In the span of just three nights, I have witnessed the following events take place:
- The Boston Celtics faced ex-Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the first time in a regular-season match-up.
- The Boston Celtics squared off against their ex-coach, Doc Rivers.
- Ex-Celtics Pierce and Garnett went up against their old coach, Doc Rivers.
That’s three different reunions between current and ex Celtics players and a coach in exactly three days – way to get that over and done with, commissioner Stern!
Watching all of these reunions go down on back-to-back-to-back nights, I could not help but hop in my time machine and revisit the recent past, as I am sure many of my fellow Celtics fans did, as well. What I expected to find was that a bunch of ‘What if” questions – “What if the Celtics still had Doc Rivers as head coach?” “What if Kevin Garnett was still anchoring the defense?” “What if the Truth still played for Boston?” – would jump out at me and make me a bit angry.
Instead, I realized that, with one tiny exception, I am perfectly okay with all of the changes that this organization has undergone.
Let’s start with the change at head coach. I really like Doc Rivers, and have to give him credit for taking a trio of players who many pundits said would need a few years of playing together before they would be ready for a championship and taking them to two NBA finals in the first three years they were together. Doc (with Tom Thibodeau’s help) was instrumental in turning the Celtics into one of the stingiest defensive units the NBA had seen in a long time, and helped re-establish Boston as the world’s premier professional basketball franchise. Yet I am perfectly fine with seeing Doc coach the Clippers, in part because Brad Stevens clearly is a damn good coach, but mostly because I don’t think Doc was the right coach for Rajon Rondo. Unless I’m a total idiot who knows nothing about basketball, Rondo is the immediate future of this franchise, and I think he will fare better under the tutelage of Stevens than he would under that of Doc Rivers.
I’m equally okay with the departure of KG, due in large part to the fact that he just wasn’t a member of the Celtics long enough for me to develop the fierce sense of loyalty I have for ex-Celtics such as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, etc. KG was a fierce defender and unquestioned leader who truly epitomized what Celtics Pride meant, and had he started his career in Boston a bit earlier there is no doubt I would miss him more than I do now. Still, KG isn’t the player he used to be, and I honesty feel that keeping him would have held the Celtics back. I hope his knees allow him to go out with a bang, instead of a whimper, in Brooklyn, but I don’t have any desire to see him back in a Celtics uniform.
Alas, I cannot say the same when it comes to Paul Pierce, as Pierce’s trade is the one misstep I feel Danny Ainge made in his attempt to deconstruct the Celtics in order to rebuild for the future. Much like KG, Pierce is not the player he used to be . . . but unlike KG, the Truth started his NBA career as a Boston Celtic, and had to endure some disappointing years in Beantown before he was finally allowed to raise Boston’s 17th banner to the rafters of TD Garden. Pierce could have left Boston years ago, but he remained loyal to the team that drafted him and toughed it out, only to be traded a few years before retirement. Pierce may no longer be starter material (in my eyes), but when healthy he could still provide a spark off of the bench for this team and would have a lot to teach this roster about what it means to be a member of the Boston Celtics. I have always felt that Paul Pierce should have been allowed to retire a Celtic, so seeing him wearing a Brooklyn Nets uniform pisses me off, and will continue to do so as the year progresses.
Having said that, would the Boston Celtics be better off today with Paul Pierce on the team? I won’t even get into that. Such speculation is pointless, and wholly subject to opinion. I will say that I am pleasantly surprised by how the Celtics are playing this season, and I am genuinely excited about the future of this team with coach Stevens at the helm. Besides, there is no use crying over spilt milk, especially since, for the most part, the Celtics made the right moves during the offseason. Thanks for the memories, guys, and Mr. Pierce, I look forward to the day that your jersey is retired forever in the TD Garden.