Something was going to change with the Boston Celtics. It was only a matter of time. As sad as it may be seeing the New Big Three Era being slowly dismantled, we all new it had to happen for the team to get better. I thought it would happen as soon as the Purple and Gold confetti started falling at the Staples Center in 2010, but Danny Ainge had other ideas. He tried to keep the core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and head coach Doc Rivers together as long as possible, and they probably got their “one last shot” a few times too many. Ray Allen left last summer to take his talents to South Beach, and this week, he earned his second championship ring with a scoreless effort in Game 7 (although he did hit a clutch three pointer to get the Heat to overtime and save their season in Game 6), and Pierce and KG’s futures with the Green remain uncertain. Rivers didn’t want to be part of a rebuild, and did not commit to the Celtics despite being under contract for three more years. Today the Celtics agreed to release him from his contract in exchange for a 2015 1st round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers.
While I love Doc as a coach, it does not make sense to pay 7 million per year for a coach who doesn’t really want to be here on a team that is no longer a lock to make the playoffs. It’s time to start acquiring assets, draft well, and accumulate enough talent to make the next KG trade. Despite their rich history, the Celtics don’t have the advantages Miami and LA have of being a desirable location for NBA players, who prefer to live and work in places with warm weather and/or low taxes. The next Celtics championship roster can’t be built overnight, but this is an important step.
There will be more to write about when the Celtics make trades and hire a new coach, but for now it’s a good time to appreciate the Doc Rivers Era for what it was. The Celtics were not great when he started. He had trouble developing young players and keeping veterans disciplined, but once he had a good roster, he ran with it, and in 2008, the Celtics raised their only championship banner in my lifetime. In the years that followed, they were never an easy out, but were never able to finish the season with a win again. For a long time, they were the biggest thing standing in LeBron’s way. Kendrick Perkins was Dwight Howard’s personal kryptonite. Ray Allen was in Rip Hamilton’s head…and in Kobe’s head. Garnett and Pierce were the veteran superstars that players around the NBA hated, but were beloved by their own teammates. When Jason Collins publicly came out of the closet last month, Paul Pierce was the first former teammate he told. There was a lot to love about this team, and it all started with Doc Rivers. He had a knack for saying the right thing, and not just because it was what we wanted to hear. He, David Ortiz, and former Patriot Joe Andruzzi were the most eloquent and inspiring voices in Boston sports after the tragic Marathon Bombing in April. It’s for that reason that it hurts for me to see him pack his bags for Los Angeles so soon. You got the impression that he truly was a green-blooded Bostonian, but the prospect of coaching Chris Paul and Blake Griffin seemed more appealing than rebuilding around the moody Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics might be bad next year and the years to come, while Doc is coaching another contender, but we shouldn’t make the way he left his entire Boston legacy. Nobody coaches in the same city forever anymore. Gregg Popovich is the last of a dying breed in that regard. The next great Celtics team will be coached by someone else someday. It was great while it lasted. Ubuntu. Anything is possible. Good luck in LA, coach!