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Can Al Horford, Brad Stevens win an NBA championship?

[Editor’s Note: Thomas King is the new site expert at Hardwood Houdini along with Jesse Cinquini. Please welcome him to the community in the comments and follow him for more news, analysis, and fun on twitter @celticstown.]

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard that the Boston Celtics had traded for Kevin Garnett.

My brother Jay and I were lifeguards at the Bliss Pool in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and we were opening the pool. Jay, who had just started a Celtics blog as a college project, checked on the pool computer amid a deluge of rumors while I skimmed leaves and debris out of the pool.

“The Celtics got KG!” Jay screamed out to me.

“Are you serious?”I replied, eliciting a Garnettian yawp that must have carried the few short miles down I-91 South to the Basketball Hall Of Fame in Springfield, while diving into the shallow end in celebration.

Kevin Garnett was my favorite player in the NBA, and now he was teaming up with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Doc Rivers to try to break the Celtics longest title drought in franchise history. What could be better?

I remember this day so vividly not only because it ultimately led to Boston’s 17th championship, but also because it brought me into sports writing and the Celtics online community. After Garnett joined the home team, I joined my brother’s blog, hoping in some way to share the ‘Ubuntu’ journey with my beloved Boston Celtics.

The 2008 Celtics season ended with a championship, but my journey wasn’t over. In time, our Celtics blog led Jay and I to real journalism gigs and unforgettable memories.

I interviewed Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Doc Rivers. I talked to Mike Bibby in the opponents’ locker room shower because LeBron James was loudly rapping in the next stall. I talked hoops with Craig Sager for an hour when a gaggle of reporters waited out a long-running Miami Heat playoff practice. I felt the TD Garden reverberate with admiration for Rajon Rondo when he returned from a dislocated elbow to help lead the Celtics to a home playoff win against the Heatles.

Eventually, adult life swept me away from Massachusetts and away from writing. But then, a funny thing happened.

I was in Cape Cod for the 4th of July weekend with my girlfriend and her family when a Twitter notification popped up on my phone—a Woj bomb.

The Boston Celtics had signed Al Horford to a 4-year, $113 million max deal. I threw my phone down on the beach blanket and sprinted down the hot sand to dive into the Atlantic Ocean.

Like with Garnett, the Celtics had just added one of my favorite players in the league—a versatile two-way player and a coach’s dream who boosted up his teammates with selflessness, hard work, and professionalism. As I rose from the surf, salt water pooling in my eyes, I could feel the tide pulling me back to Boston basketball.

It’s not as if I ever stopped being a Celtics fan or watching the games, but now, after Celtics GM Danny Ainge added Horford and subsequently Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, I watched with a renewed interest.

Now, I was rewinding plays to jot down Brad Stevens’ sideline out-of-bounds wizardry. Now, I was calling my brother to make soliloquies about Horford’s genius understanding of the game, his unbelievable ability to make the right basketball decision. I was rewatching games and delving through the NBA statistics page so I could prove to my twitter followers that Al Horford deserved to be Defensive Player of the Year last season and was snubbed from the All-NBA team. I diagramed plays to show off Gordon Hayward’s versatility and channeled the spirit of Marcus Smart every time I saw a loose ball in a pick up game, or there was a big dude who needed to be locked down in the post.

When the opportunity came to have a platform here to write about the Boston Celtics again, I snatched it like Terry Rozier flying in for a defensive rebound.

I want, in some way need, to share the joy that the beautiful game has brought into my life.

I look forward to educating fans (or certain radio hosts) on why Al Horford can only average 13 points per game and still be a star. I can’t wait to show you readers why a disciplined team will always beat a more talented team that fails to execute on the details. I’ll sit back with you all and marvel at Irving’s otherworldly ball-handling skills and Stevens’ seemingly magical touch with substitutions, in-game adjustments, and play calls.

Hopefully, together, we can learn to understand some of the alchemical processes that need to happen to take a group of individuals and turn them into champions.

Sure, the Golden State Warriors have assembled the greatest collection of talent in the history of the league. Yes, they may go down as one of the best dynasties of all-time.

But history has taught us that even the most talented teams can fall prey to hubris. The Warriors spent all last season testing the basketball gods, while the Celtics planted seeds and tilled the soil in the garden of greatness.

It will be a long and arduous task for the Boston Celtics to climb to the top of Mt. Olympus and dethrone Stephen Curry & company, but if Kevin Garnett and the Ubuntu Celtics taught us anything, it’s that with talent, toughness, and togetherness,



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