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The other day when I volunteered to put together this team I expected it to be rather easy. Fellow writer KC Downey said in response that he is interested in what my team is going to look like. At first I thought that he was just saying that because he was curious as to what players I would pick, but then as I started to think about the possible players and I was curious myself. All I needed to do was pick six players from the different Celtics’ teams of the past decade and make note of what players have established themselves in Boston.
There haven’t been too many players who have come to Boston and found a place in the hearts of the fans this decade. There hasn’t been any Larry Birds, Bill Russells, or John Havliceks, so that made this list difficult. There have been so many Hall of Fame caliber players who have stepped on the parquet floor at some point, but this decade saw many different teams. One team hit a franchise-low in wins for a season, and then another team won the NBA Championship in 2008. There has also been anything and everything in between.
Here is my list for the Celtics’ team of the decade, if you have any recommendations or disagree with my choices don’t hesitate to say who you would insert instead.
This position confused me at first, but then I started to eliminate players one by one and ended up with Rajon Rondo. He has been with the team since the 2006-07 season and coming into this year, he was regarded as one of the top point guards in the game. He has changed the way the Celtics play the game and since he came into the league he has only made improvements each and every year. While he may not be the best point guard the Celtics have ever seen, he may very well be by the end of his career.
Since other point guards like Gary Payton, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair and Kenny Anderson (whom I would’ve loved to put here) didn’t last long with the Celtics, it was easier to put Rondo here over everyone else. Go ahead, tell me that Rondo can’t shoot the ball and he’s been in the league for four years, I don’t care. He’s a play-maker and is one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA. With his quickness he can easily disguise his poor shooting by driving to basket and making some pretty amazing dunks/layups. Besides, who needs to shoot when you have one of the best pure-shooters in NBA history in Ray Allen and a very good shooter in Paul Pierce?
Rondo is there to fill up the stat sheet and he does it very well. For his career, he averages 10.0 points, 1.8 steals (2.7 this season), 6.2 assists (9.7 this season) and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 48.6% per game. Those are good stats for any player on the court, never mind the team’s point guard who “can’t shoot.” As the rest of the current Celtics (except for Kendrick Perkins) age quickly, the team is likely to turn to and build around Rondo as he will be the future of this franchise. He is easily the top point guard for the Celtics of this decade and wouldn’t surprise me if he earned the same nod in the 2010’s.
OK, so I really didn’t want to put Ray Ray here but I absolutely had to. Before finalizing this list I knew I was going to pick the other two of the Big Three but I wasn’t sure on Allen. After looking at the other players on the Celtics over the past decade it was hard not to pick him. Pierce has always been more of a small forward so I couldn’t even make it up and put him here. Delonte West played well for Boston but he also played a lot of point guard and didn’t play long enough here for me to consider him. Wally Szczerbiak crossed my mind but that’s about all he did. Antoine Walker was more of a power forward than a guard. Eric Williams and Tony Delk were decent players but neither of them were of Allen’s caliber.
I know that Allen has made many big shots in his career, and in Boston it has been nothing different. Last season when Garnett was out, Allen made multiple big shots in the playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Those shots not only kept the C’s in the series but practically won the series for them. I know Allen hasn’t put up the same numbers that he did while in Seattle and Milwaukee, but he can still score when needed. For his career, he holds averages of 20.7 points, 3.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 44.9% shooting. While on the Celtics he has averaged 17.3 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 46.2% from the field and 38.4% from the 3-point line.
Allen is the oldest of the Big Three at 34 years old but at some points it’s hard to tell that he will be 35 at the end of the season. He is still a phenomenal free-throw shooter and with his sharp shooting from anywhere on the court, defenses have a very difficult time keeping up with him. So when I think about the top shooting guard of the past ten years it is hard to forget Ray Allen. It’s not even that I put him here because he will be in the Hall of Fame, but it’s because of what he did for the Celtics. He shows up every single game and puts in his best effort, regardless of the opponent. He’s never hurt, doesn’t complain, and is just a solid player. He is also the most pure shooting guard this team has seen in awhile.
Small forward was by far the easiest position to pick a player. Paul Pierce has enshrined himself in the Celtics’ Hall of Fame as he helped raise banner No. 17 in 2008. Before that season there was much talk about whether or not Pierce would ever be a Hall of Famer and since then he has done everything to show he is worthy. Pierce was drafted by the Celtics in 1998 and became an instant star on a team that already featured Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer. Teaming up with Walker really matured Pierce as teams had to plan against both of them, so he had the opportunity to grow every game.
When he was drafte,d he was seen as the franchise player for the Celtics, and that is exactly what he has become. He was the leader on the teams that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and he was the leader on the teams that were in transition and lost a franchise record amount of games (58 losses in 2006-07). During those years of transition, there was always the possibility of trading away Pierce and at some points it made sense, but we were fortunate enough that he stuck around and was then surrounded by two other future Hall of Fame players in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Pierce’s numbers show that he involves himself in almost every play as he has good stats in each category. He holds a career-average of 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and a 44.4 field-goal percentage. No stat really stands out more than the other but he is just a solid contributor. An analyst once said that Pierce is the definition of what a small forward needs to be. He needs to shoot a high percentage from all over the floor, dish the ball, grab rebounds and throw in the occasional steal and block. Pierce does everything to put it simple, and he is even getting better in his later years. This season he has a career-high in free-throw shooting at 84.9% and 3-point shooting at 47.3%. His 2.11 turnovers a game is also a career-low for Pierce.
Although Pierce’s other numbers have dipped a little bit since Garnett and Allen showed up, he still plays the same way he always has. He just doesn’t have to do everything now. Pierce goes down as the best Celtics player in the past decade and he will find himself in the company of Bird, Russell, McHale, Havlicek, and Heinsohn some day as one of the best Celtics’ players. He may not be the best Celtic ever, but he sure is up there.
Kevin Garnett changed basketball in Boston. There, I said it. There hasn’t been any other basketball player who has changed one team in a single year than Garnett. The trade for him was huge: the most players traded (seven) for one player in the history of the NBA. Garnett brought intensity and heart to a very historic basketball team. He was exactly what the team needed in order to win. The defensive presence and passion had been lacking in Boston since the late 80’s and early 90’s until that very special summer when Danny Ainge brought the Big Ticket to Boston.
I could’ve easily picked Antoine Walker here (I actually really wanted to pick him), but I didn’t. Walker did help the Celtics get to a Eastern Conference Championship series but he never changed the team like Garnett did. I also thought about picking Al Jefferson here, but I neglected to do that as well because he wasn’t with the team long enough and never had the presence Garnett has. Jefferson was the key to getting Garnett, so he was pretty important for the Celtics too. He also averaged 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds the year before being traded and has since found much success in Minnesota but is still stuck on a very young team.
Since arriving in Boston, Garnett has averaged 16.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 53.9% from the field. His numbers have fallen a little bit since his first season with the team, but he is still a major contributor, even at 33 years old. It also doesn’t help that he injured his knee last season and had to miss the second half of the year and the playoffs. It really showed how important it was to have him on the court because of how much the Celtics struggled in his absence.
KG was the reason why the C’s won in 2008 and I wouldn’t want anyone else to have this position as best PF of the Decade besides him. Sorry ‘Toine.
So this position was also very difficult, but then I really thought about it and it was a no-brainer. Kendrick Perkins has been on the team for so long that most people would expect that he is close to 30 years old, but he’s still only 25 (he just turned it in November). He has spent the past six seasons with the Celtics and has grown tremendously. He has actually shrunk in size, but his game has grown considerably since he came into the league straight out of high school. He has improved his numbers each year as he is averaging a career-high 12.0 points per game and is shooting a remarkable 64.3% (league leader) from the field this season.
The center position certainly has not been the Celtics’ strong point over the past decade, but Perkins has really solidified the position over the past four seasons. Other notable players I could have selected were Mark Blount, Theo Ratliff, Tony Battie, or Raef LaFrentz (who at one point was productive in Boston). None of those players really had a strong impact on the team like Perkins has in the past few years. Perkins is what most people would call a “banger” when it comes to talking about a center. He has a big wide body and is able to contain most, if not all, the centers in the league. He was really put to the test last season in the playoffs against Orlando’s Dwight Howard, and Perkins held his own. Perkins is learning how to use his big body down below and does a great job of containing other centers in the league.
Phoenix Suns player Amare Stoudemire said earlier this season that Perkins is just outright mean: “He’s always mean. Always mad,” Stoudemire said. “He don’t never have fun out there. He needs to learn how to have fun on the basketball court and just enjoy his life — enjoy the game.” Well, Perkins should enjoy making my Celtics’ All-Decade Team.
This position was far too hard to pick a winner so I decided to pick two of them instead. Ricky Davis was a perennial starter when he came to Boston from Cleveland, but he started only 5 of 57 games during the 2003-04 season, averaging 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. The next season he was pretty much the sixth man on the team, as he only started 11 of the 82 games he played, but he did average 32.9 minutes a game. That season he averaged 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
When Davis arrived in Boston it was often criticized because he was always labeled selfish but he complemented Pierce very well and the team was very exciting to watch. It was so fun to watch that even when Davis failed to finish a between-the-legs dunk during a game against the Lakers we still managed to cheer when he got his own rebound and threw down a windmill dunk seconds later. The next season was his best in Boston, as he averaged 19.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game. He started all 42 games he played that season before being dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a multi-player trade for Wally Szczerbiak. I still think that was a terrible trade…sorry Wally.
Then there is the case for Eddie House. He came to the Celtics in the same offseason that brought both Allen and Garnett to Boston, and won a Championship in 2008. House has never been a true starter in the league so it’s fairly easy to have him as the Celtics’ sixth man. Now I know he never put up the numbers that Ricky Davis did, but House does something different. He shoots lights out from beyond the arc. Last season he even passed Danny Ainge’s team record for 3-point percentage in a season with a 44.4% rate from deep. Since joining the Celtics three years ago, he has averaged 7.5, 8.5, and 7.6 points per game, but for someone who rarely sees more than 20 minutes a game, he plays very well.
Any Celtics fan knows that he has his cold streaks shooting the ball, but when he’s on a hot streak he’s nearly impossible to guard. During the 2008 Finals, I will never forget the key steals he had late in games to help the Celtics defeat the Lakers. He put his body on the line and did whatever he could to make the play and he deserves the respect for that. When the Celtics needed him most, he showed up and that is why he gets the tie for the Celtics All-Decade Team sixth man. Most Celtics fans will remember the good years in the 2000’s and since House was main contributor during those years he will also be remembered for his role on the team.
Another player who could fill in this spot as the sixth man would be James Posey. Every Celtics fan loves Posey for what he did in 2007-08, but he was only on the team for one year so it’s hard to give him the sixth man award for one year. It’s too bad he didn’t stick around longer, because he could’ve been one of the best sixth men in the NBA (if he stayed with the Green).
I’m just going to list the worst players the Celtics acquired over the past decade. Some of them you may have forgotten over the years: Kedrick Brown, Joseph Forte, Jerome Moiso, Milt Palacio, Bryant Stith, Randy Brown, Chris Carr, Chris Herren, Bimbo Coles, Ruben Wolkowyski, Grant Long, Vin Baker (sorry Vinny), Jiri Welsch, Chris Mihm, Jumaine Jones, Michael Stewart, Justin Reed, JR Bremer, Michael Olowokandi, Orien Green, Allan Ray, Kevin Pinkney, Scot Pollard, and Gabe Pruitt.
Sorry guys, but you may or may not be remembered for playing on the Celtics, even during the down years.
OK, don’t hate me for picking the starting five players from the past three seasons, but when I looked at all the years and who really stepped up in Boston, I had to pick all of them. I did throw in Ricky Davis as the sixth man, so it’s not like I completely ignored the other seven years. Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Perkins all changed basketball here in Boston and that is something that needs to be recognized.
When you think of the past decade, you always want to think of the positive things that happened and forget about all the losses that were accounted for. So it was easier to select the players of the past three seasons for my All-Decade Team, but they really were the best at their positions and deserved to be there. I wish I could’ve put other players in there, but no one really stood out more than the current starting lineup.