Originally posted on Celtics Town  |  Last updated 4/18/12

I just woke up from a nightmare in which Steve Novak drilled 497 threes, Rajon Rondo fell helplessly on his back and could later be seen lying uncomfortably on the Madison Square Garden court, Ray Allen’s ankle was the size of a bowling ball so he couldn’t play, Mickael Pietrus came down with an injury and Carmelo Anthony somehow became a menacing all-around player. The cold sweat still hasn’t disappeared, and I woke up this morning actually believing that Novak did a Discount Double Check after a major three-pointer last night. Silly me, because that would never happen against the vaunted Boston Celtics defense. Kevin Garnett would chomp through Novak’s skull before allowing such tomfoolery to occur.

Thankfully, it was only a nightmare. (Right?) What was true is that Ray Allen was *thisclose* to being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline. Doc Rivers actually told Allen he was traded to the Grizzlies, before returning minutes later to say, “Nah. Just joshing.”

As the NBA trade deadline lurched into its final hour a month ago, league sources say the call Ray Allen long feared had come: Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was on the line, telling him he had been traded. Allen had been sent to the Memphis Grizzlies for a package including O.J. Mayo and a draft pick, and the Celtics’ Big Three had come to a most brusque ending.

For 20 minutes or so, Allen had to process the information. They traded me to Memphis? And yet, as the disappointment dissolved to anger, Rivers returned with a messenger’s nightmare: Never mind. The deal fell apart. Take a deep breath and let’s go back to work again.

Before the Big Three could make it past the trade deadline, Allen-to-the-Grizzlies had to fall apart and discussions on a deal that would have sent Paul Pierce to the New Jersey Nets for an expiring Mehmet Okur contract and a lottery pick never reached completion, league sources said. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge loves the talent in the 2012 NBA draft, but he still gets one more run, one more chance with this group in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Cherish everything that’s happened over the past month or two — the way Avery Bradley and Greg Stiemsma have risen from children into men, Rajon Rondo finds his teammates open at least 10 times per outing, Kevin Garnett fends off the Grim reaper nightly, Paul Pierce erupts for 43 during certain games (or during certain game, rather) and methodically pours in points daily, and Ray Allen adjusts to life on the bench with class. The Celtics were supposed to be broken up at this point. We were supposed to be watching Mickael Pietrus take Pierce’s spot in the starting lineup and Rondo throw passes to O.J. Mayo. We were supposed to be sold on the promise of a future, the promise of three 2012 first-round draft picks, the promise of life after the Big Three.

Even the future looks brighter now than it did two months ago. Bradley’s clearly a big part of the rebuilding project, and Stiemsma and Brandon Bass might be too, depending on how their contract situations pan out in the offseason. Rondo is developing into a nightly terror, his inconsistency having been thrown out the back window and now rattling behind his car on the street, ready to get run over by an oncoming 18-wheeler.  The Celtics still have two draft picks, all kinds of cap space and their back court of the future, not to mention two more seasons of the ever-steady Pierce. The future isn’t looking bad.

But the present is why we’re here. We get to see more Garnett, more Pierce and more Allen, more two-way dominance, methodical scoring and three-point shots made of cotton candy. We get to see Rondo choose which Hall of Famer to whom he wants to pass, Bradley glistening with confidence and a swarm of role players who back down from nobody and hardly ever try to make plays of which they’re incapable. Most of all, there’s hope here, hope that these Celtics can overcome the Bulls and Heat and somehow grapple their way into the NBA Finals once more, and maybe if they reach that round, another series victory will follow, and soon there will be a parade in the streets of Boston, with a million fans partying for the NBA champions. It’s still a dream dancing at the top of a long pole the Celtics will need to climb, but these Celtics have forced us to hope.

Two months ago, I was content with a first- or second-round exit and nervous as hell about Boston’s upcoming rebuilding process. The place I’ve entered now is far better, anxiously awaiting the playoffs just to see what these Celtics have left, to see if they can repeat 2010, if they can rise from underdog status once more and lift us with them on another wild ride. This is fun, this is great, and none of it have happened if the deadline trades had gone through. Improbably, the Celtics have once again turned a city of fans into believers, or at the very least, a city of fans who can hope.

Kevin Durant has...RUSSELL MANIA!
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