It was such a wild week in Boston sports – arguably the craziest ever – that the first-place Red Sox were largely ignored.
It began with the departure of Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers and a crushing defeat for the Bruins when they were less than two minutes away from forcing Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals. It concluded, unless more shoes are ready to drop, Thursday night with Celtics GM Danny Ainge bidding adieu to the Big Three Era by dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets.
And, of course, in the middle was the madness that is Aaron Hernandez.
I’m almost at a loss for words when it comes to Hernandez, who became a former New England Patriot the moment he was arrested. He’s facing a murder charge in the killing of Odin Lloyd on June 17, and now is being investigated in relation to a double murder last summer that has gone unsolved.
If found guilty in the Lloyd murder, and the circumstantial evidence appears overwhelming, Hernandez will go down as one of the dumbest criminals of all time, brought to justice by his own stupidity, not the least being returning a rental car with shell casings left underneath the driver’s seat, using his cell phone to plan the crime with accomplices and entirely dismissing the existence of video surveillance in the 21st century.
It’s remarkable this idiot was ever able to learn the Patriots’ intricate playbook.
Hernandez played the role of the punk right up to the moment he was placed in handcuffs, answering the door shirtless when police came knocking, which to these eyes was yet another act of defiance.
His lack of cooperation prior to his arrest undoubtedly was one reason police chose to make him do the “perp walk” in front of TV cameras instead of allowing him to quietly surrender to authorities. This was their way of sending a message to Hernandez, who might have thought his celebrity would grant him special perks.
The Hernandez story quickly pushed the Bruins off the front page and out of our minds. It seems like months ago that they surrendered a 2-1 lead in 17 seconds in Game 6, allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to skate around TD Garden with the Stanley Cup held over their heads.
Despite the devastating defeat, the Bruins earned our admiration for their valor and fortitude. Patrice Bergeron wasn’t the only key performer battling serious injury at the end, but geez, his laundry list of ailments was preposterous. He suited up for Game 6 with a cracked rib and torn rib cartilage, then sustained a separated shoulder during the game. Afterward, it was discovered that he also had a hole in his lung. Other than that, he was fine.
Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Nathan Horton were also playing hurt at the end, yet the Bruins came that close to forcing a seventh game.
Two days after the Bruins lost, Rivers was introduced as the new coach of the Clippers. Rivers is being criticized by some for abandoning the rebuilding Celtics when his calm, measured hand might be needed most. And there is some validity to that criticism. But can you really blame the man for wanting to coach a team with a legitimate shot at a championship, and for not wanting to coach one that has the mercurial Rajon Rondo as its leader?
Rondo is a handful on his best days. Although Rivers won’t admit it, it seems he was weary of the act. And without Pierce and Garnett around to serve as buffers and keep the churlish point guard in line, the diva that’s been created with Rondo would have been one tough pill to swallow for a proud and coveted coach.
With Thursday’s trade of Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics enter a new era. This one will be devoid of much excitement, although one hopes it doesn’t regress to the level of the M.L. Carr days.
The Celtics milked the Big Three dry, and the time had certainly come for Ainge to look toward the future. Still, it’s worth taking a quick peek back at what Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen did for this franchise. In the season before Garnett and Allen’s arrival, the Celtics endured an 18-game losing streak. They had not been relevant in years. The Celtic mystique was ancient history. The site of the parquet floor scared no one. The banners overhead seemed to mock them with reminders of what once was. They were never on national television.
It all changed in the 2007-08 season. The new Garden was alive, raucous even, restoring memories of the old Garden. Pierce, Garnett and Allen bought into the championship-driven mentality, readily sacrificing personal goals for the greater good. I covered the 1986 Celtics, who regularly took nights off yet still managed to win because of their overwhelming talent. I also covered the 2008 Celtics, and they never took a night off. Their intensity, led by Garnett, was in evidence from start to finish. And when they destroyed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the title, the new Garden was every bit as loud and crazed as the old Garden was in the days of Larry Bird.
So the Bruins are done, the Patriots must regroup and the Celtics are rebuilding. What a week.
Rob Duca was an award-winning sports columnist for the Cape Cape Times for 25 years. His work has also appeared in numerous other publications, including Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, Yankee magazine, Cape Cod Life and Golf & Leisure Cape Cod.