A scandal-ridden Boston franchise dares to challenge the Lakers with an NBA draft class of late bloomers

Any other February in Boston would be futile. No snow. No sub-zero temperatures. With no threat of snow or cold, Boston seems too tempting to miss — but once or twice a year, an old local sports ritual manifests itself. Sort of.

We gather around our TVs late at night to be mesmerized by a demolition derby of trash talk. From the next town up, some elite basketball players spout ahead of themselves. A few ones within minutes of reaching our little corner of the Earth’s consciousness offer up petty comments to extend their public farewell tour in some appallingly immature fashion.

As we ramble among the NBA draft prospects assembled in our convention hall and wonder why their professional lives have become a bed of flour crumbs, we’re usually thinking about the Boston Celtics, who will join us in Melbourne. After five disappointing postseason exits in six years, perhaps Kevin Garnett is finally willing to hang up his goggles. Perhaps the Celtics will win a championship before the curse finally ends.

The Dillion and the David vs. the Harvard and the Germ. The Teddy and Lenny vs. the DeJuan vs. the 88738405148331481855.

The Celtics have the unique title of being the NBA’s most decorated franchise, but they do not have the most recent title. The Lakers won two of their previous three championships while still being referred to as the “Showtime” Lakers. The Celtics had a self-imposed championship penalty from 2002 to 2008 when their dynasty disintegrated.

This will be a challenge for a franchise that has turned its mistakes into mistakes for the rest of us. Perhaps any victory would erase the ghosts of 2007, the dirty laundry the Celtics had to clean off their own laundry hamper, or the year when Kendrick Perkins got himself banned. Perhaps any victory would erase the pain of the colossal conflagration of the Celtics of the ’90s, the righteous indignation of Isiah Thomas.

“We’re cursed by the ’94 rematch,” Celtics fans joked. Those were the same fans who made the franchise synonymous with “Spitball” and “Celtic Pride.” It’s hard to shock those folks, although what those guys did to the Lakers won’t help the cause of a cursed franchise.

Over the years, the Celtics have acquired some interesting members of their own team to fill out the roster. Once prodigal sons Marcus Camby and Glen Davis made permanent returns to Boston. Some members of last season’s champs, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, have a bizarre obsession with dissing their former team. Even if Perkins doesn’t live up to Boston’s high expectations, any Kings fan would have to wish him well.

Even some of Boston’s more recent big acquisitions won’t improve the brand. Ray Allen is on his way to Miami, where he will join Wade in a tandem that will make most fans who live in Boston roll their eyes. Allen will make all the next big plays for Miami, even if he only makes one in Boston.

It’s been a head scratcher, but even in the loaded draft class of 2012, one good thing seems to be going down in Boston. The team has beefed up their cornerstones: Rondo is all-NBA caliber, and now they have the trademark aging block of granite they’ve been looking for.

If Danny Ainge and the rest of the Celtics brass are at all embarrassed that they lost their ability to beat the Lakers, they will miss Ainge’s bravado. Back in the day, he used to sit next to Magic Johnson’s locker room on NBA TV. Magic would marvel at the excitement over a beloved All-Star with a chip on his shoulder. Johnson was a bigger name than Ray Allen in 1995, but that wasn’t enough to save the Celtics from Golden State in the Western Conference finals. Perhaps even then Ainge believed a franchise built through the draft would eventually prevail.

An era for the Celtics has surely come to an end, a longtime franchise currently running on fumes, and then some. The biggest sports city, still, even after a lot of free agency. We will still watch, even when they trash talk. Our appetite may not continue with them, but somehow we find our way to the bleachers year after year.

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