Celtics' Secret: How Boston's Role Players Have Raised the Bar

Will NortonCorrespondent INovember 27, 2007

IconThe Boston Celtics have been a disaster for over two decades.

The disappointments from the post-Larry Bird Era speak for themselves: inexplicably missing out on Tim Duncan; the Rick Pitino experiment; giving up on Chauncey Billups and Joe Johnson way too early; the Raef LaFrentz, Ricky Davis, and Wally Szczerbiak trades; Eric Montross and countless other first-round busts...and the list goes on.

The result?

A generation of Celtics fans with no idea what good basketball looks like.

Any Bostonian born after 1975 knows what I'm talking about.

The Boston Celtics basketball I know consists of selfish offense, porous defense, a lack of depth, and an overall disregard for any type of team play.

It's been a long two decades if you enjoy the game of basketball the way it's supposed to be played.

But thank goodness for GM Danny Ainge.  

After Ainge brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston this summer, Celtics fans  couldn't help but titter at the prospect of a new era for the once-proud franchise. For all the hype, though, there was unanimous sentiment among NBA insiders and analysts that the C's would have to make some supplemental moves to truly contend.

The Big Three would get the Celtics to the playoffs, in other words—but the boys in green would need competent role players to compete with the likes of Detroit and San Antonio.

And so Ainge went to work.

Enter outside threat Eddie House for $1.5 million per year. Enter tough-guy James Posey for $3.2 million. Enter journeyman big Scot Pollard for $770K.

Throw those three pieces into a mix that already included the versatile Tony Allen, rookie banger Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and the sharp-shooting (and visually abrasive) Brian Scalabrine, and you have yourself a serviceable—and affordable—second unit.

Combined, those six players account for roughly $11 million on the books for 2008—or less than half of what Garnett brings home.

Don't get me wrong—KG is worth every penny he makes. But as we saw in Minnesota, the man needs some help.

Thus far, the Celtics' role players have done exactly what's been asked of them. House has shot nearly 40 percent from behind the arc. Posey has been an active physical presence off the bench. Pollard gives Garnett some much needed rest, and along with Davis has done formidable work on the glass.

Those are the sorts of performances every championship team leans on from time to time.

The point here is this: Ainge went out and made the big moves as well as the small ones this summer—and for all his past failings, he deserves credit for getting the Celtics where they are today.

We all knew the Big Three would deliver. But it was the players to be named later—the mystery pieces, if you will—that Celtics fans knew would either make or break the season.

Whether these role players can produce success over the course of 82 games and beyond is another question. With 13 games in the books, we don't know much about how May and June will play out.

Boston's is certainly not the best bench in the NBA—but it's worlds better than what came before it. And after all the one-dimensional, thinner-than-ice teams we Celtics fans have seen over the past 20 years, I'll take this team any day.

At 11-2, these Celtics are a unit closer to those of the 80s than those of 90s.

Let's hope the championship banners follow suit.