So it's come to this. I thought I would be ready for it, but I'm not. Ever since the C's went into free-fall mode sometime in late December, I thought of this day longingly, relishing the opportunity to make all the pain go away.
I'm the kind of person who plans for the worst but hopes for the best. You never want to set yourself up for a huge letdown.
But as the days have ticked down over the last month, as this day has come closer and closer, I couldn't come up with any contingency plan for what I would do if the unthinkable happened and the C's didn't land one of those top two picks. The worst possible scenario was just too hard to plan for.
The more I thought about it, the more I couldn't forget the fact that this is the biggest day in the last 10 years of Boston Celtics basketball. Things really, really need to go right this time. The ramifications are almost too big to fathom.
So I tried to shut it out. I didn't want to think of the lottery, the draft, the prospects that would be available in the 3-to-5 picks. I didn't want to hear about Al Horford, Yi Jianlian, Roy Hibbert, Brandan Wright ... as much as I tried to talk myself into these guys, it wasn't happening.
Oden, Durant, or disaster.
That's all I could think of.
So instead, I ignored all lottery and draft talk. I basked in the playoff excitement of the Golden State-Dallas series, soaking up every second of hope that the Warriors gave every future No. 8 seed. Odds be damned, a team that is clicking at the right time can beat the best team in the league. See, good things can happen even when the odds aren't in your favor! Of course, the Jazz putting the beat-down on Golden State in round two was like a cold shower.
I saw the Red Sox lead in the AL East to balloon 10-plus games. I thought and read about how incredibly good the Patriots are going to be this year. I knew that if the C's wanted any kind of chance of reaching the top echelon of their league like their aforementioned in-town brethren, they need a victory on lottery night.
Thoughts drifted back to the draft lottery, now unsettlingly close.
Visualizing Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in shamrocks standing on the parquet, I started getting antsy.
I tortured myself with ESPN's lottery simulator. I became obsessed with numbers and percentages, trying to put into perspective the 38.7 percent chance (more or less) the C's have of landing a top-two pick. I got pessimistic realizing that Ben Wallace had a better chance of hitting a free throw in the 2006-07 regular season (40.8 percent). But I became hopeful realizing that even during Wade Boggs' best years -- when you were surprised if he didn't get a hit -- that even his career-best batting average (.368, or 36.8 percent, in 1985) was lower than the C's chances at the top pick. Those are good odds, right? Who wouldn't want to wager on Wade Boggs in his prime coming through with a base knock?
After obsessing over numbers, I became transfixed by that impossibly cruel Sporting News cover showing Tim Duncan in a Celtics uniform, 10 years after the C's last lottery catastrophe, adorned with the headline "The Dynasty That Wasn't." I stared at it for minutes, all while watching the current Tim Duncan, rings on three fingers, continue to be the best and most consistent player in the NBA playoffs. I read any number of 1997 lottery retrospectives, including Peter May's very good but very painful article reflecting on that night we'd all like to forget.
I can't live through that one more time.
Can they postpone the lottery? This is too scary. Too real. Too close. I'm not ready. I can't yet handle the possibility (a very good possibility, by the way) of failure. Are Oden and Durant sure things? Well, we don't really know. We have a good idea, and plenty of reasons why it's very likely, but we really don't know.
But still, I don't want to accept the consolation prize. Again.