Sometimes it is difficult to believe that the Big Three only won a single championship together in Boston. Those Celtics teams seemed far too complete and much too cohesive to only win one title.
Age and injuries contributed to their downfall. You can partially blame Danny Ainge, if you’d like.
Nevertheless, the prospect of reuniting Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give the 2016-17 Boston Celtics one of the oldest, most experienced and most intriguing benches in the NBA is too magnificent not to romanticize.
The 41-year-old Allen reached out to the Celtics, Bucks and several other teams this week about a potential comeback. He said during an interview with the Hartford Courant, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.”
Meanwhile the 40-year-old Garnett needs just one more season under his belt to surpass Robert Parrish and Kevin Willis for longest career in NBA history. He is entering the final year of his contract in Minnesota, but close friend and former Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell says Garnett is leaning towards retirement because Mitchell was recently fired.
And, "The Truth" - Pierce turns 39 in October and is contemplating retirement after a rough year in Los Angeles. Whenever he is ready, he will retire as a member of the Celtics and someday his #34 will be enshrined in the Garden rafters amongst the other all-time Celtics greats.
But just imagine if Pierce’s second Celtics stint featured one more long playoff run alongside the same future Hall of Famers who once united to deliver Boston its only NBA title since 1986.
Wouldn’t that command your respect more than a one-day retirement contract?
Ainge has quietly returned the Celtics to prominence in the Eastern Conference by assembling a young, exciting and hardworking core under Brad Stevens. The acquisition of Al Horford may put the Celtics in position to face the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals next season.
Pierce, Garnett and Allen are in the final stage of their careers. They cannot be relied on for consistent minutes anymore, but their very presence would stimulate the team culture by instilling strong leadership tendencies and providing a vital veteran cognizance off the bench.
Despite their age, they will play well together in spurts against plenty of opposing bench units. More importantly, they will be invaluable teammates to the younger players thriving on their guidance during practices, games and especially during the postseason.
Amir Johnson is active and athletic, but how much better could he be with Garnett teaching him to harness his energy more efficiently?
How much could sharpshooters R.J. Hunter and James Young benefit from witnessing Allen’s intensive practice routine and flawless shooting form firsthand?
How high could Jaylen Brown’s ceiling be with Pierce as a mentor?
Reuniting the Big Three would require mild maneuvering. Fortunately, the Timberwolves are always hungry for young players and draft picks. Ainge could easily acquire the old brooding Garnett for some rookie reserves or future second-round picks.
Pierce will eventually return to Boston, but Ainge can make that happen sooner rather than later. Allen can sign pretty much anywhere, as most teams would be thrilled to acquire one of the world’s greatest shooters.
The Celtics roster has terrific depth with players like Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Gerald Green, but Ainge could still make just enough room on the bench for the reunion and farewell tour for the Big Three if they all put aside their past differences to seek out greatness one last time together.
Just picture Pierce, Garnett and Allen entering the game on the final possession, joining Horford and Isaiah Thomas.
Garnett sets the screen. Horford inbounds to Thomas. He drives. Defenders converge and he kicks the ball out to Allen, who dishes to Pierce.
Pierce launches up the contested jump shot…
Perhaps this is just a pipe dream. Maybe I am living in the past.
Or maybe, “Anything is possible.”