How Sam Cassell Changed the Course of History for the Boston Celtics

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 10:  Sam Cassell #28 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with teammates Kevin Garnett #5 and Ray Allen #20 while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 10, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

It has been two days since the Boston Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs, two days since the era of the Big Three wrote potentially the final page of its final chapter.

However, it isn't all doom and gloom. For all we know, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen may take pay cuts to come back next season, and that would also leave the door open for Danny Ainge to go out and sign other free agents to improve the team. Also, the Celtics have two first-round draft picks. So, when you really think about it, it isn't all that bad.

That's why I decided to write a light piece here to kind of take our minds off of how this season ended. Instead of talking about the potential end of the Big Three, let's talk about something that made it actually possible.

Dig deep into your memory and think back to the 2003-04 campaign. The Minnesota Timberwolves (whom Garnett of course was with at the time) had just completed an offseason very similar to the one Boston had in 2007. It was on a much smaller scale, of course, but the general idea was the same.

After six consecutive first-round playoff exits, the Timberwolves went out on traded for Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, finally giving K.G. the help he needed to seriously contend for a title.

It proved to be the greatest season in Minnesota's brief history, as Garnett won the MVP award and the Wolves went 58-24 to claim the first seed in the Western Conference. They would make it all the way to the conference finals where they would ultimately fall to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

However, much like the C's the past four years, the Timberwolves encountered some awful luck which, in my opinion, cost them an NBA title.

During Minnesota's thrilling seven-game series against the Sacramento Kings in the conference semifinals, Cassell injured his back. The Wolves were also without Troy Hudson, who had to miss the postseason due to a bad ankle. That essentially left the Timberwolves with two options at point guard: Darrick Martin guessed it, Garnett himself.

Minnesota was able to finish off the Kings with a balky Cassell, but the Lakers would prove to be too much of a challenge. K.G. and Sprewell both put forth valiant efforts, and the gimpy Cassell did everything he could when he was actually on the floor, but it wasn't enough.

Now, had Cassell been healthy, I (and many others) believe that the Wolves would have beaten Los Angeles and would have had a great shot at beating the Detroit Pistons in the finals. Personally, I think they would have taken them.

Some of you are probably asking yourselves, "What does all of that have anything to do with the Celtics?"

Well, think about it.

If Cassell doesn't get hurt during the Timberwolves' 2004 playoff run and Minnesota, in turn, goes on to win the championship, Garnett would have won a ring with the Wolves. We all know how much K.G. loved Minnesota and how he never even wanted to leave; it was the front office that pushed him out. So, if Garnett won a title there, does the front office ever even consider dealing him in 2007? More than likely, they don't.

You all know the rest of the story. K.G. was dealt to Boston on July 31, 2007, and the Big Three era was born. Also, the most ironic part about this? The C's signed Cassell in March of that first season, and he ended up being a part of their championship run.

Funny how a random injury three years in advance may very well have been the impetus of this five-year journey for Boston, huh?

It just goes to show you that you never know what happens.