In September of 2007, Celtics coach Doc Rivers asked the team’s new Big Three — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen — to ride with him on a duck boat. Allen had just arrived from Seattle, and Garnett from Minnesota, to join Pierce. At that point none of the three had ever won a championship. The prior season, the Celtics had the second-worst record in the NBA. And there was considerable skepticism that Rivers could get these three high-profile, high-scoring players to work together.
But Rivers turned out to be an expert in ego management. He told them they were on the same route that the Red Sox and Patriots rode for championship celebrations earlier in the decade. Pierce told the Globe the motivational ride “set the foundation.” Soon enough, the Celtics won their first title in 22 years, and remained contenders for several more years.
Now that Allen has gone on to another championship ring with Miami, and Garnett and Pierce are past the peak of their careers, Rivers understandably wanted a fresh challenge. The Celtics granted him that wish, sending him to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a 2015 first-round draft pick. Rivers is facing some criticism for not staying around for a rebuilding effort in Boston, but he is not leaving for a cakewalk; while the Clippers performed well last season, the franchise has never been to a conference finals. Celtics fans should wish the gravel-voiced Rivers well for restoring a classy work ethic and one more banner to the rafters of the NBA’s winningest team.