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In case any fans haven't noticed yet, the Boston Celtics are far from the darlings of the NBA this year.

Go ahead and squint your eyes into that rear-view mirror for me and see if you can make out five years ago. Remember that? We were all much younger and less jaded. Remember this?



Remember how it felt to be beloved? The Big Ticket, The Truth and Jesus Shuttlesworth all came to Boston. We had a speedy and gifted bright-eyed point guard and a "lunch-pail" worker at center. The bench was full of last chance veterans like PJ Brown and Sam Cassell and lovable youngsters like Big Baby and Tony Allen.

After a tough game two loss to Philadelphia last night, that image in the mirror couldn't seem farther in the past.

Now to the non-green world we have a mouthy and immature point guard. The "dirtiest player in the league" at center. An injury-faking captain and "bitter over losing his starting job" sixth-man.

On top of all of that, the Celtics are perceived to play some of the ugliest basketball in recent history. I'll admit, at times it is not pleasant to watch. However, the most beautiful thing in basketball, in my opinion, is winning. So I can watch 11-point quarters and final scores in the 80s, because the Celtics have won those games.

This one they didn't.

Could the perception of this team be the cause of that loss. The illegal screen call on Kevin Garnett with seconds remaining was a rare occasion of a bad call on a good call. Yes it was pretty clearly a moving pick, but is that the way a game should be decided?

Garnett has fallen out of favor with officials.

My apologies to the King of Pop, but nothing in this world is black and white. That foul fell in a grey area. There are reasons why Dwight Howard gets away with blocked shots that Greg Stiemsma does not. Just like there are reasons Ray Allen can travel on his wrap around threes while Evan Turner will receive the referee "eggbeater" every time. It is called cache and it is called perception.

While the Celtics for the most part will still have the cache, the perception is as gone as Jermaine O'neal. Boston is not appealing to the league's fans right now. Nobody west of Pittsfield wants to see a team's two best scorers cut and shoot like they are playing in quicksand or a point guard shoot 55% from the free-throw line.

They are hardly loved in their own city. Up until the past couple days you couldn't pay local radio shows to mention their city's basketball team. The Celtics playoff run has been overshadowed by everything from the NFL Draft to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy to Josh Beckett's double-bogies.

The perception of this team is not good and that certainly won't be helping them win any close games.

Mind you I had lived in New York the past four years at school, so here is a brief sampling of tweets that caught my eye from people I follow (@3rdstringwalsh) outside the six New England states:

Wait...the refs actually CALLED the illegal screen on Kevin Garnett!?!? There is a god. And the uneducated Boston crowd chanting "bullsh##"
For the first time in NBA history, Kevin Garnett was called last night for an illegal screen. He ALWAYS gets away with them.
The main reason they called the illegal screen on KG was it was illegal. But I'm excited to hear about another "problem ref" for the Celtics
Every screen that Kevin Garnett has ever set has been an illegal screen.

This perception thing probably won't be going away this post-season. I have no idea what the public will think of a Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals. Will Lebron-hate win out over Celtic-indifference? I just know it isn't going to be easy, nobody is out there doing this team any favors any more.

Boston is no longer the darling of the NBA, though there is nothing wrong with that. The Patriots are pretty much universally hated and all that does is make every win all the sweeter.

And how sweet would it be to see this team go into "'07 Patriots Eff-You" mode for the rest of this playoff run?

As sweet as peaches, my friends. As sweet as 

Peaches

Walsh 5/16/2012 09:09:00 AM Edit
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