John Tomase

Title-driven Celtics are putting Boston's other teams to shame

The Celtics are doing whatever it takes to win a title. Can other local teams say the same?

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The Red Sox won't spend, the Bruins are scuffling, and the Patriots just opened NFL free agency with a burp. At moments like this, one needn't bleed like Shrek to thank god for the Celtics.

Remember when all of our teams were either in the mix or desperately doing whatever it took to get there? A city once awash in title contenders now boasts but one, and despite a couple of recent stumbles, the C's remain the most talented team in the NBA and the favorites to win it all.

The Red Sox and Patriots, in particular, should be ashamed. The former won't spend and the latter mismanaged themselves into a top-three pick. The Celtics, meanwhile, have had only one bad year since claiming the franchise's 17th title in 2008, rebuilding on the fly and proving that smart, aggressive management can keep a team relevant against the odds.

These C's are a blast to watch, with two legitimate superstars and three more starters who could be All-Stars. They took care of business in Portland on Monday with an easy victory over the outgunned Blazers, despite sitting starters Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday on the first night of a back-to-back. They will spend the next month preparing for the playoffs, with a legitimate chance to raise Banner 18.

Whether they can overcome their close-and-late struggles will be an ongoing storyline, but at least they're interesting. And more to the point, at least they're trying.

Boston teams used to try as a matter of course, but not anymore. We'll give the Bruins a pass on this one, because they ran out of money and draft picks to fix a flawed roster, and goalie Linus Ullmark reportedly blew up a trade with the Kings by invoking his no-trade clause. Despite their lofty record, the B's remain a team in transition. After being blown out by the Blues on Monday, it's hard to make a serious case for them as Cup contenders.

The Patriots and Red Sox are a different story. Neither ownership has stepped up in recent years to field a winner, though only one of them is consistently criticized for it. The Red Sox bring that on themselves by declaring their intent to deliver a full-throttle offseason, only to throw the keys in the ocean.

The Patriots, meanwhile, talk about being playoff-driven, but the dollar signs tell a different story -- their cash spending routinely ranks near the bottom of the NFL, but owner Robert Kraft seems primarily concerned with ensuring that his latest vanity project puts the blame for their implosion squarely on the shoulders of deposed head coach Bill Belichick.

We spend a lot of time obsessing over MLB and NFL payrolls. The Red Sox are cutting and will fall well below the luxury tax threshold of $237 million. The Patriots have already walked back new coach Jerod Mayo's proclamation that they'll have money to burn this winter.

Then there's the Celtics. Other than something about a second apron, could the average fan even name the team's payroll? All we know is that it's maxed out and Wyc Grousbeck doesn't care. They made Jaylen Brown the NBA's highest-paid player, they extended Porzingis, they'll undoubtedly try to keep Holiday, and a super-duper-max extension for Jayson Tatum looms this summer. It's the price of winning, and they're willing to pay it.

It shouldn't feel so exceptional, but it does when juxtaposed against everyone else. The Red Sox don't seem inclined to sign left-hander Jordan Montgomery, even though he's just sitting there and they've already lost veteran Lucas Giolito for the season. The Bruins were hamstrung at the NHL trade deadline and only made a couple of minor moves while other conference contenders reloaded.

The biggest news the Patriots made on Monday was re-signing veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett, their 4-13 team somehow looking worse. Like the Red Sox awaiting prospects who might never arrive, the Patriots are clearly pinning their hopes on whatever quarterback they take third in the draft. Ask the Jets or Panthers how that usually works out.

So let us celebrate the Celtics even as we debate whether they have what it takes to survive the gauntlet of June. All of our teams may claim to be championship-driven, but only the Celtics mean it.

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