It was just a year ago today that Celtics' fandom was turned upside down. The Celtics had just finished a 24 win season. We had excitedly waited for the lottery and once again had our hopes dashed as instead of the first or second pick and the franchise player that we had hoped for, the Celtics dropped to the 5th pick. Kevin Garnett and Shawn Marion had both said that they would refuse a trade to the Celtics. It was a depressing time.
Then came the draft and we all waited to see which player Danny would take with the 5th pick. There was debate over Yi, Noah, Green and others, but we all knew that no matter who we got, it wouldn't be enough. Maybe if we had gotten Durant or Oden, but not the 5th pick. And as we waited for the pick, we got news that Danny had traded the 5th pick, Delonte, and Wally for Ray Allen and the 35th pick in the draft. The Celtics finished draft night with a 32 year old shooting guard who was coming off of double ankle surgery and two second round draft picks, Gabe Pruitt and Big Baby Davis.
Paul Pierce was happy to have Ray Allen, but didn't we just trade away a shooting guard with two bad ankles to get Ray? And Wally was younger. And we gave up a very promising player in Delonte West. Could Ray Allen even make a difference? There was quite a bit of debate about the trade and whether it even improved the team at all.
Then came that fateful day, July 31, 2007 when it was announced that Danny traded 5 players and 2 draft picks for Kevin Garnett. Gone was Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair (without having had a Sebastian Telfair night at the Garden), Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff's expiring contract. The trade for Ray Allen was enough to change KG's mind about coming to Boston and he agreed to an extension on his contract. Most Celtics fans, myself included, were excited about the trade but were also very sad to see Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes in particular go. I was very skeptical at first. Big Al has a ton of potential and I could see him becoming a dominant player for years to come and I really didn't know how much KG had left after 12 hard years in the league. And Ryan Gomes also had potential and was a very classy guy. It was very had saying good bye to these two in particular.
Then, the more I read about Kevin Garnett and watched clips on YouTube, the more excited I got about having him on the team. The major concern about the team was the bench because Danny had to trade half the team to get KG. But Danny slowly but surely rebuilt the bench, using the MLE to sign House and Posey and signing Scot Pollard to a minimum contract. In very short time, we went from the bottom of the league to being contenders.
Throughout the season there were doubts. Rondo was just a second year point guard and couldn't lead a team with 3 superstars to a championship. Perk wasn't a championship center. The Celtics had 9 new players and couldn't possibly have chemistry. The 3 stars couldn't co-exist and they would need 3 basketballs. The Celtics had no bench. They could compete in the East, but when they got to the West, they would fall. The stars were too old and would fade before the playoffs. Then one by one, the Celtics answered the questions and by the end of the season, they had 66 wins and the best record in the league.
In the playoffs, they were expected to roll over the Hawks but instead, were stretched to 7 games as they were unable to win on the road. In the second round, the Cavaliers also stretched them to 7 games and they still couldn't win one on the road. By the conference finals, there doubters were starting to spring up and about half of the experts were predicting a Detroit win. And when the Celtics lost game 2 at home, those critics got even louder. But, they went to Detroit and won and then closed them out in 6 games, winning game 6 on the road.
Going into the finals, only 1 out of 10 experts on ESPN gave the Celtics any chance to win. Most predicted the Lakers would win in 5 or 6 games. After all, the West was the stronger conference and the Lakers had just waltzed through their opponents and the Celtics had struggled in the weaker conference. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the Lakers' winning a title, the Celtics totally dominated them. It wasn't even close. And for the first time in 22 years, Celtics fans didn't have to say "Wait until next year." We finally had Championship #17 that we had waited for so long.
So, on this annivesary of the signing of Kevin Garnett, we can fondly look back on a fairy tail season and be very happy as Celtics fans. I am proudly wearing all my 2008 Celtics championship gear and very anxiously waiting for next year. The questions have started again. Will the 3 stars be too old? Have the other Eastern teams improved enough to pass them? Can they stay injury free at their age? Will the Celtics bench be strong enough without Posey? Will they have the drive to repeat after finally winning their rings?
The Celtics are the World Champions and we have reason to hope that they can repeat this season and it all started with the announcement on July 31, 2007 that the Celtics had traded for Kevin Garnett. What a difference a year makes!!!