Boston Celtics: The Last Heartbeat?

During the 2006-2007 NBA season and missing the playoffs for the 2nd time along with the two seasons before that, was a showcase for the first round of the playoffs, losing each time to a talented and deep Pacers team getting swept back in the 2003-2004 season, and making it a competitive series in the 2004-2005 season.  The Green and White faithful were used to seeing success despite not seeing a title season since the Bird, McHale, and Parish era back in 1985. Looking at that team they got them #16, based on stifling defense, which was a league best defensive rating of 102.6 at the time. They came close with the Dynamic Duo in Pierce and Antoine Walker back in 2001-2002 losing to New Jersey Nets that had balanced play with Jason Kidd leading that team to the Finals. Boston had a formula that got them 16 titles, having a defensive anchor, a wing player, and surrounding the team with solid shooters, pass first point guard all the while having depth coming off the bench and a coach that stressed defense.  During the late 1950’s when their championship prowess started, the talent began with Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, and Mike Sherman….the list goes on and on.  Danny Ainge, who was the Two-Guard on the championship teams of the 80’s, knew that formula would get them a shot at #17.  Rumors were swirling at the time that Kevin Garnett would be traded to the Celtics, at first he did not want to go there, so he baulked at the trade, Ainge wasn’t going to stop at nothing to get  the talented forward in Green and White, Ainge made a move that convinced Garnett to come to Boston, this article will review the transactions, and look at the defensive prowess, also provide information that shows this team being the best Half Court Defensives in this era, and look where they are at now.

In the Article written by ESPN Writer Marc Stein back in June 2007, Garnett was not on board with the move to play for the Celtics. At the time he wanted to play for the Phoenix Suns, Andy Miller, Garnett’s Agent stated his client had no interest to play for the Celtics at the time, Steve Kerr was trying to work a package with Kevin McHale, at the time, the Suns were offering a package revolving around Shawn Marion, but, the T’Wolves Management wanted A’mare Stoudemire involved in the deal, with Atlanta’s unprotected first round pick, Ainge package was better, at the time they were offering Al Jefferson, 5th pick of the draft, Theo Ratliff, this move offered cap flexibility, and try to rebuild through the draft. Garnett stated he was friends with Paul Pierce, who had some drama of his own with the Celtics, if nothing was done, his agent stated that Pierce would request a trade, so, there was a lot riding on these rumors, Garnett was really close with Steve Nash, and thought they would make a nice one-two combo, plus the warm weather was a bonus, and the Suns was championship contenders around the time, you could see the interest from Garnett to go to the Suns. It was clear that Ainge had to bring someone else in to convince Garnett to come to Boston, and keep Paul Pierce put. Acquiring Ray Allen for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, and the 2007 5th Pick (Jeff Green), one of the best deep threats and scorers in Basketball at the time, here’s a player who was averaging a career best 26.4 PPG, 37% from 3 Point. This is a huge deal, Boston was working on their formula, wing player in Pierce, and needed someone to anchor the defense, and Kevin Garnett thought to himself, surely, they have some talent now, so Kevin Garnett agreed to the trade sending him to Boston, and with Minnesota getting Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, and the 2009 first round draft pick. This started the era of the Big Three in Boston, and put them in serious Title contention. Time to review The Celtics top notch defense.

The Celtics displayed one of the best defenses in the decade, San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons was up there as well. Their first year, the Celtics during the 2007-2008 season had a league best 98.9 defensive rating according to basketball reference, they also held opponents to .42% FG and 31% 3 point FG, which is unheard of with a totally different make up of a team. The Spurs and the Lakers come close to this and barely beat them in these categories, but, these team already developed Team Synergy and Chemistry, so, it makes one wonder, for a team to come together so quickly like they did. the makeup of the team consisted of a talented rookie in Rajon Rondo, known for his defense and passing, another rookie in Kendrick Perkins, whom developed into a force inside the paint, and being one of the best post defenders, sharpshooter in Eddie House, and one of the best perimeter defenders in the game in Tony Allen. It was really hard to find a weakness as a team, individuals, flaws could be pointed out, this was one of the best defenses this decade has seen. The Celtics have always a been top five team in Defensive rating, and opponent points per game, and the past Celtics teams always had size upfront until this season.

The offseason started off with a bang while the Celtic faithful saw Ray Allen went to their acclaimed rival the Miami Heat, while they were upset, why wasn’t they griping about this when the rumors came last year to trade Ray Allen to Memphis? But, it’s odd seeing a player you came accustomed to in a different uniform, so, there is some confusion of all places, why the Heat, the team that put them out the playoffs? There were claims that Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo was not seeing eye to eye, and it was a transition for the Celtics that was gearing around his playmaking ability, seeing that Rondo, whom was in plenty of trade rumors because of his poor attitude, is going have to keys to the franchise once Garnett and Pierce hang up the jerseys in the rafters. As of right now, Rondo is out for the Season with an ACL injury, that occured during the Hawks game on January 25th, but Rondo thought it was nothing serious, until he got his knee re-evaluated, this was 6th consecutive loss, and experts were writing this team off, stating this is player who make their engine go, and do not see them making the playoffs, and to make things worse, they were playing the best team in the conference the Miami Heat next, without Rondo, at Home, many did not think it would be a pretty game, Ray Allen return to Boston which featured a nice video tribute, and the Boston faithful acknowledged how instrumental he was in the title run and keeping their team competitive, so, they gave him a nice round of applause, but it stopped there after that. The game went to double overtime, with the Celtics pulling it out, this was the beginning of a  seven game winning streak. It came to an end against the Charlotte Bobcats on February 11th, but during the win streak, they beat the Clippers, Lakers, and went to three overtime sessions with Nuggets before ending the streak. They did beat the Bulls this past week to end their 8-1 campaign without Rondo going into All-Star break. Paul Pierce did average 18.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 7.5 APG during the month of February, and Jason Terry and Jeff Green were the main contributors off the bench, Barbosa was in the mix until he tore his ACL against the Bobcats, will cause him to miss of the rest of the season. Management wants to sign him back as reported by ESPN.

Will the Celtics make a move near trade deadline? DeMarcus Cousins, J.J. Redick and Pau Gasol have all come up in rumors involving the Green and White trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  If they do make a move, it needs to be for more size up front, It’s hard to see the Celtics beating Miami, New York, or Indiana four times in a series, their best shot may be against New York since the Knicks play small ball and could match up with them and see if they could control the boards and defend the three point line. Looking past this season, they may have to make a move to stay competitive, or they will be in the middle of the pack the next few years until they have cap room when Kevin Garnett expires in 2014-2015, and if need so, Paul Pierce is an expiring contract in 2013-2014, Danny Ainge will have to make a choice between loyalty or business, right now, the Management can’t be creative, If I were to choose, I say ride it out and call it a end of a era that got you one title, multiple playoff berths, and this team been to the Finals twice, and the Eastern Conference Championship thrice, and the East is still known for being a weak conference, so anything can happen in the East. The Celtics are on the decline, but still are a playoff team, but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years for this franchise.

Cortez Paul

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