The NBA is coming off a very successful year.
Fans were lucky enough to see the Lakers and Celtics battle in the Finals for the 12th time in NBA history. And Game Seven was the highest rated Finals game since Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their sixth championship in eight seasons.
The question for the Boston Celtics now is what their team will look like next season.
Doc Rivers has decided he will return to coach the team for at least one more year.
Paul Pierce is currently negotiating a contract extension with the team after opting out of the final year of his existing deal.
Kevin Garnett is under contract for two more seasons. After an injury plagued season, he was up and down in the playoffs, but will still be Boston’s best big man next year.
The Celtics were lucky enough to lock Rajon Rondo up with a contract extension before the season began. If the team was forced to give Rondo a new deal this summer the price would have skyrocketed, since Rondo has quickly become the best player on the team.
With Ray Allen entering free agency, and the Celtics only having five players under contract currently for next season, the team could end up being dramatically different.
Another question arises, where does this Celtics team rank among the others?
The Boston Celtics have an NBA best 17 Championships and have retired the numbers of 19 former players.
I don’t think there is any debate that Paul Pierce will have his number retired. His No. 34 jersey will be hanging in the rafters at the TD Garden one day.
As a member of the Celtics, he has been an eight-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA team selection, and 2008 Finals MVP.
He has been with Boston for his entire NBA career. He was drafted in 1998 and has played 12 seasons for the team. If he can come to terms on an extension, he will likely finish his career with the Celtics.
Pierce also ranks third all-time in scoring for the Celtics, trailing only Larry Bird and John Havlicek. P-squared will go down as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time.
A less obvious question is about Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
The Celtics never would have won the championship in 2008 without Danny Ainge’s maneuvering. After losing out on the ability to draft Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, Ainge turned a 24-win team into the best team in basketball.
If it wasn’t for Garnett’s injury in the 2009 playoffs, the team very well could have made three consecutive Finals appearances.
Talking about the Celtics retiring either Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen’s jerseys may seem premature, since neither is expected to retire at the end of this season. However, both are coming near the end of their careers, and will likely be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Allen has made it known that he wants to resign with the Celtics this off-season. But he made almost $20 million this season, and in order for that to happen he will have to take a significant pay cut.
The Celtics are over the salary cap and are unlikely to make a big splash in free agency, so it makes sense to bring Allen back at a reduced price. Both of those statements are contingent on the team finalizing an extension with Pierce.
The Boston Celtics have retired 19 numbers attributable to former players. Of those 19, only two players were not members of a Celtic championship team: Reggie Lewis, whose No.35 was retired as a memorial to him after he died of cardiac arrest during an off-season practice, and Ed Mccauley, who was traded to St. Louis for arguably the greatest Celtic of all-time, Bill Russell.
Of the remaining players whose number has been retired, each has at least two championships and played a minimum of 7 seasons with the Celtics.
At this point in time, both Garnett and Allen have only played with the Celtics for three years. However, they were part of the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history.
Their first season in Boston the team won 42 games more then the previous season, as well as the NBA championship. This turnaround produced the Celtics' NBA record 17th Championship, and their first title in 22 years.
With Rondo becoming the team’s best player, the Celtics and the aging “Big Three” will continue to make the playoffs. However, the team probably doesn’t have enough to make it back to the finals, especially since the Eastern Conference could become very tough next season with New York, New Jersey, and Miami all looking to put their cap space to good use.
Personally, I’m not sure if Garnett or Allen deserves to have their numbers retired by the Boston Celtics.
Boston isn’t as selective as the Lakers when it comes to retiring numbers. Los Angeles has only retired seven jerseys. The team has historically only retired the numbers of those players that are synonymous with the purple and gold. Boston is much more liberal in bestowing this honor on players.
Are the resumes of Garnett and Allen as members of the Boston Celtics enough to hang in the rafters with Celtic royalty?
1. Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens each won two championships with the Celtics, and played 7, 8, 10, and 10 seasons respectively.