The end game

Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins was a better move than you think. Ed James for ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the Oct. 3 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

FEW CITIES EMBRACE HISTORY with the viselike grip that Boston does. Remnants of our country's forefathers are preserved there, as if historical wisdom could somehow be gleaned from ankle-breaking cobblestones, GPS-defying streets and drafty red-brick buildings.

So if today denizens of one of the nation's oldest cities are worried about one of their youngest local landmarks, the Celtics, perhaps it's because they've seen it in this condition before. For all of the franchise's success -- a league-record 17 titles -- the Celtics have long been a boom-or-bust outfit. If they're not playing for titles, they're struggling to make the post-season. And after the Celtics' reign over the Eastern Conference ended last spring with their Old Big Three -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen -- running into each other while the Heat's Young Big Three -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- ran all over them, it's understandable that Celtics Nation saw the pendulum swinging once more. Swinging, that is, right through the TD Garden parquet floor.