After the 2007 NBA draft, in which the Celtics acquired Ray Allen from Seattle, Boston was waiting for the third piece to be located. Allen and Paul Pierce were enough to get the team back to the playoffs, but not much else.
Then news broke that Danny Ainge was in talks with Kevin McHale and the Minnesota Timberwolves about possibly trading for Kevin Garnett. All of Celtics Nation awaited to see if Garnett would agree to a trade that would send him east to Boston and pair him with the two other stars. Boston waited and waited, and at the end of July, they were vindicated by his arrival and the signing of a three-year extension. A championship followed shortly after.
In 2008-09, what could have been a thrilling title-defense went for naught, as Garnett was injured after playing in just 57 games. Once again, the Celtics were left waiting to see if Garnett could return. He was unable to go in the postseason, and Boston fell short to Orlando in the second round.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2012. With Boston's title window closing by the second, all of New England awaited word from Garnett. With his contract expiring and his increasing age, Garnett was pondering retirement and spending more time with the infamous "Boo-Boo."
This wait came to a close when Garnett agreed to return to Boston in mid-July on a three-year deal. The Celtics' patience paid off and now the leader of the NBA's second-best scoring defense is back for another run at the Larry O'Brien trophy.
With no Kevin Garnett in 2007-08, the Celtics don't win their 17th championship. With no Kevin Garnett in 2008-09, they couldn't get past Dwight Howard and the Magic. With no Kevin Garnett in 2012-13, the title window would slam shut faster than you can say Darko Milicic.
While the Celtics will go as far as Rajon Rondo takes them this season, the only reason Rondo has that opportunity is because Kevin Garnett has returned.
Rondo is going to be the focal point of the 2012-13 season. He'll get the All-Star nod and may even wind up in the conversation for Most Valuable Player. However, don't mistake that recognition as the reason Boston has a chance to win the title.
When it boils down, Rondo is a topping, albeit a fantastically flashy topping without which your pizza would be awfully bland. The fact still remains that Garnett is the pizza.
You can't build a $10 million house with all the bells and whistles your heart desires without a foundation. In the same light, the Celtics can't win big without their defensive backbone.
For all the depth Boston is boasting this coming season, the majority of that depth is on the wing. The Celtics have a glut of talented shooting guards and forwards. The center position may still be as barren talent-wise as it was last season. Behind Kevin Garnett are some bodies, but can anyone say with certainty that Milicic, Jason Collins and Fab Melo are superior to Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins?
The health of Kevin Garnet is the Celtics' most valuable asset right now. They must protect this asset in order to have any chance in the postseason. They will be looking at facing some very talented bigs come playoff time and no Garnett could very well mean no chance.
Garnett's willingness to work with the Celtics' young bigs is telling of his determination for the season. He is all-in on this team and these players. The elder statesman has made a point to be as available as possible to his teammates, while also leading silently by example off the court.
What fans see on the floor sometimes resembles a barking and cussing lunatic, but out of the spotlight, Garnett works his tail off in silence. Over the course of a 17-year NBA career, he has learned what kind of work ethic it takes to be consistently successful. He has also learned that the best way to get young athletes to understand this is to do it and let them watch.
In an interview with WEEI.com's Paul Flannery, Garnett commented on his off-screen persona.
“Usually when you do it yourself, they’re actually watching and they mimic everything you do,” Garnett said. “If you’re sitting over here bull [bleeping] they tend to bull [bleep.] That’s why I don’t really talk a lot. I like to be the example. Anything they have after practice that I can help them with, I like to pull them to the side and show them different things. With these young guys, I just try to be there when they need me. I’m not a guy to push myself on anybody. Anything they want to know, anything they’re having trouble with, I try to be accessible."
Boston made it to Game 7 of the 2011-12 Eastern Conference Finals with an offense that ranked 26th in regular-season scoring and 10th in the playoffs. This newly shaped roster should be able to put up more points on a nightly basis, but it will be the defense that once again carries them deep into the postseason.
The defense that, fairly often, stems from a 36-year-old maniac protecting the rim.