- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

With Kevin Garnett joining Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the previously moribund Celtics have advanced their cause in the junior varsity circuit known as the Eastern Conference.

This unexpected about-face eases the suffering of a franchise whose roots extend to the NBA’s inaugural campaign of 1946-47.

The Celtics have not been a truly relevant franchise since the principal designers of the trade, Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale, were running alongside the late Dennis Johnson, Larry Bird and Robert Parish in the old Boston Garden.

The Celtics won the last of their 16 NBA championships in 1986, last appeared in the NBA Finals in 1987 and were cursed by the deaths of Len Bias in 1986 and Reggie Lewis in 1993.

If Bias had not surrendered his life to cocaine, the Celtics might have added another three or four championship banners to their collection.

Bias was that potentially special, enough so that his presence would have eased the physical burden on both McHale and Bird in the late ‘80s.

Perhaps McHale would not have felt compelled to play on a broken foot in 1987 and compromise the rest of his career if Bias had been around.

This is the unknowable of the Celtics, a once-proud franchise with nearly a generation’s worth of misery, eased only by their run to the conference finals in 2002.

But now, with Allen, Pierce and Garnett forming one of the most imposing trios in the NBA, the Celtics can think the giddy thoughts of a defined-down contender.

This is the same franchise that spent the spring tanking games as a means to improve its lottery chances in the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

This breaking of a trust with the ticket-buying public did not work. The Celtics ended up with the No. 5 pick overall in the NBA Draft in June.

That seemed appropriate at the time, although the Celtics used the pick to land Allen, a sweet-shooting guard whose greatest flaw is a birth certificate that reveals he is 32 years old.

Shooting guards rarely age well in the NBA. Yet Ainge has reason to believe that Allen could be one of the exceptions because of a shooting touch that will not deteriorate because of age.

That truism was certainly self-evident with Reggie Miller in his waning seasons with the Pacers.

Garnett, at 31, has lots of wear on his body as one of the first players to jump to the NBA from high school.

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