Posted Jul 3 2010 4:27PM
The old gang is back together. No, not Phil, Kobe, Fish. The other, older one.
Without any proclamations of grandness, the Boston Celtics are circling the wagons once again. The Gang of Green is bringing back its skipper, its heart and soul and, soon enough, its gunslinger. These aren't the sexiest moves during the Summer of LeBron, but is there a surer bet in the Eastern Conference the last three years?
The Celtics are a known quantity, and that has to give Boston hope in the sea of anxiousness and uncertainty engulfing most of the NBA right now. No one knows just yet -- not even on Twitter -- where the balance of power will reside once the glamour boys finish up their versions of The Bachelor and decide who to marry.
Maybe the Bulls are the team to beat next season in the East. Maybe it's the Heat or Cavaliers or, heavens to cap space, the Knicks or Nets. In each case, though, it's a Max Contract Maybe. The Celtics aren't messing with maybe.
The return of Doc Rivers delayed the inevitable rebuilding that Danny Ainge is going to have to oversee someday soon in Beantown. But until that day when older players become just old, it's wise to keep the most consistent group east of Los Angeles together.
Rivers is indispensable in the process. Doc has his steady hand on the pulse of the Celtics as much as Dr. Phil does with the Lakers. Rivers' personal sacrifice of not watching his children on their courts next fall has to resonate with the rest of the Celtics thirsting to add another banner inside the Garden.
Ironically, Rivers' kids helped push him back to the sidelines, but Rivers is also juiced for another run a the ring. He had no interest in the 'R' word and wouldn't have returned if Boston wasn't committed to upgrading the NBA runner-ups.
With those assurances from Ainge, Rivers enthusiastically pledged to at least a seventh year in Boston. Paul Pierce is running his total to 16. The new millennium Mr. Celtic has agreed to four more seasons and a cap-friendly deal of about $60 million. Pierce could have netted more in New Jersey or back in his hometown of Los Angeles with the Clippers, but the Truth's loyalties run deep.
Pierce's decision also aids in the re-signing of Ray Allen. Rivers has said the Celtics need the 35-year-old sharpshooter back, and Allen wants the same. While there's a market out for Allen if he's truly wants to explore, all signs point to new contract being worked out with the Celtics.
There's still much to do with the roster beyond having Pierce, Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo back in the stable. Glen Davis is the only other member of last season's frontcourt rotation expected to be ready for opening night. Kendrick Perkins could be out until midseason recovering from ACL surgery and Rasheed Wallace, after an uneven one season in Boston, is retiring.
The Celtics drafted Avery Bradley to serve as Rondo's apprentice. Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Finley and Sheldon Williams are also free agents. Boston obviously needs to add a good bit of youth and athleticism to the veteran mix. Without cap space, Ainge is going to have to be creative, but we've seen the towel-waving GM pull a few rabbits out of the hat before.
Whatever the Celtics do this summer, it might not be enough to outlast the possible superpowers forming elsewhere. But there's still something to be said for continuity and stability. Boston was six minutes away from claiming its second NBA championship in the last three years.
Taking the Lakers to seven games, after "upsetting" Cleveland and Orlando, in the East playoffs wasn't some fluke. The Celtics know how to win and their bond to each other may be the strongest in the league. Sure, the key C's will be a year older when the 2011 postseason rolls around, but there's no reason to count Boston out even with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade deciding what the next championship franchise will be.
Whichever new conglomerates emerge as the favorites for 2010-11, the process of jelling and becoming a true team isn't automatic. Titlists are often together for several heartbreaking years before they break through and win it all. On the flip side, the Celtics demonstrated in 2008 that three superstar teammates can come together as one in one season, giving many hope for the quick fix.
But the Celts have also shown staying power. Boston hasn't lost in the playoff with its preferred starting five -- KG, Allen, Pierce, Rondo and Perkins -- healthy for an entire series. The Celtics have proven they can beat LeBron and D-Wade and Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant when it matters most.
No other gang than can say the same. So let 'em ride.
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