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“These are guys that I can’t imagine giving those numbers out to anybody else,” Grousbeck said on WEEI. Grousbeck called Pierce the “linchpin” of the Celtics’ success during his tenure, which predates Grousbeck’s involvement with the team as part of Boston Basketball Partners LLC. Grousbeck also referenced the oft-repeated claim that Garnett changed the culture when he came to Boston in 2007, and cited Garnett’s decision to turn down multiple offers to play elsewhere as a free agent last summer and through trades this season as a contributing factor to the inevitability that The Big Ticket’s number will eventually be retired.
This is by far one of my favorite debates that has risen over the past few years. The Celtics are one of the most decorated franchises in NBA history, we all know that by now; but with that comes a duty to honor the greats that lead them to those glory years. Some teams have a ring of honor, some have a team hall-of-fame where players are inducted yearly, while most retire that players number, never to be worn again. All of these are great honors to players because it is a tangible way for them to see that they left their mark both on the game and on a franchise and won’t be forgotten decades after they are gone. The Celtics are likely one of the top runners for most retired numbers, with only a handful of numbers under ’20’ that have not been retired yet for players to choose.
The Celtics are faced with quite the predicament in the next few years, trying to analyze which of the current core group of players deserves to have their numbers retired. Pierce is a no-brainer, spending his entire career in Boston and breaking many scoring records. The interesting debate rises when you discuss Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Kevin Garnett, should he retire at the end of the year will have spent six seasons in Boston with one championship, two visits to the NBA Finals, and three Eastern Conference Finals appearances. He came to a Boston squad that in the previous season embarrassed the city with its incompetence on the court, and immediately turned them not only into a contender but a champion. He may have single handedly saved Doc Rivers his job, Paul Pierce his legacy in Boston, and Rajon Rondo his career. Think about it, if Garnett never comes to Boston, the Celtics still suck in 2008, Glenn Ordway still calls for Rivers to be fired, Pierce eventually gets his wish and is traded to the Clippers, and Rajon Rondo never gets the chance to develop around the vets. I think that six years is an awful short amount of time to retire someones number, but given the circumstances and what an amazing amount that Garnett has been able to do here in such a short time, this one is a no brainer.
The real trouble comes when you bring up Ray Allen. Notice Wyc left Allen’s name out of the discussion, and for good reason after he jobbed the Celtics and took the first train to Miami. As much as you would like to believe that once everyone is retired we can look back at what he did here, there are still some things you just don’t forget (Damon to the Yankees) and let a player live down. Allen to the Heat will be a part of his Celtics eulogy, maybe even the paragraph, but he did spend five solid seasons here and helped bring the Celtics a championship. Again, without Allen, Garnett is never a Celtic. It is tough to label a group the “Big Three” and only honor two of the three, especially when a championship was obtained.
So what are your thoughts? Do the Celtics eventually get over the Ray Allen saga and honor him with Garnett and Pierce? Do all three belong in the rafters to begin with? Is there anyone else for whom their number you would retire that wasn’t discussed?
The Rest: ESPN Boston: Did C’s miss out on Morris? ; ESPN Boston: Grousbeck : ‘Deals just weren’t there’ ; CSNNE: Bradley finds offensive rhythm in win over Jazz ; CSNNE: Melo busy with rookie responsibilities ; CSNNE: Things we learned from Celtics five game road trip ; NESN: Zach Randolph Names Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan As Select Few Great Low Post Players in NBA ; Herald: C’s season falls on uneasy terms