The Big Three of the Boston Celtics lost their biggest piece when Kevin Garnett’s knee problems ended his season in March.
Now he’s back, Rasheed Wallace is here and Boston may have a Big Four – and a whole lot more that could add up to a second NBA championship in three seasons.
“The chemistry, I saw it from day one,” Paul Pierce said. “The first week of training camp, I was like, ‘this is something.’ “
After losing in the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics moved aggressively to meet their needs by signing free agents Wallace, who improves their rebounding, and Marquis Daniels, who gives them a legitimate backup point guard. They re-signed free agent forward Glen Davis, who played very well when Garnett was sidelined, added Shelden Williams, another free agent forward, and still have three-point shooter Eddie House.
And those five are just the second unit.
“I was not surprised the way they moved the ball, the chemistry they had, because if you look at them they’re all veteran players who know how to win,” Pierce said.
The Celtics opened at 20-2, finished at 66-16 and won the NBA title in 2007-08, their first season with the trio of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen. They were 27-2 last season but ended at 62-20 and barely got by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs when four of the seven games went into overtime.
“There was a point last year when we were 16-1 or whatever and I said we were playing horrible,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It proved itself right after that.”
Garnett had a solid preseason after arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his right knee. He’s healthy again, Rivers said.
But his absence wasn’t the only problem. The Celtics missed the defense, size and rebounding of James Posey, who left as a free agent, and P.J. Brown, who retired, from the championship season.
“I thought we absolutely had to get better as a team,” Rivers said. “I thought we took away from our championship team and didn’t put in.”
The Celtics loaded up in the offseason and went 6-2 in their exhibition games.
Wallace said he’s content coming off the bench after being a starter in his other 14 seasons. He’s averaging 34 minutes, 15 points and 6.9 rebounds with 1.4 blocks for his career.
“We’ve got a great combination of (bench) guys,” House said. “Rasheed can go on the block or stretch out the defense, shooting some 3s. Marquis is a guy who can slash, rebound, bring the ball up. I just think we have a great dynamic on the second unit.”
Wallace must control his temper and maintain his intensity to contribute without picking up technical fouls.
“He’ll spread the floor offensively, something we’ve never had,” Rivers said. “Heck, most people don’t have a (center) sitting behind the 3-point line. Defensively, he’s been terrific. He’s also going to give us some post play on the offensive end.”
He’ll have an outstanding point guard, Rajon Rondo, to get him the ball. The fifth starter, center Kendrick Perkins, should be fresher with Wallace taking some of his playing time.
“Obviously, we have Ray, Paul and Kevin,” Perkins said, “but we have a lot of other guys who can really play. They don’t get notice, but a lot of us can play and make plays. That’s the good thing about our team. We’re a talented ball club from one through whatever. If we stick together, the sky’s the limit.”