[caption id="attachment_2184" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="To the Big 3 and the rest of the Boston Celtics: thank you for fighting unceasingly until the final buzzer of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)"]
Dear Boston Celtics,
Thank you for the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Thank you for fighting from the opening jump to the final seconds of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Thank you for keeping us riveted to our seats night in and night out.
I know how easy it would've been to check out during these playoffs. No one really ever believed you could win a championship. And when Avery Bradley
's shoulder injury against the 76ers cost the team its only perimeter defender young enough to hang with the Heat, you could've basically thrown in the towel.
But that wouldn't be the Celtics' way. It wouldn't be how Kevin Garnett
, Paul Pierce
and Ray Allen
have approached their entire careers. It wouldn't have been "ubuntu."
So instead you threw yourself into a battle you hadno chance of winning. You went down like Leonidas' Spartans, exposing all of Miami's vulnerabilities, making them utterly sick of playing you.
And you won a few battles along the way. And for that, thank you.
Kevin Garnett: Thank you for carrying Boston in these playoffs. Knee injuries and overuse may have reduced your effectiveness these last few seasons, but these playoffs showed that at your best, you're still one of the best big men in the NBA.
And as if your success alone wasn't enough, you kicked ass with barely any depth behind you. Beyond Brandon Bass
-- who played beside more often than he subbed in for you -- the Celtics had no one NBA-ready for the 4 or 5 positions.
You banged bodies over and over again with power forwards and centers knowing not much help was coming, and you did it without a single complaint. And for that, thank you.
Paul Pierce: thank you for hitting the shots that counted. Had you not hurt your knee, I've no doubt you could've hung with LeBron James
without fouling out every other game. No doubt whatsoever.
Instead, you modified your game as best you could to account for limited mobility. And when the Celtics needed that spinning, step-back, mid-range jumper, you always drained it without a moment's hesitation. No one else scores exactly the way you do, and for that, thank you.
Ray Allen: thank you for stepping aside gracefully. How many Hall of Famers refuse to acknowledge when their too hurt to play? How many aging superstars insist on playing as many minutes, getting as many shots or being "The Man" like they used to?
Allen, you didn't do any of that. Bone spurs badly hampered your ability to run without the ball, and they threw your shooting rhythm off considerably. You could no longer jump straight up, releasing the ball at the exact apex with an almost poetically perfect arc.
So how did you react? You said, "I can't score like I used to. So I better come off the bench." You handled the end of your 2011-12 season with grace and honor and respect for both your teammates and the future of this franchise. And for that, thank you.
The Big 3 aren't the only Celtics who deserve thanks. Thank you, Rajon Rondo
, for keeping everyone -- teammates, coaches, broadcasters and fans -- on their toes. You're one of the most exciting players in the NBA, and your occasionally frustrating moments only add to the excitement you bring to the game. I can't wait to see what you do with next year's new roster.
Thank you for what you've done, and thank you for what you will
Bass, you opted out of your contract. Should you return, you're clearly the heir-apparent to Garnett. If you don't, thank you for never feeling intimidated by your teammates' stature, and for all those baskets that more than justified the Glen "Corpulent Infant" Davis
Boston, you never quit. Your Game 6 stinker against the Heat was simply the unavoidable consequence of playing so hard for five games. You sacrificed Game 6 to recharge your batteries a bit for Game 7 -- just as you did against the 76ers -- and it almost worked.
Parents tell their kids that winning doesn't matter as long as they play right. That notion changes a bit when you're paid a seven-digit salary, but even the angriest fans can't look at this playoff run as anything but inspirational.
You didn't bring home Banner 18. But then again, you never were going to. Knowing that, you still gave the playoffs everything you had.
And for that: thank you.