We’ll have plenty more here at CelticsHub in the coming days looking at what this season was and how Danny Ainge and company should build from here. In the meantime though, good friend and co-CelticsHub founder Zach Lowe had a great reflection on this group during the past year and over this entire historic run together. As any long-time reader of this blog can attest to, Zach knows the C’s as well as anyone, so I implore you to check out the full piece at his SI Point Forward blog: In the meantime, enjoy a sampling of the piece here:
Boston lost point guard Rajon Rondo during its five-game playoff loss to the Heat last season and was missing guard Avery Bradley during its seven-game defeat to Miami this season. This year’s Heat series was eerily reminiscent of the 2010 Finals as a thin, aging team that was running on empty and could not score with a broken offense fell short.
But here’s the thing: The playoff injury luck shifted in Boston’s favor this season, and the team just wasn’t good enough to make the Finals. Power forward Chris Bosh’s abdominal injury changed the Heat into a different team, and Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s ACL tear on the opening day of the playoffs removed a potential second-round opponent that has eaten Boston alive playing the same defense that vaulted the Celtics into the league’s elite.
As for Garnett’s injury, this is the deal a team makes in building around three stars on the downsides of their career. Garnett’s injury appeared traumatic, but it was really an extreme tweak amid the grinding regression of his knee into a semi-arthritic state, a common problem for aging players. The Celtics knew that such a chronic injury could derail their Big Three plan at any time; it was part of the risk they took in constructing a team this way, and it was not an unpredictable event.
Given that reality, one championship, one runner-up finish and a third trip to the conference finals should be considered a success. It was not the dynastic success Boston hoped for after that initial 2007-08 title, but it was a success nonetheless. This team and this franchise have very little to regret in the big picture.
In that half-decade of greatness, the Celtics changed the way NBA teams play defense and staked their claim as one of the greatest defensive cores in basketball history. Boston ranked first, second, fifth, first and first in points allowed per possession the last five seasons, and its basic philosophy and scheme now appear all over the league. It was a scheme built around both Garnett and the abolition of the old illegal defense rules, a sea change that allowed players to guard territory rather than individual opponents. The change allowed Garnett, in particular, to roam around the floor and orchestrate the roving of his teammates. He was the ideal defender, working under an ideal coach (former Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau) at an ideal time in the NBA’s rulebook history.