THE 2006-2007 SEASON WAS ARGUABLY OF THE DARKEST of Paul Pierce's professional career.
After Boston had been stripped of some of its largest contracts and better players, the Truth had missed 47 games due to injury on a team that finished 24-58 -- the second worst record in the NBA that year.
Change was needed, and it appeared that change would come with Paul's offseason departure, most likely through a trade.
Instead, Boston general manager pulled off two trades that would alter the destiny of the Truth, and with it, an entire franchise.
On draft night in 2008, Ainge brought veteran long-distance shooter Ray Allen and rookie Glen Davis to Boston in exchange for three players. Then, on July 31, he traded five players and two draft picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for power forward Kevin Garnett.
|The summer of hope: the Big Three join forces (Getty Images).
Almost overnight, Paul went from potential departure to the centerpiece of one of the most star-studded teams in recent history.
The inevitable question posed countless times to Boston coach Doc Rivers was this: Would the three superstars be able work together as one?
The answer lied in the heart of the team’s longest-tenured star.
THE HEART OF THE CELTICS
Rivers preached a philosophy of unity, embodied by a South African word that became the Celtics' mantra on the first day of training camp: ubuntu.
Directly translated as "unity," ubuntu is the essence of teamwork, the sacrifice of personal success for the good of the whole.
And as it turned out, Paul -- the decade-long leader of the Celtics -- embraced the concept.
"I thought from day one Kevin would be the easiest one to get to buy in,'' Rivers said. "I thought Paul, in some ways, would be the toughest because it's been his team. But he made it painless. He really opened the door and said, 'Hey, whatever you need.'''
For Paul and his two veteran running mates -- all of whom had flirted with success, but had never won a championship -- a remarkable journey was underway.