As has invariably been the case whenever Doc Rivers finds himself in New England, talk shifts to the Celtics’ triumphant march to the National Basketball Association championship in 2008. It was a particularly memorable time for him, and not simply because he got marquee names with humongous egos and disparate personalities to subscribe to a common objective. And, to his credit, he has acknowledged all these years that “ubuntu” worked because he preached it to a choir; everybody associated with the campaign sacrificed for the collective.
Yesterday, Rivers was in Boston for the ABCD Hoop Dreams’ annual event, and, naturally, he got around to speaking about his experience a decade ago. “That team, the 2008 group, was as close of a group as you could ever coach,” he noted. “On the floor, I’d take that group every night to go to war. If I had one game to win for my life, I’m taking that 2008 group … because you know they were going to show up and do it together.” As all and sundry know, however, that closeness failed to stand the test of time. Ray Allen’s transfer to the rival Heat in 2012 was deemed a defection by the rest of the Core Four, creating a chasm that remains to this day.
Which, in a nutshell, is why Rivers can no longer recall his crowning achievement without a tinge of wistfulness. Yesterday, he lamented how he could, and should, have done a better job of patching things up between Allen and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. Instead, he will see the greatest three-point shooter in league history enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame without the other three on hand.
To be sure, the reverse was true when the Celtics retired Pierce’s jersey early this year. Even as Rivers, Garnett, and Rondo were at the TD Garden marking the occasion, Allen chose to play golf with comedian George Lopez in Los Angeles. Clearly, a lot of patching up needs to be done first before they all agree to be in one place at a given time. To be sure, the rift and its cause didn’t prevent Rondo from latching on to the Lakers in July; evidently, it didn’t bother him that he would be sharing the locker room with LeBron James, who so happened to head the very Heat he, Pierce, and Garnett hated.
It’s just too bad, because Allen deserves to be feted by his former teammates, just as he deserved to be at the recent reunion of the 2008 titleholders. And while it may be no skin off his back, Rivers is right. “Ray won us a title. He really did,” he argued. “He should be celebrated in Boston. He’s responsible for that banner.”
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.