Just like Rodney Dangerfield used to say, the Celtics just couldn't get any respect this season. From the very beginning, there were doubters every step of the way from training camp all the way through the finals. And, every step of the way, the Celtics answered their critics and proved them wrong.
Here is a run down of all the criticism and doubts the Celtics faced this season. The first doubters said that you couldn't put three stars together and expect them to gel quickly. Rasheed Wallace was quoted as saying that you can't put a championship team together in a year. It just can not be done. Most "experts" thought that it would take a couple of years before the team would develop enough chemistry to win a championship. In answer to their critics, the Celtics gelled almost immediately and their chemistry was incredible for a team with 9 new members.
Not long after the Garnett trade, Bob Ryan said that the Celtics had the worst 4-12 in the league. Criticism of the Celtics bench came from every corner. Doc would have to play the starters big minutes because they had no bench. If it was a league of 3 on 3, they would do fine, but their bench was the worst in the league. Over the course of the season, the Celtics bench proved itself. Night after night, different subs would come up big for the team. James Posey, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Big Baby, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, all had a part in the Celtics 66 win season. Even with those contributions, there were still doubts about the back up point guard and center positions. Then Danny signed PJ Brown and Sam Cassell and both of those players had a hand in helping the Celtics to win both in the regular season and the playoffs.
At the beginning of the season, Rasheed Wallace also stated that the Celtics didn't have a point guard or a center. There were a lot of critics that chimed in saying that a 2nd year point guard couldn't lead this team to a championship. Perk also had his critics who said that he was at best a back up center on a good team but not a starter on a championship team. The Celtics would never win with Rondo and Perk in the starting lineup. They were too young and too inexperienced. Perk had an answer to Rasheed's comments when he said:
At the beginning of the season I heard Rasheed Wallace say the Celtics don't have a point guard and they don't have a center. You know what? We got a title. We got a title.
That kind of says it all. Throughout the season, Rondo proved his critics wrong as he led the team to one win after another. Perk was also solid all season and his value was proved when he missed game 5 and suddenly Gasol and Odom looked like Bill Russell. But, when Perk came back in game 6, they went back to playing more like Bill Cosby.
The Celtics meshed immediately and got off to a quick start. Then the rap on them was that they were peaking too early. They couldn't sustain it all season. They would win in the regular season but would be worn out by the playoffs. When the Celtics were taken to 7 games in their first two series, these mumblings got even louder. But, the Celtics again proved the critics wrong as they got stronger as the playoffs went on, dispatching the both the Pistons and Lakers in 6 and winning the final game by an incredible margin of 39 points.
Then, there was the age of the Celtics 3 stars. They are too old and won't be able to go through the entire season and playoffs. They would tire and fade as the playoffs went on. There were also those who doubted the hearts of the 3 stars. But again, as the season and playoffs went on, it was obvious that they were up to the task and that all three had the hearts of champions. Ray Allen especially came in for criticism as he struggled with his shot in the early rounds of the playoffs. He was old and washed up. His legs were tired and he couldn't hit jumpers any more. But then, in the finals, Ray proved all those critics wrong, setting a new finals record with 20 3's in the series and tying a finals record with 7 3's in game 6.
KG was a good defender, but Pierce and Ray Allen wouldn't be able to defend. Ray was too old and Pierce was too lazy. But, right from day one, the Celtics, including Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were committed to defense. Ask Kobe Bryant and LeBron James whether Pierce and Allen can play defense and they will tell you without a doubt that they can.
And then there was Doc Rivers. Doc never made it out of the first round of the playoffs as a coach. The team was winning in spite of Doc not because of him. But, in the playoffs when coaching is more important, Doc would falter and the Celtics would never make it to a championship. Doc acquitted himself very well, out coaching the Zen Master in the finals to earn the respect of the doubters.
Then there were those who insisted that you can't put 3 stars who have always been the man on their individual teams and expect them to share the ball. One ball wouldn't be enough. All three would try to be the alpha dog and they wouldn't be able to get along. They wouldn't be happy with fewer touches and having to share the spotlight. Right from the beginning these three meshed. They left their egos at the door and it didn't matter to them who got the shots or who got the spotlight, just so the team got the win. They were like one star with 3 heads that thought and acted like one from the start of the season until game 6 of the finals.
The Celtics won 66 games in the regular season. They dominated the West. They swept the Texas Triangle. They had the best road record in the league. And yet, they were still doubted. The Hawks took them to 7 games and then the Cavs took them to 7 games and suddenly, the Celtics couldn't win on the road. They wouldn't beat the Pistons, who had been there before and were the better and deeper team. Then, when the Celtics did beat the Pistons on the road and took that series in 6 games, the doubters were saying that they may have gotten out of the East, but they would never win the championship because the West was a much better conference.
Who can forget this little gem from ESPN?
Everyone was picking the Lakers. The Lakers' offense couldn't be stopped. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant, the best player on the planet. The Lakers had the better bench. The West was the better conference and the Lakers waltzed their way to the Finals where the Celtics struggled in the weaker East. Everyone had an opinion as to why the Lakers would beat the Celtics. The Celtics answered every challenge. Their defense did indeed stop the Lakers vaunted offense. The Celtics bench clearly out played the Lakers bench. Kobe Bryant not only wasn't the best player on the planet, but he wasn't even the best player on the court. He wasn't really a factor. KG and Perk completely neutralized the Lakers' front line.
Everyone said they couldn't do it right up to the Finals and every step of the way, the Celtics answered the questions and proved the critics wrong. The Celtics have gotten the respect of the league and the world the hard way... they earned it.