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Ray Allen defends Tony Allen during a visit from the Grizzlies.Despite the departure of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce offered a resounding vote of confidence for the moves made by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge this offseason. And that speaks volumes.
After all, it was just two summers ago that Pierce, fresh off inking a long-term extension, expressed dismay after the Celtics watched Tony Allen leave for Memphis and scrambled to fill out their roster. In mid-July that year, Pierce lamented that only "slim pickings" remained and opined: "Sometimes I'm looking at all the players signing and wish we would get on the ball a little bit. I trust in Danny to put a good team around us, but I'm sitting here watching all these good players fall to other teams."
This summer, it was the rest of the league kicking dirt as the Celtics snatched up many of the top available names, inking Kevin Garnett to a three-year contract extension before free agency even opened, then reassembling the team's core. Yes, the Celtics lost Ray Allen to rival Miami -- this despite positioned to offer twice as much money with a two-year, $12 million offer -- but brought in both Jason Terry and Courtney Lee to offset the loss.
"I love what Danny's been able to do," Pierce told the team website in a video interview this week. "It was a tough decision this summer. A lot was riding on what direction we were going to head in. It was just a domino effect, once we signed Kevin, we knew were going to try to make another run at it. That's pretty much the way I looked at it. Once we signed him, a number of guys were able to jump on board.
"I thought Danny did a good job of trying to replace Ray Allen. As you know Ray Allen went off to Miami, on his choice, but he was a great teammate, it was fun playing with him. But I think the guys coming in here -- Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, trying to get a healthy Jeff Green, even some of our rookies -- I think we've added a lot more depth, and it's going to take a lot of pressure off me this upcoming season."
After losing Tony Allen to the Grizzlies, the Celtics struggled to fill out their bench. They settled for a mercurial and inconsistent group that couldn't pick up the slack when injuries plagued the team in the postseason (Boston was bounced in the conference quarterfinals by the Heat that year).
With what Pierce believes is a deeper bench than even last season, when the injury-depleted Celtics surged within a quarter of the NBA Finals, the captain gushed optimism and believes Boston is constructed for a title run.
"It’s fresh excitement -- we’re going to build on what we did last year," said Pierce. "I think we’re more talented. We were able to bring back Brandon Bass -- we brought back our starters and then added to it. I think we have a deeper and better bench. Hopefully, it reflects better in the playoffs, so that we can go for a championship."
Yes, the Celtics had a clear plan this offseason and didn't let a bump in that road detour them. You can certainly make the case that, on paper, this team is deeper and more talented than a year ago when it had two chances to knock out the eventual champion Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
Pierce's vote of confidence suggests Boston learned from what happened two summers ago. That year, Boston was coming off a Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals and, instead of taking a step forward, took a step back.
This season, the team reloaded with a clear-cut goal of getting over the hump with the goal of chasing the second title that has eluded Pierce and the remaining core from the 2007-08 team. As Pierce noted, "Here in Boston, we don't want anything but championships."