By Tim (FD)
As the decade comes to a close in just a few days, let’s take a look back at the decade that was in Celtics basketball.
It began on January 3, 2000 with a 105-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. With 32 points and 13 rebounds, Antoine Walker led a starting lineup that also featured Kenny Anderson, Adrian Griffin, Paul Pierce, and Vitaly Potapenko to the victory. Since that night, the C’s have produced a record of 440 wins and 380 losses. The C’s have made six playoff appearances in the decade, and of course, one of these appearances ended in the 2008 NBA Championship.
Ups and Downs
During this decade, Celtics’ fans both endured an 18 game losing streak and exalted in a 19 game winning streak just two years later. We watched hopelessly in 2006-2007 as Allan Ray started 5 games for us at shooting guard, perhaps a premonition that Hall of Famer Ray Allen would soon grace that position. We were devastated when, anticipating a first or second, we fell agonizingly to the 5th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery. Just two months later we were given new life when Danny Ainge transformed our nightmares of the Number 5 pick, into dreams of Number 5, Kevin Garnett.
The beginning of the decade was marked by mild optimism, as Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker led the team to back-to-back playoff appearances. We dreamed of a matchup with the Lakers in the NBA Finals, but were beaten by Jason Kidd and the Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. The middle of the decade was a frustrating period of rebuilding, as Danny Ainge filtered in player after player, trying to find the right mix. He did so finally in the summer of 2007, and the Celtics returned to prominence. We had that rematch with the Lakers in 2007-2008 and capitalized by bringing home banner 17.
We saw four different head coaches walk the sidelines of the parquet. Ironically, there were no head coaches fired during this decade. Rick Pitino, who failed as the coaching messiah, walked out the door before the end of his high-priced contract. Jim O’Brien put down his foot and hung up the clipboard after Danny traded Eric Williams for Ricky Davis mid-season. John Carroll finished out the season and was never heard from again. And then there was Doc Rivers. Celtics’ fans abused Doc in 2006-2007 and consistently harassed him with chants of “Fire Doc”. Just a year later, he smiled and waved to those same fans who admiringly chanted his name during the championship parade.
We saw the inspiring intensity displayed by Kevin Garnett and the disgraceful lack of effort shown by Mark Blount. We saw the amazing athleticism of Gerald Green and the flat-footedness of Wally Szczerbiak. We saw the beaming smile of Sam Cassell and the intimidating frown of Kendrick Perkins. We witnessed the rise of Al Jefferson and the sad fall of Vin Baker. We saw both Walter McCarty and Brian Scalabrine emerge as fan favorites. We saw the Garden become the Jungle in 2002 and catch Gino fever in 2008. We saw the introduction of blog sites as well as the Celtics Dancers. Sadly, we also saw the passing of the greatest coach of all time, Red Auerbach, as well as #3 Dennis Johnson
We saw Mark Bryant, Justin Reed, Milt Palacio, Doug Overton and JR Bremer all try- on the number 9 uniform, before it finally found a comfortable fit on Rajon Rondo.
Similarly, Jerome Moiso, Wayne Turner, Michael Stewart, Kedrick Brown, and Jamel Thomas all donned the #5 before the inimitable Kevin Garnett, who will likely be the last Celtic to wear that number.
However, among all the comings and goings, one thing has remained constant throughout the entire decade. And that’s The Truth. Paul Pierce has been here from start to finish, through thick and thin. From being stabbed 11 times on September 25, 2000 to being named NBA Finals MVP in 2008, Paul Pierce has been through it all. Although still underrated by fans and experts alike across the country, there is no doubt that he has become a Boston legend. It is safe to say that in Boston Celtics’ history the decade of 2000-2009 will be remembered as the decade of Paul Pierce. As a Celtics fan, I couldn’t be happier.