The 2006 Boston Celtics season was the 60th season of the Boston Celtics in the NBA and the 56th and final season of Arnold ‘Red’ Auerbach’s official involvement with the team.
A nine-time NBA champion as head coach of the Celtics as well as a seven-time NBA champion as a Celtics executive, it’s unfortunate this was his last memory of the Celtics.
In the 2006 NBA off-season the largest trade in NBA history took place involving five teams and 13 players, topping a 12-player trade completed on September 20, 2000. That deal sent an ageing Patrick Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics. Yes, that actually happened. But in 2005 Antoine Walker was shipped to Miami and unlike the first departure, Walker left Boston on good terms.
But that might just be the only good to remember this season, because Paul Pierce was heading for a career season on a subpar team. Playing his heart out every night, playing the most efficient basketball of his career, of course fans thought it was only a matter of time until he finally left the sinking ship.
What usually happens when an NBA star is stuck in this situation? They pout. They start looking for their own stats. They wonder aloud if their team is truly committed to winning. After a tough loss, they have an expression that says, “Hey, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t ask to play with these crappy guys.” Eventually, they push to play somewhere else, and only because they want to be paid like a franchise player without the responsibility of carrying a franchise. And the front office of these players know: “We need to get this done, and we need to get this done immediately, or else he might leave for a better team.”
But that’s been the beautiful thing about Pierce: he wanted to be a Celtic. He wants to be in Boston when things turn around. He felt like this was his team, for better or worse, and it’s his personal responsibility to lead them.
Die-hard Celtics fans seemed torn between blaming the GM Danny Ainge, who tied up the team’s salary cap in 2007 with untradeable contracts or Doc Rivers. Some fans were even pushing for a Doc Rivers firing, claiming the team was not well coached, and they did have an argument.
The Celtics averaged 16.6 turnovers a game, only the Knicks were worse. Well coached teams take care of the basketball. Well coached defences like the Spurs and Pistons rotate well and contest open three-point shooters. Of course, the Celts rank 24th in opponent three-point percentage.
Poorly coached teams usually get eaten alive away from home and shockingly the franchise were 12 and 29 away from home.
Paul Pierce played in another All Star game, but the Celtics missed the playoffs entirely, for the first time since 2001. But unlike in 2001, the Celtics didn’t possess two potential franchise players in their early 20s.
Just a 28-year-old saviour, one that fans didn’t deserve, but one that will always be remembered as an all-time great.