When Danny Ainge acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2007-2008 season, he knew he operated on a small window of opportunity. He mortgaged and sacrificed the ten-year future of the team with the intent of winning multiple league championships in the immediate. He rebuilt the roster from the ground up, ensuring the team from 2006-2007 would be a complete separation from his future squads. And he did so with the intention of rebooting the championship traditions once enjoyed by the NBA’s greatest franchise but not experienced in over 20 years.
When the final chapter of the so-called New Big Three closed in the summer of 2012, it ended in a way few people wanted. It didn’t get the storybook ending where Garnett and Allen walked off center stage with Paul Pierce holding the second or third trophy of their era. And people are starting to admit the phasing of eras isn’t the same as it was in the old NBA, when aging superstars would give way to the next generation of basketball stud.
But if the Celtics have done one thing extremely well throughout this time in their history, it’s play with the heart of a champion. Ultimately, the careers of Garnett and Pierce will end with but one championship earned, and Allen might get a second title playing a full season with Miami. But there’s no denying that this era of the Boston Celtics played with more heart than any other team maybe in NBA history.
The announcement came forth last night that Ray Allen, the sharpshooter who helped revive the Boston Celtics franchise, was signing with the Miami Heat. The game’s all-time leading three-point shooter, the man who hit more game-winning shots than anyone could remember, the man who was held in the highest esteem as a person, sold his soul and signed with the league’s evil empire. He sold out for a championship, stuck his nose at the city of Boston, and took his talents to South Beach to play with the game’s personification of evil.
Or did he?
Ray Allen did what was the right move for Ray Allen. Nobody can fault him for that. And in the end, what the people of Boston will need to realize, is that this move ultimately could benefit the Boston Celtics just as much as it’s perceived to help the Miami Heat. This isn’t the end of the world, this isn’t the end of the love affair for Ray, and this isn’t something they should lose their marbles over.
When the book is written on the 2011-2012 NBA season, there’ll be stories of tumult, anger, vengeance, and redemption. There’ll be a superstar in his prime, hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Commissioner David Stern will sit back with his minions, celebrate the season for how remarkable a success it was in the face of the worst of adversities, and the league will have dodged a significant atomic bomb in terms of its business and economic model.
The league will write its tale about how it began with uncertainty over its labor disagreements, its lockout costing nearly a third of the season in games and lost revenues. It’ll end with the redemption of passionate fans, celebrating its players and living and dying with their teams. It’ll speak of the current superstars in their prime doing what they do best, entertaining the masses with their larger-than-life candor and game. It’ll write itself perfectly.
In essence, the NBA is getting everything it could’ve wanted. It got last stands from its old guard in San Antonio and Boston, ultimately watching its younger, future and current stars ushered onto center stage for a titan battle beginning on Tuesday. It’s the script of everything they could’ve imagined. Hell, it’s the script they tried to write on their webpage at several junctures, embarrassingly enough.
But in defeat, the Boston Celtics did something. They rained on the league’s marketing department, made a large sound while everyone was staring off in the opposite direction, forced a turn of the head. And, in doing so, they took what would be a coronation for the league in its brightest moment after its darkest hour, and they stole some of its thunder (pardon the pun).
When the Boston Celtics take the floor for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat, the penultimate battle of good versus evil will also tip off. It’ll be the culmination of a week-plus long debate about the strength of skill versus the virtues of humility and teamwork. It’ll be the old world versus the new world for one last time, with one last chance for the dying breed of basketball player to claim a mantle against a more formidable, stronger, younger foe.
For a league desperate for good publicity after its prolonged lockout, this series reclaimed everything that can be good about the hardwoods. It featured the league’s most marketable players, the ones who lead jersey sales and are household names. It featured the ones who led the United States Olympic team at the national level, the ones who every casual fan knows by one name. It featured those players against the old, wily veterans, unwilling to go quietly into the night, making their final stand against a team they have no business competing with. It’s a bunch of crotchety old guys nobody believes in, and it’s a bunch of young guys who are blessed with immense talent.
In that sense, good versus evil is merely one team trying to take what the other team wants. To the players on one team, they are clearly the good while the opponent is the evil. It’s a smash-mouth series teaching the young guys a hard lesson in earning wins, almost as if they’re getting on-the-job training at the league’s highest stage. Regardless of what happens, everybody will walk away from this series having learned something about what it will take in order to achieve greatness in the National Basketball Association.
But to the court of public opinion, Game 7 represents so much more in the spectrum of “good” and “evil.” It’s the perception that one team is made up of hard-working veterans who gladly put aside the concept of an “ego” in order to get a run to the championship. It’s a team that’s going up against all the odds, including an additional perception involving game-fixing and favoritism. It’s the old guys with no respect looking to go out there and take it with the intensity that comes from its glowering, 7-foot leader.
It’s happening against the league’s ultimate symbol of the villain. Despite being the most marketable and arguably the most talented, one team in Game 7 is the ultimate evil. From their flashy bravado, to their tough talk, to their sense of entitlement, this is a throwback series where the people who respect the game of basketball, respect its history, are trying to hold onto their last gasp of what basketball was and what they feel it could be.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize the Boston Celtics are the second bananas in their own building right now. And it certainly doesn’t take a basketball analyst to see the Celtics aren’t the best team in the Eastern Conference or, as of right now, a top championship contender.
Last night’s blowout of the Toronto Raptors doesn’t change any of that. The Celtics are a team sagging through the early parts of a shortened season, hanging on for one last run for glory. They’re an old, veteran roster, with players destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame. But they’re not as talented as the young lions, and they won’t advance past certain teams because the players they have aren’t the best in the business anymore.
So there’s no doubt that Danny Ainge should probably trade values high and start restocking for the future. Holding onto selected players for too long inevitably leads to slow declines and depths from which some teams might not return. Teams unable to free up the requisite space end up hoping for the right ping pong ball to land in their favor because they didn’t reload properly, hoping for a lottery pick to lead them back to a promised land they might never get back to.
But loyalty in this business needs to go somewhere, and there needs to be some type of accountability in that regard. The Boston Celtic brand was always built on making the right business decisions off the court and on. However, that doesn’t make them exempt from making sound personal decisions, ones that will reflect on them as an organization for future generations and years.
When the 2011-2012 season started, the Boston Celtics knew they’d be facing an uphill battle. With just six players under contract, they were forced to essentially build their team from scratch. Their core, aging and in the twilight of their careers, needed solid role players to share the responsibility of carrying the team, something exhibited during their run to the NBA Finals back in 2010.
With time working against Boston, they entered the year at a decided disadvantage. So much of the Celtics success was based on two concepts: 1) quality role players designed to give the team quality minutes off the bench, possibly even winning selected games and 2) chemistry. Hamstrung by new salary cap rules and high salaries, the Celtics failed to sign marquee free agents who could play solid roles, relying instead on the likes of Sasha Pavlovic, Marquis Daniels, and others. They were forced to make trades in order to solidify other positions, including a deal that sent Glen Davis to Orlando for Brandon Bass. And they had to get creative with how they formed the roster on the whole, holding an essential open tryout for players without guaranteed contracts over the two preseason games, eventually awarding a spot to Greg Stiemsma.
The second piece was a complaint almost right off the bat by Boston. With only a month to develop chemistry with all these new pieces, they knew they’d face a tough challenge. They’d need to eschew what was a team game for the past couple of seasons and let the superstar players take over. Running counter to what they’d accomplished in past three to four years, the Celtics would need to let this system take over until the newer players could learn the old system. Unfortunately, if the new guys didn’t take to the system fast enough, they’d be left with a superstar system in place with a bunch of superstars who were readily admitting they probably couldn’t carry the load by themselves.
The holes have become extremely evident in the first three games, as Boston’s slogged to an 0-3 record. In this year, the Celtics are given a little bit more leeway off the beginning, especially as the defending champion Dallas Mavericks are 0-2 and other teams, like the Lakers, have struggled a little bit out of the gate. Teams not requiring new parts or with superstar systems in their prime, like Miami, are able to explode out of the gate, where others aren’t. Fans and media experts alike are willing to concede that to a Boston team that really needs about a month to get the wheels moving.
But what they’re not willing to concede is that this also is a major concern. Boston faces a Detroit Piston team tonight that is, for lack of a better term, softer than New Orleans, Miami, or New York. After facing three good basketball teams, they get a team that’s ready for another trip to the NBA Lottery, a team that’s essentially trying to rebuild from scratch after a decade’s worth of years spent at the top of the Eastern Conference. They also get the added benefit of playing at the TD Garden after spending the first three games on the road.
The National Basketball Association will reportedly not suspend Kevin Garnett for his altercation with New York Knicks forward Bill Walker following Sunday’s 106-104 loss for the Boston Celtics. Garnett could be seen placing his hand on Walker’s throat following the final buzzer of the game on Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden.
As Garnett attempted a buzzer-beating shot in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game and sent it to overtime, Walker contested the shot. After the ball deflected off the rim and away to preserve a Knick victory, the New York Knick, who had previously played for Boston before being traded for Nate Robinson in 2010, exchanged words with the Celtic forward. Garnett then got in the face of Walker and placed his hand around the 24-year old’s neck before being separated by coaches and other players.
After the incident cleared, Walker reportedly sought out Garnett and patched up the incident.
The league obviously would like to have Garnett in uniform on Tuesday when the Celtics travel to the American Airlines Arena and South Beach, Miami, Florida to play the Miami Heat. A marquee matchup, the Celtics could have potentially entered a game against Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh without KG and Paul Pierce, who is still nursing an injury that kept him out of the Knicks game. Mickael Pietrus, recently signed after being waived by Phoenix, is expected to miss the next couple of games for Boston while getting acclimated to his new environment.
Miami is entering tonight’s game on the heels of an offensive explosion on opening night against Dallas. After watching the Mavericks raise their championship banner, which was won at the Heat’s expense, James put up 37 points as Miami scored 105 and won by 11. Wade added 26 of his own as the duo combined to go 22-for-40 from the field. Bosh, meanwhile, struggled in the frontcourt, scoring just four points on 2-for-9 shooting. James added 15 from the charity stripe.
The Heat had a banner year last year, winning 58 games and the Southeast division to to edge out Boston for the second seed in the Eastern Conference (behind only the 60-plus win team of Chicago). They lost just three games en route to the NBA Finals, including a decimation of both the Celtics and Bulls in the conference semifinals and conference championship rounds. It was an exorcism of sorts for James, who had been eliminated twice previously by Boston in the playoffs while playing for Cleveland, and for Wade, who had been eliminated in 2010 in the first round in five games.
But Miami fell short in their quest for the first of a string of championships promised by James in their elaborate preseason unveiling ceremony when they lost three in a row to the Dallas Mavericks to lose the NBA Finals in six games. Dirk Nowitzki led the way for Dallas in that series, leading the Mavs in scoring in all except for the clinching Game 6. Both Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who led Dallas in Game 6, scored over 20, but they did so by shooting less than 50 percent from the field. Udonis Haslem grabbed 14 rebounds in over 30 minutes off the bench for Miami. James had 10 boards to contribute with his double-double.
Boston will need to play better defense after their offense also went over the century mark in that loss to the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony nearly topped 40 for New York, and the defense sorely lacked Pierce’s presence in playing their lockdown style. Sasha Pavlovic stepped into the starting lineup in place of the Celtic captain, but he failed to score in his 15 minutes on the floor. Marquis Daniels, who saw the most action off the bench in the position filled by Pavlovic, shot just 2-for-8 for four points, and both players picked up ill-timed fouls, combining for nine. Despite that, Brandon Bass stepped up very nicely with a double-double of his own, including 20 points, and he could be a nice addition to a bruising frontcourt that already includes KG and Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal’s defensive prowess helped shut down Tyson Chandler, and he’ll look to do the same against Bosh, who, as mentioned before, struggled against Dallas.
For those tuning in, the game will be broadcast on TNT tonight at 8 PM, with Marv Albert on the call, being joined by Steve Kerr and former coach Mike Fratello. The always-illustriously dressed Craig Sager will hold down the sidelines. The radio call for the Boston Celtics will have their usual tandem of Sean Grande and former Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell on WEEI (93.7 FM and 850 AM). Opening tipoff is at 8 PM.
The “World’s Most Famous Arena” played host to one of the world’s most entertaining games last night, with professional basketball finally returning the Midtown lights of New York City and Madison Square Garden.
Fans who proclaim themselves as the most knowledgeable in the world were treated to a heart-wrenching, emotional, dramatic thriller as the Boston Celtics battled back from down 15 points to take the lead against their New York Knicks, only to fall short 106-104 in the NBA’s opening game of the Lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.
Carmelo Anthony dominated for his hometown team, dropping 37 on the Celts, including a 17-point fourth quarter performance that erased an eight-point Boston lead. Rajon Rondo had 31 for Boston after playing extremely aggressively in the first half.
Boston clearly missed forward and captain Paul Pierce, who was sidelined with a foot injury. Without Pierce,the duties fell on Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, players who should only be playing limited off-the-bench minutes. Daniels, who was a peculiar signing in the offseason with his history of injuries and overall poor play, committed his first foul after being on the floor for two seconds.
But that was hardly an excuse as to why Boston wilted down the stretch. After trailing by as many as 15, the Celtics staged a second half rally behind Rondo, Ray Allen, and offseason acquisition Brandon Bass. Bass dropped 20 points and 11 boards on the game, helping the Celtics eradicate their deficit and turn it into an eight-point advantage. Allen himself had 20 points, and of course, Rondo led the way with his 31 and 13 assists, five rebounds and five steals.
But where Rondo played so well over the course of the beginning of the game, he had more technical fouls (two) than shots hit (one) in the fourth quarter. The Celtics committed costly technical fouls by Pavlovic and center Jermaine O’Neal, although the alarming number can be attributed to old friend Joey Crawford, who, as usual, was quick to the whistle.
Boston was, by and large, able to contain Tyson Chandler, the big man signed to bolster the front court for New York and complement Amare Stoudamire and Anthony. Chandler had four blocks but was neutralized offensively by O’Neal, as he finished with just seven points and three boards.
For Boston, they’ll need to improve their fourth quarter defense and seal off the hard-charging Miami Heat, who destroyed Dallas to the tune of 105 points in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. After scoring those 35 points in the third, they surrendered 27 fourth-quarter points to lose the game. This was an Achilles’ heel of sorts the last couple of seasons, and it should improve as Boston gets more game activity to open up the year.
Boston will be aided by the hopeful-return of Pierce, who expects to play against Miami. He will be tasked with guarding Lebron James, which is always an exciting matchup given Pierce’s propensity for enjoying that challenge. Boston should also be aided by Mickael Pietrus, who was signed on Christmas Eve after being bought-out by Phoenix. A former starter for the Suns, he’ll be able to provide Boston with more of a frontcourt presence that’ll counteract the loss of Jeff Green. This will allow Daniels and Pavlovic to return to the backcourt, where they are clearly in a more comfortable setting.
Boston is next up on Tuesday against the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat, while New York heads out to the west coast for a tilt with Golden State.
When the Boston Celtics rebuilt their roster after the 2006-2007 season, they put a premium on talent through chemistry. They created a combination of three future Hall of Fame-caliber players, then told them that in order for it to work out how they expected, they would each have to give up a little bit of their own game in order to succeed within a collective unit.
The results were remarkable, as the Celtics captured the 2008 NBA Finals World Championship and reclaimed the mantle their organization was used to holding. The next couple of years were defined by near-misses, either by injury or by age. But throughout it all, the Green made their presence felt because they were the most cohesive unit on the floor in the entire league. They could compete on any given night because they were the best team.
2011 brought rise to the ruin of that chemistry, however. It’s no secret that Kendrick Perkins was a limited athlete. A 6-feet-11-inch beast of a man, he could bang defensively and shut down offensive weapons like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. He could grab rebounds, outhustle, and outmuscle pretty much anybody in the league, and the Celtics probably would’ve won their second title in three years had he not blown his knee out in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals.
But Perkins was an extremely limited offensive presence to the point where he couldn’t be trusted on the floor in crunch minutes for baskets. A notoriously bad free-throw shooter, Perk had limited range inside, failing to hit shots that were outside the cylinder under the basket. He also had poor range of motion, especially after coming back from his knee surgery, and for a big man, he always managed to crunch up nice and small to the floor when he’d bounce and head up strong to the bucket.
So it wasn’t terribly shocking that Boston was looking to deal Perkins. He needed to get players with better offensive reputations who could take some of the burden on those mid-post distance jump shots from Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis, especially since Big Baby was probably on his way out the door.
But what was shocking, and what wasn’t as widely reported in the days leading up to the trade, was that dealing Perkins would decimate the chemistry the Celtics became known for. Even when their talent levels began to fade, Boston could win games because they knew how to play together, something the Lakers weren’t great at and something the Heat weren’t doing. We should have seen it coming, that removing an emotional leader like Perkins would decimate the team in the locker room, that Doc Rivers would be in danger of losing that team because too many players would try doing too much while boneheads tried doing too little, and that the team itself was better because of chemistry and not because of talent.
The Celtics are now faced with fixing that issue in 2011-2012. Perkins is gone, traded for essentially a bag of basketballs with Nenad Krstic playing in Russia and Jeff Green shelved with a heart ailment. And with the turbulent offseason and shortened preseason, they are now faced with rebuilding that same chemistry and feel they had in the previous seasons on the fly, with the key components on their last legs of their careers and with rising powers threatening their standing as best collective team in the NBA.
The Boston Celtics are continuing to build a roster that will hopefully compete for the Eastern Conference championship by signing second round draft pick E’Twaun Moore to an entry level deal. Moore, the 55th overall selection in this year’s rookie draft, previously played four years for Purdue University.
The former Boilermaker is expected to sign a guaranteed contract that will ensure him a place on the Celtics’ roster. Boston is currently in limbo of rebuilding a roster that had just six players signed and under contract when the NBA Lockout was lifted this week.
Moore was heavily recruited out of high school, listed as the eighth best high school shooting guard in the class of 2007. After receiving high profile offers from Indiana, Tennessee, Iowa, and others, the East Chicago native signed to play with Purdue in the ultra-competitive Big Ten Conference. In his four years, he broke the freshman record for three-point field goals with 66 in 2007-2008 and helped lead the Boilermakers to the NIT Championship game during the following season. He averaged 18 points during his senior year as he led Purdue to a top 10 ranking, despite originally declaring for the draft after his junior year before pulling out.
The Celtics drafted Moore with the intention of getting younger shooters that could develop quickly to help an aging roster. As of the lockout, the only players under contract included the “Big Four” of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo. Of those four, Pierce and Garnett are in the final years of their contracts, both aged well over 30 in the twilight of their careers. Allen remains a sure-handed shooter under contract until the end of the 2012-2013 season, when he could pass off to players like Moore and Jeff Green. Green, acquired in a trade last season, is still unsigned by Boston.
Boston has also reportedly come to an agreement on terms with Marquis Daniels, an oft-injured shooting guard who played with the team over the previous couple of seasons.
The Celtics also drafted Moore’s college teammate JaJuan Johnson in the 2012 draft. Johnson remains unsigned.