By Basketbawful and Evil Ted
After enduring several years of constant "Where's KG going to end up?" speculation*, we finally have the definitive answer: The Boston Celtics.
* Sorry, Kobe. But not really.
This is a great move for the Celtics, even if it doesn't take them directly to the Promised Land. For the past five seasons, the team has been a laughingstock, mired in mediocrity (at best) and disgrace (at worst). They haven't appeared on national TV since Zeus knows when -- and rightfully so. Two blockbuster trades later and they're suddenly relevant for the first time since Larry Legend's final season* and a legitimate contender in the East. If Lebron and the Lebronettes were good enough to make it to the Finals last year, why not a potent Garnett / Paul Pierce / Ray Allen combination this year? There's no reason to think they won't do well in a conference where the other contenders -- Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, and New Jersey -- pretty much stuck with the status quo**.
* Despite the fact that Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Dee Brown missed a combined 114 games, the 1991-92 Celtics still managed to win 51 games and capture the Atlantic Division title. They finished the season on a 15-1 tear -- even winning their final eight games without The Basketball Jesus -- and then went 5-1 in the playoffs before Bird returned from a late-season back injury and screwed up the team's chemistry. The Celtics ended up losing to the Cavaliers in a tough seven-game series that turned irrevocably in Game 4 when a rusty Bird missed not one but two game-winning shots. And thus ended the Bird Era.
** Except Miami, who got significantly worse; their best shooter (Jason Kapono) walked, they lost out on the Mo Williams Sweepstakes, and they and signed Smush Parker, a.k.a. "the worst point guard in the NBA." Pat Riley's failure is now complete.
If you think about it, the trade is nothing short of a miracle, not only because Ainge pulled it off with what he had to offer (the promise of Al Jefferson's future greatness), but also because he managed to hold on to both Pierce and the recently-acquired Allen. It flies in the face of all the "inside the box" thinking he'd become infamous for. All the talk of "potential" and "youth" has been going on too long with the Celtics, and it was way past time to shake things up. So rather than gamble on the Utah Jazz formula for success -- young, hard-nosed, character guys + tenacious defense + two or three plays run to perfection -- he's going the Miami Heat route: A core of hungry, All-Star veterans surrounded by a handful of decent role players. Garnett, Pierce, and Allen all have something to prove*, and here's hoping that together they can prove it. Garnett is the inside presence, Pierce is the slasher, Allen is the shooter...that combination could work out quite nicely. The C's still need some frontcourt depth and a steady point guard, but with a new Big Three in town, they don't necessarily need Tony Parker bringing the ball down court.
* Perhaps the most fascinating subplot in the trade is that Garnett finally gets to prove whether he can win when surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Is he a winner or just a numbers guy? Time to find out.
No, the Celtics won't be deep, but neither were the Celtics of the 80's*. With only five players on a court at once, basketball is a sport where one superstar player can make the difference -- just ask the Heat. No, Garnett, Pierce and Allen aren't Bird, Parish and McHale -- who, as Rick Pitino would point out, still aren't coming through that door -- but I'll be damned if this team won't be a thousand times more exciting to watch than they have been since, well, forever. No, the window isn't huge -- 3 or 4 years, tops -- but better a small window than the brick wall the Celtics have been banging their heads into since, well, forever.
* As noted, the 1986-87 Celtics quite possibly had the worst bench of all time. The 1987-88 Celtics weren't much better off. Go back and watch Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, also known as Larry's duel with Dominque. Coach K.C. Jones was forced to play a group of white stiffs comprised of Brad Lohaus, Fred Roberts, Jim Paxson, and Mark Acres. Their best reserve, Reggie Lewis, was a rookie and played only three minutes. Ugly.
Maybe Danny isn't a genius. Maybe he's just taking advantage of his relationship to Kevin McHale. But I don't particularly care how he did it, just like I don't particularly care who Red Auerbach beat up in a dark alley when he traded for McHale and Parish*. Let the next chapter for the Celtics begin.
* Sorry, Joe Barry Carroll. But not really.