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As end of era looms, who belongs in the rafters?

Nick Sannicandro April 19, 2012 Uncategorized 36 Comments

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Nick Sannicandro is the newest member of the Red's Army team.  Nick is passionate follower of not only the Celtics, but all of Boston's pro sports teams.  Please welcome Nick aboard.

As the Celtics continue to make their push towards banner 18, a long lasting debate has been rekindled with the newfound hope that this current Celtics team can muster up enough to win one last title and ride off into the sunset of retirement. In the Celtics organization two things are important to the team and its fanbase; winning and history.

The Celtics are both the most successful team in NBA history as well as the team with the most relevent history. One of the most important traditions in Celtics history is the retirement of players numbers (or in some cases, names) into the rafters of the Garden. No team has retired more numbers than the Celtics, but no team has had as many Hall of Fame caliber players either.

That said, there has been a heated debate for the past season or two as to whether the members of this eras Big Three belong in the rafters alongside KC Jones, Sam Jones, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, among others. The one individual of this current group that there is no debate about is Paul Pierce. He's been the face of the franchise for about 10 of his 14 years with the team. He is  quickly moving up the all time scoring list, having surpassed Larry Bird this year.

There is no question that one day we will see #34 in the rafters of the TD Garden, but what about the others? There are three people with a legitimate case to make their way into the rafters, lets debate:

KGnickKevin Garnett

The most interesting debate of this discussion will come with Kevin Garnett. Garnett came to Boston as an extremely accomplished player seeking his first ring. The Celtics acquired Garnett after one of the most miserable seasons any basketball team has ever played, with a complete lack of team unity and hope. Once Garnett came to Boston the entire identity of the Celtics changed. Overnight they went from worst to first. Now a legitimate title contender for a few years, now a tough and gritty defense and suddenly Boston was a place that you did not want to travel to. Home court advantage again returned to the vocabulary of Celtics fans after a long hiatus, all thanks in part to the arrival of Kevin Garnett. Garnett lived up to his reputation during his tenure in Boston, winning the defensive player of the year in 2008 and anchoring the Celtics on both ends of the floor prior to his knee injury.

After his knee injury fans questioned whether he was done; but a resurgance in the 2010 Playoffs as well as a promising 2011 and a strong second half of 2012 may be just enough to put Garnett over the top. He and the other members of the Big Three have won only a single NBA Championship in Boston (for now) and that would be the least among retired numbers (those that weren't retired in memory of a deceased player). Many fans say that one title is not enough; so the true question is do you retire Garnetts number for how drastically he changed this team or do you need one more championship to consider him among the Celtics legends? 

Rafter Worthy? Yes


RaynickRay Allen

Of the Big Three, Ray Allen's case to make it into the rafters has to be the weakest. He came to Boston as a relative afterthought to most fans as KG stole the headlines and he has few defining moments as a Celtic. He has a handful of game winning shots, there was the epic 2009 series against the Bulls where he and Ben Gordon exploded, setting the record for most three pointers in a half of the Finals, and of course breaking Reggie Miller's record. Can you think of many other Ray Allen moments? (Other than the people's elbow to Varejao)

The reality on Allen is that after 2008, he struggled at times with his consistency; often going on extended periods of cold shooting leaving fans questioning if he was "done" on numerous occasions. The Celtics were able to survive these cold streaks and were able to survive when Allen was unable to play due to injury (see this season). Not taking anything away from Ray Allen as a person or player, but it could be said he was the most expendable member of the Big Three. If you raise Pierce and Garnett into the rafters, how do you justify not honoring Allen without completely snubbing him? 

Rafter Worthy? No

DocnickDoc Rivers

The real underdog in this discussion, and one that many Celtics fans have not considered, is Doc Rivers. Now before you jump through your computer screen, hear out the case on the Celtics head coach. First of all, the Celtics have retired the "numbers" of Walter Brown and Red Auerbach, so it is entirely possible to add Doc to the rafters. I'm suggesting his name be retired, similar to Jim "Loscy" Loscutoff . The name "Doc" has quickly become a staple when discussing the Celtics. Doc is as much a part of the Celtics success as the players.

Fans credit him for turning the 2010-11 season around and are giving him much of the credit for the turnaround this season. He has survived losing Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank as his assistants all while keeping the Celtics as one of the top defenses in the league. He has mastered the management of some strong personalities (Rondo, Rasheed, Big Baby) and managed minutes of aging veterans to keep them healthy for the playoffs. He has been able to motivate his team through devasting injuries (2009) and allowed them to believe in themselves when nobody else did (2010).

Yes, the Celtics struggled mightily before the arrival of the Big Three, but that was much in part due to horrendous transactions from his general manager, not coaching. Doc was the PERFECT coach for this era and without him and say…Larry Brown in his seat the Celtics may still have won in 2008 but never would have survived the struggles of 2009-10. Doc Rivers signed an extension to stay with the team through 2016 and will end up as the second longest tenured coach in team history if he fulfills that entire contract. There is no question that Doc Rivers belongs in the rafters of the TD Garden, he was as instrumental to the Celtics success as any player on his team. Next to #34 one day, should be the name "Doc".

Rafter Worthy?   YES!!!

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  • Juice

    I agree on all fronts.
    Pierce – Definitely
    Garnett – Yes
    Allen – No

  • http://profile.typepad.com/greenbeand greenbeand

    lets not pussy foot around the small stuff- just reach high into the banner talk of who belongs.. agreed doc would be a nice addition, but with more time and titles.

  • Danno

    KG – Yes.
    Ray – No.
    Doc – I guess, but that’s a little weird.
    Scal – YES!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p01156f2d28d7970c BigMck

    Longevity matters to me. KG has played 5 seasons in Boston. DJ is up there and he played 7. Maybe if Garnett sticks around for two more years.
    Pierce is a definite.
    I’m torn on Ray. If a guy is a definite HOFer, shouldn’t he have his number retired? Maybe if he sticks around and plays a few more season in Boston.

  • KY Celts fan

    Pierce definitely. Personally, I don’t think you can retire #5 without retiring #20 next to it. It just doesn’t feel right.
    And I like the idea of retiring Doc into the rafters, but I think he has to be here for quite a bit longer. He hasn’t made that distinction with one franchise long enough like Sloan did in Utah, or Popovich in San Antonio. If he’s here for another decade, and keeps us competitive, then sure thing. It would be awesome to see it happen.
    It will be fun to see if #9 eventually gets retired.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/the_bantam the_bantam

    If Doc retired or went to a different team last year, I don’t think he makes it. So I think, (hope?), he will be up there. Love him as our coach.
    They’re going to have to use Chinese symbols or decimals soon, running out of all the decent numbers.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/sothewind Lee in Oregon

    All 3 are goona get that honor, Boston is a sentimental place, they won’t dis Ray. As for Doc, unless he wins another ring, he’ll be up there right after Bill Fitch.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/redslovechild1 Redslovechild

    #20 should have been in the rafters before Ray Allen was even born in 1975.
    Larry Siegfried won 5 rings as a Celtic…led the NBA in FT% twice…shot .854% from the line for his career…consistently scored 12-14 off the bench from 1965-1970.
    If Satch, Loscy, McCauley, and Ramsey are up in the rafters..why not Siggy?

  • Cam

    Not sure who should be in or not besides pierce but selling ray short here. He has just as many big moments and clutch shots as pierce and KG. I think his recent injuries have distorted peoples memories.

  • Jim.

    If Ray Allen had never come to Boston,does anyone think that “The Big Two” would have a championship.I don’t. Cast your minds back to the years before the Big Three,the Celtics had gone from being irrelevant to being a joke. I never thought the Celtics would ever again win a banner given the set up of the league. A lot of fans were only too willing to break this team up a few months ago,and I was starting to lean that way too. Well thats why I’m not managing the Celtics and Doc ,Danny,and Wyc et al are in charge.The Big Three were a team ,and they should all three go into the rafters ,at the same time, as a team.

  • Danno

    He was awful pretty much throughout the entire 2008 playoffs until Game 6 of the Finals. He was painfully bad in 2009 and 2010. He has a handful of regular season game winning buzzer beaters. He has twice as many turnovers in key/playoff situations where he dribbled off his own foot or threw the ball completely away.
    Ray has had moments of Greatness in Boston, but most of them have been rather inconsequential compared to the efforts of Pierce, KG and to a lesser extent Rondo.

  • VIPGrN000

    Pierce – Definitely
    Garnett – Yes
    Allen – Yes – He’s a major part of the Big 3 era and the success. It’s only fair.
    Rivers – Yes

  • dombili

    No question about Pierce. He’ll be up there.
    Personally though, if you’re gonna retire KG’s number, it just feels wrong not to retire #20.
    I don’t know about Doc. I love him to death, but ask me again 5 years later when his contract is over.

  • Cam

    Like I said people have a distorted view. Ray struggled (understatement ) against the Cavs but other than that he was pretty solid for those playoffs. And ot wasn’t just game 6 of the finals, he led our team in scoring that series do you not remember that? He prob would have got finals mvp if he was the one who was a lifelong celtic.
    People are just dismissing him, “oh he hit a couple big
    shots for us big deal” give me a break.
    Sorry I don’t remember some random time he dribbled the ball off his foot, but im sure he is the only one of the big 3 to have a turnover….

  • KY Celts fan

    You’ve said some pretty dumb things here before, but to completely marginalize Ray like that is downright ignorant.

  • Danno

    Ray averaged 15.6 PPG for the 2008 Playoffs.
    KG averages 20.4 and Pierce Averaged 18.6.
    and NO, Ray didn’t lead the Celtics during the Finals in points.
    Pierce did with 21.8. Ray averaged 20.3
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/NBA_2008_finals.html
    You’re right, people do have a distorted view. Yourself included. LOL.

  • Danno

    Look up the stats if you like. I provided the link above. Ray was mediocre to downright awful during the 2008 postseason. He averaged 9.3 points against Cleveland. 16 vs. Atlanta, 15 vs Orlando, and 20.3 against LA, mostly because of the garbage time 3′s he was jacking up when they were up by 30 in game 6.

  • Bob

    Yeah, except we didn’t play Orlando during the 2008 postseason, so get your facts straight. Do you not remember the rejuvenated Ray Allen during the Detroit series? If it wasn’t for that, we likely would have been beaten out by the Pistons. #20 goes in the rafters, no question. I can’t believe people are actually arguing about this. Basketball is not stats. Ray Allen is basketball. Perfect teammate.

  • Bob

    Also, no way we have the huge comeback game 4 in LA without Ray Allen. And if it wasn’t for Pierce’s great defense on Kobe, along with his overall Truthiness, Ray definitely would’ve been the Finals MVP. Just a cold-blooded killer. No Ray = No Banner 17. And can I just add thank GOD the Ray-Mayo trade didn’t go through. Boston is your home Ray, we love you! Retire a Celtic!

  • djisinthehall

    WHOA, led the league in Ft%?
    “consistently scored 12-14 off the bench from 1965-1970″
    there is your answer

  • djisinthehall

    Peirce for sure.
    Garnett if they win another Ring
    Ray- nope. Ray is a GREAT piece, but KG and Peirce are game changers.
    Doc if he wins another ring.
    DJ was only in Boston for 7 years, but he walked out with 3 rings from Boston + the one he brought from Seattle.

  • Matt33

    Danno makes some really good points. He’s not saying he doesn’t like Ray, and doesn’t appreciate it what he has contributed…. He’s just pointing out some things that astute Celtics followers should have/be observing in regards to Ray’s game.
    Could Ray end up in the rafters? Possibly. But if he walks after this season, I think that’s a no. I think he needs to embrace this new role of being our sniper off the bench and go win a couple sixth man of the year awards as a Celtic and then retire.
    Hondo, McHale, etc all exceled as a sixth man with the C’s so Ray definitely shouldn’t feel this role is beneath him. If he is willing to maximize the potential of this role I think that will define if he is the perfect teammate and if he belongs in the rafters or not.

  • KY Celts fan

    His postseason averages were only slightly less than his regular season averages. If you take into account that his infant son was having serious health problems and had to be hospitalized during the middle of that postseason run, which is bound to weigh a little heavy on him, he did pretty darn well.
    You also said he was “painfully bad in 2009 and 2010″ even though is postseason averages were nearly identical as his regular season averages across the board. So, yeah, you’re an idiot.

  • Danno

    Nice. So I’m an “idiot” because I don’t agree with you about Ray not being awful in the playoffs?
    Yeah, I guess since we’re trotting out the insults, why don’t you go fuck yourself, ya redneck moron.

  • Danno

    Exactly. I love Ray, I just don’t put him in the same Game Changer category as Pierce or KG. He’s not as multi-dimensional as either of them. He is a shooter. Probably the greatest pure shooter the game has ever seen. But he’s not a great defender, doesn’t handle the ball well, and is prone to silly turnovers at inopportune moments. When he’s cold and his shooting is off, he’s a liability.

  • Bob

    Agreed. KY Celts Fan: no reason to hurl out insults just because someone has a different opinion than you. I think Danno is wrong, but in no way does that make him an idiot. What a boring world this would be if everyone was in agreeance about everything.
    Anyway, yes, Ray should accept the 6th man role, and he has. But no way KG gets rafter nod and Ray gets the shaft. KG needs Ray, Ray needs Pierce, Pierce needs both of them, vice versa etc etc. Even if Ray moves on, which I think he will not, he deserves a place up there. Again, no Ray = no banner 17. Same goes with KG and Pierce (and in 2008, to a lesser extent, Rondo. Obviously he plays a much bigger role now).

  • Bob

    Ray is absolutely a game changer. Just as big an impact on this team as anyone. Obviously, KG being as intense and defensive-minded as he is, changed the culture of the team. But Ray did too, with his work ethic, efficiency, proffesionalism, and just cold-blooded dagger 3′s night after night. What an insult to one of the league’s greatest professionals, and greatest shooter of all time, to not put Ray’s number in the rafters. Luckily, I know Celts brass knows what Ray really brings night in and night out, and his number will be raised up along with #5 and #34 (and much later, #9).

  • Bob

    Danno, I disagree about his defense. Obviously, he could have some lapses, like anybody including KG, Pierce and Rondo. But he has played some GREAT defense on Kobe over the years, along with a number of shooting guards, even Lebron. Some regular season nights, yeah the younger guys blow by him. But playoffs, he’s locked in pretty good. He knows how to move his feet and stay with a guy/not fall for up-fakes. Many national TV announcers have been impressed with Ray’s D.

  • jr
  • Danno

    I’m kinda a bummed that Ray’s floating it out there now that he’s unhappy about the OJ Mayo trade that didn’t happen, and that he’s become the 6th man, when Bradley has clearly emerged as a legitimate Starter on this Squad. I would understand if he was 28 or even 32, or lost his job to a guy who is not worthy, or if he was still playing with the same energy and consistency. but he’s not. He’s 36, and his body is betraying him. Much more than KG or Pierce’s are. you don’t shoot your way out of town and then get your number retired.

  • sev

    all 3 complimented each other and they wouldn’t have won without ray, so would you put kg up there without a title? We also can’t forget they came so close to winning a second title and I don’t see why they wouldn’t have won that year kg was out. Yea ray hit a lot of game winners, but it was more so all the clutch shots he hit to get us back into games that I remember. There’s also the intangibles like sacrificing each others games for the good of the team and buying into playing the best defense in the league, as well as setting the tone with their work ethic for all the other role players to follow. I value kg more than ray but I feel like if you do Kg, than you have to do Ray cause it was a collective effort of 3 hall of fame players that did whatever was needed to win, after spending years being the MAN on their previous teams without going anywhere but the playoffs.

  • KY Celts fan

    It’s not a difference of opinion. He told me to look at the stats, and the stats prove him wrong. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t think a word that kindergarteners throw around as much as poopface would get such a rise out of someone.
    And Danno, just because I’m KY doesn’t make me a redneck. I’m far from it. Attended some very nice private schools, graduating with honors. Lexington is known it’s million dollar horses and world-class bourbon. Hardly low brow.

  • Jim.

    Well said.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0168ea46c4fe970c Nick Sannicandro

    WOW!! Im loving the debate that this created with everyone! AS you will all learn I’m HUGE on basketball debates, especially historical debates. My stance on Ray Allen was that he does not go up there, but I think it was Danno that made the point that he was very bad in the 2008 playoffs, lets not forget other than the Bulls series he was really bad in the Orlando series in 2009, and I think (correct me if I’m wrong here) that he was mediocre in the 2010 stretch until they got to the finals, he had that big burst against LA where he broke the record for most threes in a half, and then struggled the rest of the series due to a thigh injury. Lets be honest, his playoff performances have not been that great since coming to Boston. He’s been spotty at best, his highs are VERY high but his lows are really painful to endure when in the playoffs.
    I will say this and agree with many of you on this point though, if the Celtics retire #34 and #5 they almost HAVE to retire #20 because that would really burn some serious bridges.
    Also to address the point about the celtics running out of numbers. I think we will eventually see the Celtics go the way of other teams, retiring that individuals name/number into the rafters, a ring of honor in a way; eventually allowing that number to be reused.
    Lastly to the individual that felt that it would be weird to see “Doc” up there, don’t forget that Red, Walter Brown, and “Loscy” all have places in the rafters right now.
    Thanks for all the great debate guys! Really enjoy it

  • Janet

    Great Article Nick…love your number 1 fan! Janet a.k.a your mom

  • Brick James

    Pierce is the only one. Full career here. 1 title doesn’t cut it. I don’t think any of the following should make it but the order would be KG, Doc, Ray for me.