Editor’s note: The following post was written by Donald Tower (@BosCeltics18), who decided he wanted to write 1,900 words about the Celtics starting lineup and email them to me to see what I thought. Thanks, Donald, for the hard work and passion that went into this post.
Many players have come and gone throughout the Big Three Era, which may or may not have ended this summer, depending how one looks at it. Starting lineups have changed from time to time but the core had always remained constant, at least until Ray Allen left for the Miami Heat.
This year’s lineup is different. With three of the Core Four still intact, though, the crew has a chance to be special. Allen’s gone (damn you, Pat Riley), but the Celtics still have one of the best Big Threes in the league. And Danny Ainge has surrounded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo with a lair of youth which should embrace the passion and toughness that has always characterized these Celtics.
The Celtics added nine players this summer to the team that came minutes away from reaching the NBA Finals. That means nine new characters to meet.
But first, a refresher on the returners, the expected starting five. What follows is a rundown of the Celtics roster, which should help you get to know the current players better.
Rajon Rondo: The floor general is certainly important to any NBA team and Rondo plays that role for the Celtics. He plays it well, too, leading the league in assists last season ahead of one of the best passers ever, Steve Nash.
Born Feb. 22, 1986 in Louisville, KY, Rondo played football as a youth before turning to hoops. Rondo claims he actually didn’t watch NBA games as a child, but that’s difficult to believe due to his impressive basketball IQ. Nobody knows how much he could have accomplished if he stuck to the pigskin, but focusing on basketball certainly can’t be viewed as a bad decision. He attended Oak Hill Academy for his high-school basketball career before receiving a scholarship from the University of Kentucky and manning the point at Kentucky for two years.
At KU Rondo managed to set some records, including most steals in a season (87) and most rebounds in a game by a guard (19). In his freshman season, he led the team to some clutch victories, earning a spot on the SEC All-Freshmen team. For his high skill set and basketball IQ, he was named to the USA Men’s Under-21 World Championship team in 2005. After his sophomore season with the Kentucky Wildcats, he decided to enter the NBA draft, looking to become pro.
Rondo got a lot of attention from NBA teams, drawn to his obvious potential as a penetrator and passer. He was ultimately selected with the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns; Danny Ainge, who had followed Rondo since high school, envisioned how good Rondo could become and decided to trade for him on draft night. A good move, one might say.
Signed by the Celtics on July 4, 2006, Rondo has never played a game for any other NBA team. Marked by improvements every season, he recorded 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds during Game 2 of the ECF, a stat line that no other player in the history of the league had achieved in the playoffs. When KG and Pierce decide to hang them up, the Celtics should become Rondo’s, if they haven’t already. If he remains Boston’s centerpiece as expected, a bright Rajon Rondo Era looms for the Celtics.
Avery Bradley: Expect Bradley to start whenever he returns from injury (still sounds weird not to see Ray here). Bradley is not the common shooting guard. He displayed the ability to shoot during his second season and he can contribute in the scoring column, but those aren’t his main roles with the Celtics. His main role is defense.
In just his second year in the league, Bradley has gained a reputation as one of the best on-ball defenders, if not the best, in the league. Together with Rondo, Bradley can terrorize opponents and at times render opposing point guards entirely irrelevant.
Born on Nov. 26, 1990, in Tacoma, Washington, Bradley played high school ball at Findlay Prep, where he quarterbacked a national championship victory against Oak Hill Academy in 2009. That year, ESPNU 100 ranked Bradley as the #1 overall prospect–yes ahead of John Wall–while Rivals.com had him at the fourth position.
Highly recruited, Bradley attended the University of Texas, where he spent only his freshman year in college (averaging 11 points and two assists) before declaring for the NBA draft. Projected to go in the top 10 of the draft, Bradley was hurt by an ankle injury prior to the draft and slipped to the Celtics at No. 19. (Sound like some guy called Sully?) He didn’t prove it immediately, but the Celtics were very lucky to acquire him.
Nobody knew how lucky during Bradley’s rookie season, when he struggled immensely, barely playing at all and normally playing poorly when he did. However, Bradley had one encouraging performance against the Knicks in the last days of the regular season. The summer after his rookie season, he spent a week in Doc River’s house, trying to gain his confidence. He certainly did, as in his second season he was awarded with a big role off the bench.
Not playing very well at season’s beginning, Bradley actually tweeted at one point “FML.” It wasn’t until injuries to Rondo and Ray Allen forced him into the starting lineup that he began to emerge, surprising everyone with an offensive repertoire nobody knew existed. More than happy with Bradley’s performance and its impact on the Celtics, Doc Rivers kept Bradley in the starting lineup even after Allen returned from injury. It would go down as one of the toughest decisions, and maybe the best, Rivers ever made as a coach.
However, Bradley injured both of his shoulders and missed the series against the Heat in the playoffs. He had to go through surgery, ending his season. Right now Bradley is recovering from both shoulder surgeries. He may or may not be ready for opening night, with reports saying he might be out until December or January. All we can do is wish him a speedy recovery.
Paul Pierce: The Truth–what can be said about him? He’s the best scorer on the team. The player who has enamored us with his clutch shooting and his love for the Celtics jersey (and sometimes driving us crazy with hero ball). Pierce has been a Celtic for his entire career, and he’ll likely retire as one.
Born on October 13, 1977 in Oakland, CA, Pierce attended Inglewood High School before entering the University of Kansas. He played three years at Kansas, averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds. Pierce declared for the 1998 NBA draft after his junior year and ended up being selected by the Celtics with the No. 10 overall pick (in a draft that saw Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby and Raef Lafrentz go 1-2-3).
Since his rookie season, Pierce has started for the Celtics every year. After a great start to his NBA career, Pierce was the victim of a scary stabbing on Sept. 25, 2000. He was stabbed eleven times in the face, neck and back and had a bottle smashed over his head while he was at the Buzz Club, a dance club in Boston. After undergoing lung surgery to repair the damage, it’s a miracle that Pierce survived.
Thankfully, he came back better than ever, assuring a contract extension with the Celtics. Pierce has been named to 10 All-Star games in his entire career, but the most important individual award he ever received is the Finals Most Valuable Player. Known throughout the league as “The Truth,” Pierce’s nickname was given to him by big man Shaquille O’Neal in the 2001 season. Shaq said after a game against the Celtics: “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” Ever since that day he has been called “The Truth” and Celtics fans know there’s no better name for him.
Brandon Bass: Thank god, he’s no Big Baby. What Bass lacks in height he makes up for in toughness, muscle and a feathery jump shot that drops softly from the sky.
Born on April 30, 1985 in Baton Rouge, LA, Bass played at Capitol High School in Baton Rouge, where he was one of the most sought after recruits in the country his senior year. He proceeded to attend LSU, where he played two seasons. After being named 2005 SEC Player of the Year he declared for the NBA draft.
Bass was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the No. 33 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft and signed a contract with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2008-09 season. Only a year later Bass signed with Orlando Magic, which became the third team he played for in the NBA. He played two seasons there before being traded to Boston at the start of last season.
In his first game with the Celtics he scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, a stat line that made Celtics fans fall in love with him. He didn’t disappoint during the rest of the season, contributing with above-average defense and an elite ability to knock down the mid-range jumper. Good on Danny Ainge for re-signing him.
Kevin Garnett: The “5” spot in the lineup is filled by a guy who can’t be properly described, who completely changed the culture of a whole city with his arrival. Kevin Garnett, Big Ticket, KG, call him whatever you want. He is the oldest player in the lineup, but he certainly doesn’t show it. Call me when you found a guy with more passion for the game.
KG was born on May 19, 1976 in Greenville, CA. He attended high school at Farragut Career Academy, where he won a national player of the year award. Garnett did not attend college, instead declaring for the 1995 NBA draft. He was selected with the No. 5 overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves and became the first player to be drafted out of high school in 20 years.
Garnett made an immediate impact with the Timberwolves, leading them to eight straight playoff appearances. In 2004 he earned the most coveted award in the NBA, the Most Valuable Player. After spending 12 seasons with the Timberwolves, Garnett was traded to the Celtics in a blockbuster trade in 2007. (THANK YOU, DANNY.) The Celtics gave up half their team in order to acquire him. It was a 7-for-1 deal, the largest number of players traded for a single player in league history, but it proved to be a bargain.
In his first season with the Celtics, Garnett won the Defensive Player of the Year award, turned Boston into the league’s best defensive team in the league and keyed the 2008 championship. Garnett has been the team’s vocal leader and motivator since his arrival. Even though some will call KG old, at 36, his contributions couldn’t be replicated by any man in the NBA.
These Celtics are all about being great, all about Banner 18. That search for greatness is why we love them, their passion and love evident every single night (except for certain January nights against the Toronto Raptors or Sacramento Kings) You know that the team will leave everything on the court every single night. From rookies to veterans, everyone plays a role on the Celtics. The starting lineup leads the team’s success. Hopefully that will lead to Banner 18, another championship and immortality. The fans of this city can’t ask for a better group of five guys to represent them.