Hey. It's Kelly. That wasn't fun, was it? The silly lockout, the terrible season, the Dwight Howard, and that awful first round. It's OK, though. It's over now. That is a bird chirping in the distance, I made a pretty good sandwich for your lunch and we don't have anything to do when you get home from work but watch a series of basketball games played by players that are rested, well-instructed, and mindful of what town they're in.
You're going to feel better, now. Your pal insists on it.
There once was another NBA lockout, and it resulted in a rather nasty shortened season some 13 years ago. Back then, the Philadelphia 76ers were making their first strides toward respectability — Larry Brown used it as an excuse to force Allen Iverson to wear a suit to an NBA game for the first and only time, in Game 1 of the team's first-round series against Orlando — sparking up a playoff binge that has seen them in the postseason in 10 of the last 14 NBA seasons.
The Celtics wouldn't make the playoffs that year, though Rick Pitino's team sure did try, and the group had to wait another three years before it could re-find its way to the postseason. Their highs have been higher — a championship in 2008, a Finals appearance in 2010 — all run with the same cast of characters that would have looked pretty formidable had they been on the same team all the way back in 1999. These two franchises have traded off division championships since that initial lockout year, while fighting respectfully yet incessantly in 2011-12 for a title that Boston eventually took.
This is why this will be a swell series. The Sixers aren't inconsistent underachievers. The Celtics aren't whippet-thin oldsters that can't buy a bucket. Theirs is the classier side of the tracks.
And for those of you that are thinking that this series will be impossibly ugly, full of gritty play and short-armed long jumpers? Come off it, pal.
That sounded confrontational. I'm just looking out for you. You need to understand that even if the 76ers and Celtics aren't at their respective peaks — this isn't 2008, or 2001, and this sure as spitfire isn't 1981 — that they still will provide you with endless hours of entertainment over the coming weeks.
Mainly because all the parts are in play. Tiny guard parts, making noise. Andre Iguodala staying home on Paul Pierce's everything, and Pierce still finding his way toward 20 points, somehow. Kevin Garnett, all over the place, then forgetting that Thaddeus Young is left-handed at the worst possible minute. That's not the worst possible minute — that's the best possible minute, Philadelphia! Positivity, with an over/under of 162 points.
It's going to be lovely to watch Doc Rivers (from the southwest side of Chicago) and Doug Collins (from the southwest side of Illinois) match wits, pairing those top-heavy C's with the deep and evolving Sixers. Does Collins' crew realize that they can take a game or two to start things in Boston? Do they know that things needn't come down to a seventh game? And that Boston is more than capable of taking a game or two in Philly?
Does Kevin Garnett sustain? Will Andre Iguodala, freed from Luol Deng's shackles, break out? Can Ryan Hollins' PER hit double digits? Can Spencer Hawes unnerve Rajon Rondo at the free-throw line by yelling "SUPPLY SIDE ECONOMICS!" every time he releases? Will the announcers stop making you feel old by pointing out that Jrue Holliday was the first NBA player to make the league after having been born in the same decade as the last lockout?
Will we still come out of this as friends, even if nobody tops 100 points?
I think so. You're always supposed to watch the 76ers play the Celtics. It's just something you're going to have to do. Just for me, your pal.
Celtics in seven.