The Celtics Are Back

1190922388As noted before, there is an embarrassment of riches in the Boston sports scene these days. The Red Sox win the World Series and the Patriots play the Game of the Year the following Sunday. Boston College, the No. 2 team in the country, has a prime time date with Florida State tomorrow night.

But there is one team in this city that has piqued our curiosity more than any other, and that’s the Celtics. They open their season tonight at the New Garden.

Does anyone really know how Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen will play together? Does anyone really know if Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins can be viable starters on a playoff team? Does anyone really know how crazy Scot Pollard is? No on all fronts, and that’s what will make the upcoming season so interesting.

The fascinating aspect of the Allen, Garnett, Pierce troika is that none of them have ever really won anything in the pros. All three have had nice playoff runs to the conference championships round, and Garnett did win an MVP, but none of them have appeared in a Finals, and their team’s successes have been sporadic, at best.

Normally in the NBA when you assemble three Alpha Males under one roof, it’s only a matter of time before everyone starts going all Heidi Montag on each other. But there is hope for these three in that all of them have had enough All-Star games, USA Basketball invites, and big-time contracts to last six careers. They are all smart and savvy enough to know that they won’t get another chance like this, probably ever.

People want to know, “Who will take the last shot?” But what they really mean is, who’s running the show? That has been a problem in the personality-driven NBA for years where it is assumed that one entity has to dominate. In the old days, everyone knew Larry Bird was getting the ball with the game on the line, but he still left room for Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to do their thing.

That’s why the most compelling person in all this is Pierce. In a strictly basketball sense, Pierce is the one who should get the ball in crunch time. He is the one who possesses the most diverse array of offensive skills. In Allen, he has a shooter who has successfully co-existed with such gunners as Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell. In Garnett, he has one of the most unique players in the history of the game, a defensive monster who scores points, but has never outwardly cared about his totals.

In other words, Pierce now has everything he has always wanted. If this experiment fails, it will probably be Pierce who shoulders most of the blame, along with coach Doc Rivers who may be under the most pressure of any of them.

There was an interesting interview on TNT where the notion of The New Big Three came up. All three wisely demurred and Garnett had this interesting reaction: “Nicknames are something that are earned. No one called them The Big Three while they were playing.”

Fair enough. So, what does this group need to accomplish? It’s tempting to say that the Celtics need to reach the conference championship round or the NBA Finals for this to be called a success, but in reality, these three players have to win a championship together. Maybe not this year, but in the two or three year window that has been cracked open. That is the mandate. We can’t wait to watch it play out.