Commentary

The Celtics' shrinking title window

If there isn't an NBA season in 2011-12, Boston's championship hopes could be over

Originally Published: November 1, 2011
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
Celtics' Big FourGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireThe 2011-12 season could be the last one for the Celtics' "Big Four."

What if Rajon Rondo hadn't gotten hurt?

That's the question that has hovered over Beantown since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. After a tangle with Dwyane Wade that led to a gruesomely dislocated elbow, the Boston point guard was forced to play one-handed for the rest of the series, effectively snapping any chance the Celtics had of ending Wade and LeBron James' playoff hopes one more time. The Celtics lost their next two games by a total of 12 points, reducing their championship window to just a crack.

As the lockout creeps into November, the essential question has changed for Boston fans. If the labor impasse wipes out the season, would it also wipe out the Celtics' chance at a title in the foreseeable future?

In another installment of Insider's look at the lockout implications, we turn our attention to the Boston Celtics, an aging team with an equally precarious future.

For many teams, the rallying cry is "championship or bust," but no organization embodies that slogan more than the Celtics for 2011-12. Look no further than the team's roster situation to see why. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal and Jeff Green are all set to come off the books following the 2011-12 season, leaving the roster barren outside of Paul Pierce and Rondo. Although it's possible that Garnett and Allen re-up at a discount, the Celtics should realistically view this upcoming season as the end of an era.