an efficient scorer in the low blocks.  He has a reliable hook with either hand and an explosive first step to the middle.  He needs to develop a baseline turnaround and a quick drop step with touch as his counter moves.  Shaq actually had all of those things.  He had a finesse skill set to complement his power game.  Where Dwight could improve even more is on his passing out of the post.  He passes well when he’s set but not as effectively when the double comes as he makes his move.

So is it fair for Barkley and Shaq to criticize Blake and Howard.  Sure it is.  They are talking heads on a sports show who actually played the same positions as these guys did and actually did the job better.  If Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith criticized two NBA players like this we wouldn’t question their right to do so, though their knowledge of the game is certainly not at the level of two hall of fame players.  Are Chuck and Shaq focusing on the right things when they complain about the youngsters?  I’m not so sure.  The game has changed, and post play is more difficult to execute and less efficient as a scoring method than it used to be.  That said, champions usually have post players, whether it’s LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki in the mid-post, Pau Gasol or Kevin Garnett in the low post, or Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce in the high-post, the last 5 title winners have gone to the post up when necessary (and prior to those years it was always Timmy, Shaq, or Rasheed in the post), so getting better back to the basket play is never a bad idea.

10 Players with Multiple NBA Finals MVPs

July 25, 2013

In a mutated off-budding of yesterday’s frivolous but fun All-Decade All-NBA teams, today we have the All Multiple NBA Finals MVP Awards Team. 10 players in NBA history have amassed 2 or more NBA Finals MVP awards. This is the list:

6 – Michael Jordan
3 – Magic Johnson
3 – Shaquille O’Neal
3 – Tim Duncan
2 – Willis Reed
2 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
2 – Larry Bird
2 – Hakeem Olajuwon
2 – Kobe Bryant
2 – LeBron James

That is not a 10 Greatest Players list, but it’s a damn close approximation of one. Finals MVP was not awarded prior to 1969, the last year that Bill Russell played, and a year his Celtics won the title (the Finals MVP went to the great Jerry West in a losing effort). So granting that this list completely fails to capture anything that happened in the 1960s, it’s a solid indication of who the best players were in their days. That’s also (by popular opinion anyway) the best PG, the two best SGs, the two best SFs, the best PF, and three of the top five Cs of all time.

It’s also a bitchin’ team! Sure 5 of the 10 players could be classified as centers, but who cares? Distributing playing time is the imaginary coach’s (Phil Jackson) imaginary problem. And now we’ll help him solve it.

Let’s all agree now that as great as he was, Willis Reed is a garbage time player on this team. There’s just no way to get court time for all the great big men in a 48 minute game. But I’m sure he’s a beast in scrimmages. Honestly we should probably ditch one more big guy as nothing but a foul trouble / injury insurance plan, especially given that James and Bird could both give PF minutes (so could Magic if there was another PG on the team), but I can’t diss Cap, Snaq Daddy, Dream, or Timmy! that way.

240 total minutes are broken up thusly:

48 minutes for point guard

96 minutes for wings

96 minutes for bigs

PG Magic 28min, LeBron 20min
SG Jordan 29min, Kobe 19min
SF Bird 29min, LeBron 9min, Kobe 10min
PF Duncan 24min, Hakeem 24min
C Kareem 24 Min, Shaq 24min

Total minutes: Magic 28, Jordan 29, Kobe 29, Bird 29, LeBron 29, Duncan 24, Hakeem 24, Kareem 24, Shaq 24

Perimeter combinations:

Magic, Kobe, LeBron – 9 Minutes
LeBron, Jordan, Kobe – 10 Minutes
Magic, Jordan, Bird – 19 Minutes
LeBron, Kobe, Bird – 10 Minutes

Running team: Magic, Michael, Kobe, LeBron, Duncan
Defensive team: Michael, Kobe, LeBron, Duncan, Hakeem
Shooting team: LeBron, Michael, Kobe, Bird, Kareem
Giant team: Magic, LeBron, Bird, Hakeem, Shaq
Clutch team: Magic, Michael, Kobe, Bird, Kareem
PJax Team: LeBron, Michael, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq
Riley Team: Magic, Jordan, Bird, LeBron, Kareem

Honestly having nine all-time greats is still too many. An eight player rotation would work way better. Years ago I wrote a post making the absolute best playing rotation I could out of players I’d seen play in their primes (mid-80s to today which was probably 2009 or 10 at the time), and every one of them is in this group. We had: Magic, MJ, Kobe, Bird, Bron, Tim, and Hakeem. I know that’s only 7 players, but I honestly don’t need any more to fill out the minutes or the skill sets. This shorter rotation would play thusly:

PG: Magic 34min, LeBron 14min
SG: Jordan 36min, Kobe 12min
SF: Bird 24min, Kobe 24min
PF: LeBron 20min, Bird 10min, Duncan 18min
C: Hakeem 33min, Duncan 15min

Total minutes: Magic 34, Michael, 36, Kobe 36, Bird 34, James, 34, Tim 33, Hakeem 33

Very manageable minutes for these guys even if they give maximum effort all game every game. Adding an 8th player really knocks the minutes down. Everybody could play 30. Like so:

PG: Magic 30min, LeBron 18min
SG: Jordan 30min, Kobe 18min
SF: Bird 30min, Kobe 12min, LeBron 6
PF: LeBron 6, Duncan 30, Hakeem 12
C: Hakeem 18, Shaq 30

I love doing this sort of fantasy all-time GMing. Way more fun than coming up with lists and rankings because you can picture line-ups and play styles.

One last game: NBA Finals MVP Teams by Decade:

1980s

PG: 1987 Magic, 1982 Magic
SG: 1980 Magic, 1989 Joe Dumars
SF: 1986 Larry Bird, 1988 James Worthy
PF: 1984 Larry Bird, 1981 Cedric Maxwell
C: 1983 Moses Malone, 1985 Kareem

Rotation: Lots of Magic and Bird. Little to no Worthy or Ced. Huge on the perimeter. Great rebounding and shooting. Lack of shotblocking and athleticism. Most fun thing would be to watch wing Magic run a lane for point Magic while wing Bird spaced the floor and big Bird (ha!) fought for rebounding position. Kareem was well past his prime, and Moses was at his apex and would be necessary to secure boards, but I do think Kareem finishes games with the double Magic, double Bird line-up (maybe Dumars gets in for defenses purposes).

1990s

PG: 1991 Jordan, 1990 Isiah Thomas
SG: 1992 Jordan, 1993 Jordan
SF: 1996 Jordan, 1997 Jordan, 1998 Jordan
PF: 1999 Duncan
C: 1994 Hakeem, 1995 Hakeem

Rotation: Lots of younger Jordan. No Zeke. Perfect 4/5 rotation. Unbelievable defensively. Would be fun to see the various incarnations of Jordan come into play. 27 year old Jordan averaged 11 assists per game in the Finals and would be the PG. 1992 and 1993 Jordan were both devastating from behind the arc in the Finals, so they’d be the primary floor spacing agents. 1996 Jordan was basically operating as a forward anyway with Scottie manning the point.

2000s:

PG: 2004 Chauncey Billups, 2007 Tony Parker
SG: 2009 Kobe Bryant, 2006 Dwyane Wade
SF: 2008 Paul Pierce
PF: 2003 Tim Duncan, 2005 Tim Duncan
C: 2000 Shaq, 2001 Shaq, 2002 Shaq

Rotation: Matchup specific with very fresh, dominant big men. Double Duncan for the last 2 mintues. Kobe, Wade, and Paul manning the wings would be excellent. Could also go big with Wade at PG for matchups. Shaq, Shaq, and Shaq could be terrifyingly aggressive all game. Everybody could pretty much just be themselves because of the two PGs who made the team, but because Parker isn’t pass first or a floor spacer, Billups would probably be the main man there to give room for all the interior devastation.

2010s

PG: 2012 LeBron
SG: 2010 Kobe
SF: 2013 LeBron
PF: 2011 Dirk Nowitzki

In progress…

Rise of the Brooklyn Celtics

June 28, 2013

Six years ago at the NBA draft, Celtics fans watched the proceedings with glassy eyed stares as anticipated franchise saviors Greg Oden and Kevin Durant went 1 and 2, and the fruits of the teams’ obvious tanking turned out to be Jeff Green. But wait! It was all a bait and switch. Jeff Green was headed to the rebuilding Seattle Supersonics (remember them?) in exchange for Ray Allen, yes THE Ray Allen with the second most made threes in the NBA history (at the time). Why make that move in Boston where an extra sharpshooter wouldn’t solve the team’s lack of identity and defensive punch? A miracle trade was in the works between GM Danny Ainge and his former teammate Kevin McHale in Minneapolis. Al Jefferson goes out, and Kevin Garnett, top 5 player in the league for half a decade Kevin Garnett, comes back.

Just like that Boston moves from league worst to a prohibitive favorite. Add in long time Jeff Van Gundy assist coach Tom Thibodeau, and a few veteran pieces like PJ Brown, Sam Cassell, and James Posey, to a starting unit of young Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, the two new stars, and stalwart team captain Paul Pierce, and the guys in green go onto win 66 games and their first title since 1986. They would make one more NBA Finals and a third conference finals ultimately falling short primarily due to injuries, but that first year was truly amazing.

Jump forward to the trade deadline 2011, when GM Ainge trades away defensive specialist center Perkins to take back Jeff Green, the same Jeff Green he originally traded in order to bring in Ray Allen. After a nearly miraculous playoff run in 2012 where the C’s were within one badly missed call in game 2 from upsetting the Heat and making it back to the Finals, Ray Allen would leave in free agency, taking a contract to play for Pat Riley in Miami for less money than the Celtics offered him to stay. The Ubuntu crew that Doc Rivers built into a champion was down to 3. Finally, just last week, Doc himself flew the coup to go try his whistle with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Donald Sterling’s Los Angeles Clippers.

And the final annihilation of the KG Celtics took place last night. Kevin, Pierce, and relative Celtic new-comer Jason Terry are headed to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for the horrible contracts of Gerald Wallace, Kris Kardashian-West-Odom-Humphris, and a pu-pu platter of future picks and role players.

Moment of silence please.

How do we absorb all this? I’m trapped in a glass cage of emotion. I can’t picture Pierce in Brooklyn black. It’s just WRONG. KG is my favorite player, but I’m less sentimental about him as a Celtics fan. The Kid cometh, and the Kid goeth away. But Pierce has been THE Celtic for at least a decade now. Going to be tough to see him suiting up for another franchise.

On the other hand, I’ve got the YES network, so I’ll be able to see all the Nets games, which ain’t bad. And how good is this Nets team now? It’s very hard to say. I like Deron better than Rondo because he has the ability to hit a jump shot. However, one of the great things that Rondo brought to the table for Pierce and KG was hustle. Rajon did a lot of the work for them at both ends with his quick hands, his activity, and his constant pressure on the defense creating openings. I’d like to see this team play a sort of Spurs style with Williams in the Parker role, Brook Lopez in the Duncan role, and the Joe Johnson and the two ex-Celts spacing the floor and moving to the open spots.

Defensively, I’m not sure what they’ll be. KG is still one the absolute elite defenders in the league, but he should be playing something less than 30 minutes per game at this point. Joe and Paul are good wing defenders, but neither in NBA athletic these days. Deron is solid but unspectacular, and Lopez is mediocre for a 7 footer.

Without knowing what sort of style Jason Kidd will want to install as his first experiment in head coaching, it’s tough to project. I’d expect him to be uptempo and point guard reliant, because that’s his style as a player, and that could work if he keeps a deep enough rotation. I’m going to be pulling for them this year. I’ve always been a fan of Deron, and KG and Pierce remain my two favorite players despite the fact that they’ll be wearing new jerseys next year.

Let’s all practice together: N-E-T-S Nets Nets Nets!