A team can absorb only so many blows; eventually even the proudest of clubs must confront the ageing process and the frailty of athletes. Boston Celtics, your time has come.
Even though I grew up hating the Celtics, that is not something I take particular pleasure in writing. Clearly, the NBA is a better league when the Celtics, with all their heritage and championship banners, are contenders.
But they have not been that this season. They are on the periphery of the Eastern Conference play-off picture, and their prospects dimmed considerably on Sunday when they learned they would lose Rajon Rondo, their playmaking guard, to a season-ending knee surgery.
That should be "game over" for this group of Celtics. They were already down one star, having lost Ray Allen to the Miami Heat. Now only two stars remain, Kevin Garnett (age 36) and Paul Pierce (35). Rondo is 26 and had emerged as their best overall player.
Rondo had become "the heart and soul of this team", Garnett, a former MVP, had said recently. "He's coming into his own."
The Celtics have been left for dead before; they have been deemed "too old" since losing to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA finals.
"You can write the obituary. I'm not, you can go ahead," said Doc Rivers, the Celtics coach.
And he said that after they had beaten the Miami Heat on Sunday. Maybe they have one last surprise in them, the East being unimpressive this season. But it looks like one blow too many.
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