When the buzzer sounded on the 2009-10 Boston Celtic season it seemed as if the last image of the Big Three era was going to be of them walking off the Staples Center court with Purple and Gold confetti raining down on them. Certainly not the way fans of this team wanted to see them go out. What made the loss worse, was the sense of finality to it. It just felt like it was the end for this group. During the regular season the Celtics looked far too old to ever contend for another title, but their improbable and unexpected run to Game 7 of the NBA Finals was enough to convince Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers that this core group of players could do it again in years to come. River’s return was the first shoe to fall in a series of contractual and business moves that would ensure the Big Three era would go on.
On June 30th, Rivers notified the Boston Globe he would return to coach the 2010-11 season, saying he wanted “another crack at it with this group.” This group, maybe Doc knew something we didn’t, but at that point “this group” was far from guaranteed to be back. Ray Allen was an unrestricted free agent, and just the night before lifetime Celtic Paul Pierce had opted out of his contract seemingly with intentions to test the free agent waters. Could River’s decision have backfired? Not exactly.
Pierce had said countless times throughout his career that he would like to be a Celtic for life, so his decision to leave his guaranteed $21.5 million on the table and possibly his team was shocking. But Pierce’s decision to opt out was far from a betrayal, in fact it was an unselfish move of loyalty. Pierce neglected to even consider other teams in free agency, he resigned with the Celtics for less money, approximately $15 million over four years, clearing about $12 million in cap space for 2010-11 when factoring in luxury tax.
Two of the off-season’s biggest questions were answered quickly and painlessly. Ray Allen decision was next on the docket, and he followed in the footsteps of Pierce seemingly not even entertaining offers from other teams before resigning with the Celtics for two years.
These quick and painless contract discussions (as opposed to some other free agents, who could I be thinking of?) indicate that Doc, Pierce, and Allen all had a strong preference to return with the Celtics. During the Big Three era unselfishness and teamwork has been their on court style of play, this off-season proved that they act similarly in their contractual negotiations. With the freed up cap space the Celtics were able to sign Jermaine O’Neal in an effort to shore up their glaring rebounding problems.
Many people saw this off-season as a chance for the Celtics to move on from the Big 3 and get younger, but let’s not forget this team had a double digit lead with a quarter to play in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Yes they are old, but even if Pierce and Allen had signed elsewhere the chances of the Celtics signing one of this year marquee free agents was minimal. This group of players gives the team the best chance at success for the immediate years. I wasn’t alive for when the Celtics Big Three of the 80′s abruptly plummeted to a 42 win team in the season of 1988-89, but I understand the worries of those Celtic fans. For now this team is worthy of “another crack at it.”
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Written by Mike Fillyaw