This is my first post about the Celtics on Celticsblog.com and I wanted to start by doing something we rarely do in today's "what have you done for me lately" league and take a look back. As a Celtics fan, I know we can all remember that 2007-2008 year with fond memories. A cinderella story from start to finish, from getting KG and (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) to team up with our Captain to watching the anguished look on Kobe's face after destroying the Lakers in Game 6 of the finals. The Celtics were back.
This summer, we spent a lot of time talking about what the new role players will bring to the table this year and we find ourselves comparing them to other players in Celtics history. One thing that we haven't really done was take a look at exactly who was on that 2008 Championship team that took it all and where they are today. More importantly, I wanted to look at what Celtics fans will remember about the team (and who we don't remember from that team). Our starting five that still holds true the mantra that "they have never lost a playoff series" has plenty of articles written about them. Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Perkins played so well together, but they weren't the only ones on that team.
Today, I look back on that team and see where those complimentary players are today, 5 years later.
It was the hope of winning it all finally, the confidence of having the league's best regular season record (66-16), the leadership of the Big 3, and most importantly "unbuntu" helped this band of soldiers raise a banner up into the rafters of one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
Brian Scalabrine spent the next two years with the Celtics before heading to Chicago with Tibs and becoming the KING of what we call an NBA meme. He is now back with the Celtics, but as a commentator with CSNNE. A local favorite, Scal is one of the few names that will never be forgotten in Celtics lore, yet the same cannot be said about his other teammates from the 2007-2008 club. Scot Pollard (yeah, remember him? He played on that team) went out on top, and retired after winning it all with this special group, and so did P.J. Brown. Sam Cassell tried to return for another year in 2008-2009, but had nothing left to give and spent most of his second year as a Celtic laying down on the sidelines. Now he's on the coaching staff for the Wizards, where he eventually wanted to end up. Gabe Pruitt is no longer in the league, but has spent his past 5 years bouncing around the D-League in hopes to make his way back to the NBA Hardwood after spending his rookie year glued to the pine on a championship team.
The next tier of players that I want to look at are Leon Powe, Eddie House, James Posey, Tony Allen, and Glen Davis. These players all took a similar route after winning it all with the Celtics in 2008. Posey, cited as the most important role player from the 2008 season for his outside shooting and defensive prowess, looked for the highest bidder and moved on to play for the New Orleans Hornets in the 2008-2009 season, then the Indiana Pacers and now currently does not have a deal in the NBA. His role on the 2008 team was so impactful, you'll often hear/see his name in articles for years to come describing other Celtics role players (like Jeff Green and MP) or the model for potential backup SF/PF. Think about it, how many articles have you read, analysis have you seen by New England media members that described some player as a "Posey-esque" or "James Posey-like" player in the past 5 years?
Tony Allen had a similar departure after the 2010 finals. He was the "Posey-like" player of the 2009-2010 season and capitalized on it, accepting the offer to play for the highest bidder (Memphis Grizzlies) where he has excelled as both a starter and role player. As far as his role, he wanted more from the Celtics but he would continually live in the shadow of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as far as starter minutes and his departure was imminent. Since, we have seen players like Pietrus and Avery Bradley described as Tony Allen like in their roles. Though Tony Allen was appreciated much more when Posey departed and his role expanded. He is not rememebered for the role he played on the 2008 championship team.
The 2008 Playoffs and more specifically, the Finals are possibly the highlight of Leon Powe's career. He is mostly remembered for his performance in Game against the Lakers in the Finals where he had his first "podium game" and notoriously his honorable mention by Phil Jackson as "Leon POW". His grind it out style of play, banging down low, grabbing offensive boards, and performing above his height during the Finals not only earned him a championship ring, but a fat contract to play in Cleveland and then later a short stint in Memphis with former Celtic teammate, Tony Allen. It's hard to believe that Leon Powe was only 23 years old when he played for the championship team back in 2008, as his past 5 years have been riddled with injuries and he hasn't performed to the level he did when he played for the Celtics. He is currently in search of a team at the young ripe age of 28 after playing in Puerto Rico this summer and the NBA Summer League. It's safe ti say, no one will ever forget Leon as part of that special team.
There are two other role players who were on that 2008 team who will be synonymous with the 2008 team: Eddie House and Glen Davis. Both House and Davis returned for the 2008-2009 season as well as 2010 season. House was traded away in 2010 to the New York Knicks in a move that brought Nate Robinson to the Celtics, who was to provide the same spark as House off the bench, with the ability to move in to the hoop. Robinson didn't pan out to be what the Celtics needed him to be, and journeyman House made his way to the Miami Heat. House's contributions to the Celtics will always be remembered as the Celtics have not been able to fill the role of spark plug off of the bench with outside shooting, although we hope to fill that role perfectly this year with Jason Terry. After an injury riddled stint with the HEAT, House is also now out of the league.
Davis was able to stay with the team through 2011, before being traded in the beginning of the 2011 season for Brandon Bass. Though Davis' contributions to the 2008 team aren't what fans will remember him for. By sticking around, Davis was able to get his chance to properly develop. His game developed to a point where as a second year player, he was playing a key role on the team. With Kevin Garnett out for the 2009 season, Davis stepped up and played valiantly as a starter. His game continually developed, but his maturity did not. His mark in Boston would not be from his contributions, but by his public actions that showed the reason why people called him "Big Baby" (see Big Baby Crying on Bench). He took a route similar to that of Tony Allen, Davis wanted a bigger role, but would never come out of the shadow of Kevin Garnett and he was traded away to the Orlando Magic, where he has become the marquee player since Superman descended upon Los Angeles.
This list of players is not exactly what I'd call an ideal bench or even a "championship bunch", but they were a special group when they played together. They are names that will be forgotten (even 5 years later), but they have something that other names like Walter McCarty and Antoine Walker will never have, a banner in the rafters.