Why Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett Era Will Be Forever Incomplete
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It became official on July 12, 2013. A magnificent era of Boston Celtics basketball came to a close, as the Celtics completed a deal to send Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (along with Jason Terry) to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets introduced their new players on Thursday afternoon in what was probably the most awkward press conference in the history of press conferences.
It has been a melancholy past couple of weeks. No more Truth. No more KG. No more Ubuntu.
What makes matters worse is that as phenomenal and rewarding as the six-year run was, it could have been more. So much more.
While the C's were fortunate enough to have one of the best rosters in the league throughout that time period, they also were one of the most injury-plagued.
After the Big Three's inaugural campaign in 2007-08, a year which resulted in a 17th banner being raised in TD Garden, injuries derailed the Celtics, likely costing them at least one extra championship. That is a very tough pill to swallow.
Of course, it's a part of the game, but it goes beyond that whole "part of the game" mantra when key players are going down each and every season.
Let's break it down year-by-year to see just how unlucky Boston was during the Garnett era.
2008-09: Garnett Injures His Knee
It happened on Feb. 20 in a meaningless regular-season game against the Utah Jazz. Garnett came up lame after going up for an alley-oop and headed to the locker room. He would never set foot on the court again for the rest of the year and would undergo surgery on his right knee in May.
What a shame, because the 2008-09 Celtics ballclub may have been the best one of the KG era. With a full year and a championship under their belts, they were tearing through the league at a torrid pace and looked primed to at least get back to the finals.
You kept hearing that Garnett could potentially be back for the playoffs, but you just knew it was never going to happen.
Let's be honest: If KG were there, the C's would have won that series, and they would have more than likely dispatched LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers en route to another finals battle with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Feb. 20, 2009 was akin to a gunshot wound that wasn't enough to kill the Celtics, but it was devastating enough to keep them from ever living comfortably again. KG was never the same, and neither was Boston.
2009-10: Kendrick Perkins Tears His ACL in Game 6 of the Finals; Celtics Blow Game 7
If there is one ugly moment that C's fans will never forget from this era, it was the 13-point second-half lead that the Celtics blew against the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Boston had Los Angeles on the ropes, but it just could not deliver the knockout blow.
It was clear that the C's just ran out of gas during that final contest, and there was no secret why. Kendrick Perkins had gone down with a torn ACL in Game 6, thinning out the Celtics' frontcourt and putting an awful lot of onus on Rasheed Wallace to play big minutes.
Not surprisingly, Boston was outrebounded 53-40, surrendering a whopping 23 offensive boards to Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and the Lakers. It's nearly impossible to win under those circumstances, and the 83-79 loss proved it.
Game 7 is one of those nights that Garnett and Pierce will never forget. Even if they go on to win a title with Brooklyn this year, Game 7 will forever haunt them and C's fans alike.
So will Game 6. The image of Perkins falling to the ground and immediately pointing at his knee will permanently be ingrained in the minds of Celtics fans everywhere.
Had Perk not succumbed to that torn ACL, there would almost certainly be another banner hanging up in the rafters, and that stings.
2010-11: Shaquille O'Neal Goes Down and Rajon Rondo Dislocates His Elbow
Coming into the 2010-11 campaign, Boston was loaded. It had signed Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal in the offseason, and once Perkins came back from ACL surgery, the C's would have the opportunity to boast a frontcourt consisting of Perk, Garnett, Glen Davis and the two O'Neals.
Of course, it was not to be.
Shaq injured his Achilles in February and was never able to get healthy. He did return for Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs, but only for a few minutes as he hobbled up and down the floor. He would also play sparingly in Game 4, but that would be it. O'Neal was clearly not right and was shut down by the C's.
It was eerily similar to the KG knee debacle in 2009 when you kept hearing that Garnett would get healthy for the postseason. In the back of your mind, you just knew it wasn't going to happen.
It was a crying shame, because when Shaq was healthy during the first several months of the season, the Celtics were clearly the best team in the league. Their front line was absolutely dominant, and that all came with Perkins still out.
Danny Ainge then put all of his eggs into the "Shaq will get/stay healthy" basket, trading Perkins away for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
So Boston went from having what was easily the deepest frontcourt in the NBA to being awfully thin at that spot.
To make matters worse, Rajon Rondo suffered that gruesome dislocated elbow in Game 3 of the second round against the Miami Heat. He would return and would not miss a game, but he was very ineffective, so much so that he was actually benched during overtime of Game 4.
If Shaq and Rondo were good to go, the C's probably would have beaten the Heat and would have had a great shot at upending the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.
Fate had other plans, though, and summer came early.
2011-12: Basically, Everyone Was Hurt
The Celtics were immediately hit with an uppercut before the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season even began. It was announced that Green would have to undergo heart surgery and miss the entire year.
That was only the beginning.
Ray Allen would be bothered by ankle bone spurs that would linger through the playoffs. Chris Wilcox went down with the same exact heart problem as Green in March. Jermaine O'Neal injured his wrist and had to be shelved for the season. Avery Bradley's shoulder kept popping in and out, an injury he would finally have to get surgery on after Game 4 of the second round of the postseason.
Mickael Pietrus battled knee problems that would result in offseason surgery. Greg Stiemsma dealt with plantar fasciitis. Pierce sprained his MCL during practice in the first round of the playoffs and it would never get any better.
Okay. That about covers it, so you can take a deep breath now.
Despite all of those ailments, Boston was able to take Miami to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals and actually owned a double-digit lead during the first half of that contest.
Now, to be fair, Chris Bosh missed the first four games of that series. But does a healthy Bosh nullify a healthy Pierce, Allen, Green and Bradley, not to mention Wilcox, Pietrus, Stiemsma and O'Neal?
Obviously, we'll never know for sure, but you can't help but wonder what could have been had the C's been able to remain somewhat healthy during that playoff run.
2012-13: Rondo and Leandro Barbosa Both Tear Their ACLs; Jared Sullinger Gets Back Surgery
That brings us to the final year of the Garnett era in Boston. It was a year full of lofty expectations. The Celtics added the likes of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and company and were getting Green and Wilcox back from heart surgery.
After an up-and-down first couple of months, any title aspirations the Celtics had were cut down in late January when Rondo tore his ACL during a game against the Atlanta Hawks. Days later, rookie Jared Sullinger was forced to undergo back surgery. Then, a couple of weeks later, Leandro Barbosa, Rondo's backup, tore his own ACL.
The C's lost three key pieces in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
As if that weren't bad enough, KG battled ankle bone spurs and a hip pointer during the playoffs, and Boston was ousted in the first round for the only time during the Garnett era.
And Now, It's Over
Whether it hit you on draft night, on the day the trade became official, or on Thursday afternoon during the Nets' introductory press conference, it's over. A six-year run defined by impregnable will and an unbreakable heart is in the books.
It was a spectacular six years, no doubt, but now that the dust has all settled, you can't help but look back at this past era of Celtics basketball and think that it should have resulted in at least two championships, and a legitimate argument can be made that Boston would have three-peated had it not been for injuries.
Now again, injuries are a part of the game, and it's silly to expect a team to remain completely healthy for six consecutive years. On that same token, however, it seems equally silly to anticipate debilitating injuries for five straight seasons.
Yet that was what the C's were forced to endure.
There is absolutely no doubt that the years from 2007-08 through 2012-13 should be looked at by those Celtics and their fans with pride, knowing they gave every ounce of what they had.
Because of that, this era will never be forgotten.
But it could have been more. So much more.
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