Apr 18, 2012, 9:58 AM EDT
Since the All-Star break, the Celtics have been one of the best teams in basketball. It has been an amazing story — Kevin Garnett goes to the five, he and Rajon Rondo are beasts on the pick-and-roll, Avery Bradley emerges, Boston’s defense returns to legendary status and they are 21-9. Boston will win the Atlantic and will be a tough out come the playoffs.
And they came within a whisper of breaking it all up at the trade deadline.
As the NBA trade deadline lurched into its final hour a month ago, league sources say the call Ray Allen long feared had come: Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was on the line, telling him he had been traded. Allen had been sent to the Memphis Grizzlies for a package including O.J. Mayo and a draft pick, and the Celtics’ Big Three had come to a most brusque ending.
For 20 minutes or so, Allen had to process the information. They traded me to Memphis? And yet, as the disappointment dissolved to anger, Rivers returned with a messenger’s nightmare: Never mind. The deal fell apart. Take a deep breath and let’s go back to work again.
Frankly, that is an interesting deal. Mayo is an impactful sixth man in Memphis — the role Boston is asking Ray Allen to play now. Allen’s veteran, championship presence could have been valuable on a good but young Memphis team. The problem is both guys would be gone at the end of the year (Allen is in the last year of his deal, Mayo has an option). If you were Boston, wouldn’t you rather make that run with Allen.
Then there was Pierce.
Before the Big Three could make it past the trade deadline, Allen-to-the-Grizzlies had to fall apart and discussions on a deal that would have sent Paul Pierce to the New Jersey Nets for an expiring Mehmet Okur contract and a lottery pick never reached completion, league sources said.
None of that would have been as much fun as this Celtics run.
Miami and Chicago are still the favorites in the East, but Boston reminds me of the Mavericks last year — everything needs to go right for them, but if it does they are a threat. This team plays hard defense and will be a tough out for anyone. This will be the last run for the big three in Boston, but you get the feeling it will be a fitting one.
And it almost didn’t happen.
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