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From the archives | 2007

New era dawns for Celtics after blockbuster trade

Kevin Garnett joins Paul Pierce, Ray Allen at center of team’s core

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen began a new era for the Celtics.
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen began a new era for the Celtics. Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Injury-plagued and buried by a 2006-07 season full of losses, Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ franchise player, called for help.

Help called him back four times and got his voicemail.

”I reached out to Paul’s four phones and left a message on all four,” Kevin Garnett said.

So Garnett called Ray Allen, a Celtic for about a month now, trying to get through.

”Luckily,” Garnett said, “Ray only had two phones.”

Pierce, a smart man, had a pretty good excuse.

”I gotta recognize the area code,” Pierce said.

Regardless, his call - heard from the floor of the Garden to the front office - was answered.

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By shipping Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and a pair of protected first-round draft picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves yesterday for Garnett, the Celtics traded the future for the now.

Much of it was because Pierce, who has been to the playoffs four times in his nine-year career but not since 2005, made a plea for the team to bring veterans in to lighten a load that had been weighing him down.

He went so far as to say he had become the classic case of a great player on a bad team. Now he has in Allen a proven All-Star who throws darts from the 3-point line, in Garnett a glass-cleaning, poster-making former Most Valuable Player, and no excuses.

”I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” he said. “I asked for veterans, I didn’t expect to get a seven-time All-Star or a [10-time] All-Star. This is a dream come true. I feel like a rookie again.”

Last season Pierce averaged 25.0 points a night but missed 35 games with a foot injury, the first major ailment of his career. Oh, and while he was out his squad racked up losses, dropping 18 straight in one stretch.

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Pierce aired his frustrations publicly but also popped into the offices of owner Wyc Grousbeck and executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, where they all voiced their concerns.

”One thing I could say about them is they’ve always been passionate about this team and they want to put a winner out here, and they show it,” Pierce said. “The moves that we made this summer, you know, we’ve given up a lot, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make to win ballgames. I’ve been preaching that you need veterans to win in this game and they did everything they can to bring a team in now that this city can get excited about.”

Ainge said he sat down with Pierce three or four times after the end of the season and “just tried to talk patience to him.” But he knew how much it meant to make changes in the offseason.

”[With no moves], Paul would come, and he would play,” Ainge said. “But he wouldn’t have that same spirit.”

The common thread between Pierce and his new teammates is renewed passion as they enter a different phase of their careers. They’ve all been star players on sinking ships. Seattle and Minnesota were both 30-win teams last season, and Boston won just 24.

”Nobody wants to carry the burden these three guys have had to carry the last few years in the league,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It weighed on Allen, but particularly on Garnett in Minnesota, and he didn’t see the picture getting any brighter.

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”The one thing that hurts more than anything is losing,” Garnett said. “I’m a very confident person, I try to instill confidence in everyone around me, but sometimes it gets hard.”

Pierce said as much himself, but he said the offseason moves made a huge difference in his outlook.

”My motivation ... it’s been hard over the last couple of years to stay motivated,” Pierce said. “But fortunately, I love the game so much that I’m going to be motivated ... but now it just takes it to another level.”

They’ve all been leaders - Allen more quiet, Garnett more animated, and Pierce more by example - and Allen sees their similarities as building blocks.

”Kevin is a passionate guy,” Allen said. “Paul’s passionate. But they’re also stubborn. They’re also ornery. I’m the same way. They want the best. I want the best out of them and both of them want the best out of me. So when we’re out they’re playing, we know what it’s going to take - being consistent and counting on each other for 82 games.”

When the Celtics introduced Garnett to the media last night, the three veterans walked to the table. Allen was on the left side. Pierce was on the right. Garnett was the centerpiece. But as Grousbeck said, this team is built around Pierce.

”Paul’s still here and others have joined him,” Grousbeck said. “And that is really just the way I wanted it.”

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