In a recently published piece by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, future Hall-of-Famer and Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce briefly touched on the city of Boston and its attraction in a basketball sense. Pierce was of the opinion that despite its lack of glamor, Boston is far from a bad place to play ball and should have no problem attracting free agents.
Pierce talked about Boston with a great deal of endearment, understandable considering he played his entire career and won a championship there. However, Pierce went deeper than saying he “liked it here”.
The now Brooklyn Nets forward made an excellent point about Boston’s ability to draw in players looking for a new home saying: “Hopefully, the fact that guys like me and Kevin [Garnett] liked it here is a sign to other players that it’s a good city to play in.”
Pierce’s assertion Boston is a good place to play seems far from controversial. I can’t think of the last time any players who did not wear the No. 20 left with a bad taste in their mouth. The Celtics are clearly a team enriched with local culture and a deep and stirring history. Celtics fans are among some of the best in the NBA and without doubt were a positive part of Pierce’s experience.
However, one player’s positive experience may not translate into Boston being a free agent hotspot the same way cities like New York, LA, and Miami are. Even if players do take cues from Pierce and Garnett, do the Celtics really attract the “big name” free agents?
I’m not suggesting NBA players would ever do something like jump ship from their struggling teams in free agency only to join together in a glamorous city in hopes of chasing an easier-to-obtain championship. But even if such an unlikely thing was to somehow take place, Boston would not be a good stage for it.
Right now the Celtics are a team filled with all sorts of promising young talent, led by a highly elite point guard in hopes of becoming as relevant and dangerous as they have been in the past. To be fair, the Washington Wizards look like that too. The Celtics are not where free agents go to try to grab one more ring before retirement or create a dynasty.
So then what is the point of playing in Boston?
The Celtics are where free agents go when they want to be a part of something relevant in the somewhat distant future and don’t mind working in order to get themselves there.
In their current state of affairs, the Celtics aren’t bringing in any big name help for Rajon Rondo. Come next year when the market is loaded with big names and talent that could bring the Celtics from mediocre to great, the Celtics’ success will depend on what they can accomplish this season. So is Pierce right, and is Boston really a great place to play?
The only way the Celtics can keep from making a liar of Pierce is if they can play like an up and coming team with one of the league’s best players, instead of a rag-tag group of leftovers remaining from a rebuilding trade gone horribly wrong.
In a sense, Pierce is right. The Celtics are a great organization that anyone should be proud to be a part of. However, history and good local seafood will only go so far when free agents consider Boston. The thing they want most, and what the Celtics need most, is winning.
That and that alone will determine if Boston can bring in free agents.