Five years ago, the trade for Ray Allen was the turning point toward a new Big Three era. This trade was the turning point from 22 years of futility to a championship and the past five interesting roller coaster years. It was the trade for Ray Allen that changed the tide of negotiations for Kevin Garnett and convinced him that Boston was serious about becoming contenders again. The trade for Ray Allen was a turning point in Celtics history just as the acquisition of Cousy, the drafting of Russell, Cowens or Bird, the trade for Robert Parish, and any number of moves that ushered in a new era of Celtics basketball.
Now, the departure of Ray Allen signals the next major turning point in Celtics' history. The New Big Three is no more. We might argue that there is still a big three by inserting Rondo into the mix, but it's not really the same since Pierce and KG are veterans who are winding down their careers and Rondo is a young star on the rise. This is a new era. There really is no big three any more. There is a mix of young athletic players and veteran all stars at the end of stellar careers.
The departure of Ray Allen will free up minutes for younger, more athletic players. His departure will also force the coaching staff and the younger players to change their approach to the team's strategy. The Celtics no longer have to run multiple screens to get Ray open for his clutch 3 pointers. They now have shooting guards who can create their own shots and who, more importantly can run with Rondo on the breaks. They also have three shooting guards who can play tough defense on the opposing guards.
As long as you have a "big three," there is by implication, a class system among the players on the team. The big three is at the top and there is a second class of players who are role players but who won't get as many headlines because the focus will always be on the ruling class, kind of like back up singers behind a popular singer. There will always be the feeling that all the focus is on the big three and they are just along for the ride.
Without a big three, the door is now open for the next stage of development for the Celtics new younger core. We saw the beginning of this era last season as Avery Bradley emerged and Ray struggled with injuries. This season, players like Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and, of course Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo will have to prove themselves and move into the upper echelon of the league (or in the case of Rondo, move to the top). They are the core and focus of the team now, not the "big three."
Yes, we still have Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce but their roles will be different now. Kevin Garnett's role and playing time last season should be a template for Paul Pierce's role and playing time this season. Doc needs to limit their playing time during the season and keep them fresh for the playoffs. Along with limiting their minutes, we should see a turn toward developmental playing time for the younger players. As that happens, we will see a new core and the next leaders of the team emerge. The Captain and KG will be important as mentors to transition from the old era to the new one.
Just as Ray Allen's arrival signaled a turning point and a new era for the Celtics 5 years ago, his departure will signal another turning point and a new era in the history of this storied franchise. The last turning point resulted in a championship, let's hope that this one follows that same pattern.