“We’re going to beat them by 20!”
I was glued to the TV as the Celtics were about to make their season debut against the Washington Wizards. The team just acquired Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnet in one of the best summers the franchise has ever had. I was 14 at the time, and too young to remember the days of Bill Russell and Larry Bird, so my expectations of the Celtics have never been too high.
Paul Pierce was my idol. When he suffered that brutal fall against the Phoniex Suns where he landed right on his face, I asked my mom to call her friend (who was a doctor) to get his evaluation of it. Pierce did so much for our city, and i’ll never forget it. The showdown with the Lakers where Shaq dubbed him “The Truth”, the battles against the Nets in the postseason, and probably my favorite moment of all time, when he did this to Al Harrington:
So when we finally got a team that could actually win a title, I was happy — not just as a fan, but for him. He kept Boston releveant for so long. No one is coming to games for Tony Delk, Kenny Anderson, or Tony Battie, but you want to see what The Truth was going to do.
This summer will be a big one for the Celtics. Not only are they walking in to max cap space for the first time in the Ainge era. But they have the power to pursue players through all three avenues of the rebuilding handbook (trades, draft, and free agency). However, there seems to be a consensus that the Celtics are looking to repeat what happened in the summer of 2007. I think they’re looking to avoid it fully.
After 2008, the feeling was great in Boston. We finally captured that elusive title, had a powerhouse team led by a manic seven footer, one of the greatest shooters ever, our captain, and a young point guard who wanted to do nothing but defend and pass the ball. But then we suffer the KG injury in 2009, lose in the finals in 2010, and by the end of 2011, it became clear that our title window had closed. Ray Allen had moved on, Rondo was coming into his own, and the Pierce/Garnett combo just couldn’t bring it every night. After going through the 90’s and most of the 2000’s as a bottom dweller franchise, fans in Boston were treated to an awesome three year run. But it was a three year run. There was always an expiration date on the ride, and we had no real options to turn to after it.
After the miracle Nets trade, Ainge and the Boston brass could have easily laid down and did the long process of rebuilding the old-fashioned way. And to be fair, that’s probably what they were thinking of doing. They won 25 games and got the 6th pick in 2014, and were well on their way to another lost season, when the situation in PHX presented them with a rare opportunity. Is it worth trading for a guy who can ruin the current rebuild plan now, or risk never getting the chance to get him? The team had just traded Rondo to Dallas, and the plan to tank already seemed to be in place. But the opportunity seemed to fruitful.
A year and a half later our team faces another big question concerning the long-term value of the franchise. Do you risk it all for stars, or stay pat, and wait for the right situation to present itself? There’s no doubt that if the Celtics were offering guys like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and their prized Brooklyn picks then they’d already have the quick-fix guy fans are looking for. The Celtics aren’t interested in that path anymore. They don’t just want to build a roster to win number 18, they want to build the dynasty that can win them number 25. By trading your farm constantly, it puts continued pressure on the front office to hit a home run almost every year. How many times will the stars lineup like the way they did for Boston in the Nets deal? Probably never again. Similar to the Garnett deal with Minnesota, teams just don’t have much interest in trading stars anymore, and most now have the capital to keep them. Being able to roll out a 50 win roster, and be a player to land the number one pick isn’t a common occurence in the NBA, espeically not multiple times as Boston has the opportunity to do. They simply don’t need to rush to land a star, and won’t. They’re the fourth yougest team, just signed their coach and GM to brand new contracts, and have an intriguing collection of young talent. Signing Kevin Durant, and Al Horford would be great, but giving up core pieces for a guy like Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins isn’t. We simply just have the time, and the assets to value growth and stability over instant gratification.
The Celtics won that game against the Wizards 103-83, and it was amazing to watch them march to a title. I remember going crazy watching Eddie freakin’ House lead a monster comeback against the Lakers on the road. But I also the remember the lack of youth and rotation players as the years went on. Having to rely on the likes of Terrence Williams, P.J Brown (god bless him), and Marquis Daniels is not something the Spurs, or Warriors would ever had to do. And it’s not something the Celtics plan to experience again.
Be patient, root for player development, and watch the stars lineup. The allure in Boston will never come from beaches and great weather, it’llalways be about tradition and being part of something that’s bigger than yourself. A lot of small-market teams say this because it’s the only pitch they have. Boston says it because it’s what our 18 titles were built on.