ON MATT’S MIND

The NBA’s Atlantic division has been
historically defined by its two most
legendary franchises, the Boston Celtics
and New York Knicks.

If the pace these teams have set for
themselves in the season’s opening
two weeks continued for the 70-plus
remaining games, Boston would finish
54 ahead of New York.

Clearly the Celtics won’t achieve a
perfect 82-0 mark, but the Knicks could
parlay their 2-4 beginning to a 28-54
record in April.

I can see the headlines now: “Knicks
coach Isiah Thomas fired,” or “Thomas
fired,” or maybe just “Fired.”

Contrary to what people seem to
believe, Stephon Marbury’s graceless
departure from the team isn’t going to
catapult it to the stratosphere on par with
the Celtics. The Knicks can fine Marbury
all they want (and they did, fining the
superstar $180,000 for skipping Tuesday
night’s game in Phoenix), but that won’t
bring wins – only more cash to throw
around in lucrative contract buyouts.

Isn’t that a little hypocritical? Fining
someone for poor conduct and embarrassing
the team? What about the team’s
performance nearly every time on the
court? Doesn’t that fit the criteria to
warrant a fine?

Although some fans might like to see
it happen, that dream will never become
reality. Seriously, though, Thomas
himself has been neither fined nor
officially criticized by the organization,
even though he is the one who set the
bar so low for guys like Marbury.

Meanwhile, Northeastern University’s
women’s soccer team is about the only
Boston commodity that isn’t on fire.
From the Red Sox, to the Patriots, to
the Bruins, heck, even the Revolution
– everyone is winning . and big.

The Celtics have now joined them,
doing their best to recapture the magic
that brought the club 16 championships
in the last 50 years. The “big three”
lead the team in nearly every statistical
category and average a combined 68.3
points-per-game through six games thus
far, and Boston is averaging an Eastern
Conference-best 106.5 as a team.

There is only one concerning factor
that could derail the Celtics from reaching
their potential: pressure. Posters with
generic witty phrases accompanied by
“82-0” have already sprung out at games.
Surely no one takes that literally, but
high expectations can cause even the
best teams to crumble. So far, that hasn’t
stifled the Patriots’ quest for perfection,
and all-star veterans Paul Pierce, Ray
Allen and Kevin Garnett will keep their
team on track. The Celtics’ dominance
versus the Knicks’ countless woes in the
same division serves as another reminder
that Thomas should lose his job.

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