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:
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
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
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!!!