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2000-2001: The Two Twenty-something Stars Take Over; O'Brien Takes Over For Pitino

Led by two twenty-year old stars, Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce, they both finish the 2000-2001 season averaging over twenty+ points per game. What a way to start a new century, as Pierce leads the Green and White with a 25.3 points per game average (his career-best and 8th-best in the NBA) and Walker supported his teammate following up with an average of 23.4 points per contest (11th-best in the league). Pierce was also the lone Celtics player to start and play in all 82 games; however Walker started and played in every game he appeared (81). He missed his first game since 5/1/99 to attend a funeral, snapping a streak of 129 consecutive games played.

Pierce became the first Celtics player to score 2,000 points (2,071) since Larry Bird (2,275) completed the feat in the 1987-88 season. He also set a team record for free throws attempted in a season (738), eclipsing the mark set by Cedric Maxwell (716) in the 1978-79 campaign. For the month of March, Pierce received league-wide recognition being named the NBA Player of the Month, averaging 30.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.60 steals for the month.

Walker set the team record for three-point field goals made (221) and attempted (603) in a season, as well as leading the entire NBA in both categories. The Celtics co-captain was the only player in the league to finish in the top 20 in points (23.4), rebounds (8.9), assists (5.5) and steals (1.70) per game. He finished first on the team and ranked third in the NBA in minutes per game (41.9).

The dynamic duo of Pierce and Walker combined to average 48.7 points per game, second to only the Los Angeles Lakers tandem of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, who combined to average 57.2 points per outing.

On January 8th, Jim O'Brien was named Interim Head Coach succeeding Rick Pitino (who had resigned). The record stood at 12-22 when O'Brien took the helm. but after he recorded his first NBA victory on January 10th, O'Brien led the Green and White to a .500 record over the last 48 games of the season. With this all-around success, O'Brien was named Head Coach on April 24th, making him just the 14th man to hold the prestigious title in team history.
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2001-2002: Celtics post first 40-win season in a decade; Pierce and Walker Continue to Dominate

The Celtics, under the direction of Head Coach Jim O'Brien, posted the team's first 40-win season (49-33) since the 1991-92 campaign when Chris Ford lead the Green and White to 51-31 record. With a 22-19 road record, it marked the team's winningest road campaign since the 1989-90 season, a team that also won 22 games. The year also featured Boston making a strong return to the NBA Playoffs (first time since the 1994-95 season) and posting a 9-7 slate, before bowing to the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. A key trade with the Phoenix Suns on February 20th, in which Boston received Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk in exchange for Randy Brown, Joe Johnson, Milt Palacio and a conditional 2002 first round draft pick, helped propel the Celtics season down the stretch drive.

As has been the case in the previous few seasons, the co-captains Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker led Boston. Pierce, the only player to start and appear in all 82 games, became the first Celtic in team history to finish as the league leader in total points scored (2,144). He also became the first Celtics player since Larry Bird to score 2,000 points in consecutive seasons (Bird tallied 2,000 points four straight years from 1985-88).

Walker, who started and appeared in 81 games (missed one game due to injury), finished the season as one of only four players in the NBA to average 20+ points (22.1), 7+ rebounds (8.0) and 5+ assists (5.0). For the second consecutive year, he led the league in three-pointers made (222) and attempted (645). Walker and Pierce were deservingly named the NBA's Eastern Conference Co-Players of the Month for January. Both players also represented Boston on the NBA's Eastern Conference All-Star Team.

This team also boasted two important traits. The Celtics ranked fifth in the league in fewest turnovers per game, less than 14 times per game. In fact, the Celtics finished with the fewest turnovers (1,114) of any Celtics team since 1973-74. The other fact was this team finished the year first in the NBA in steals per game (9.67).
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2002-2003: New Ownership, Pierce and Walker Both Average 20+ Points Per Game For Third Straight Season and Team Returns To Post-Season Play

As the calendar made the turn from 2002 to 2003, the Boston Celtics franchise received new ownership. Boston Basketball Partners L.L.C., led by H. Irving Grousbeck, Wycliffe Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca, Robert Epstein, David Epstein, and John Svenson completed the purchase of the team from Paul Gaston on December 31, 2002. Gaston had owned the team since 1992. The new ownership became the first local owners since 1964, when Walter Brown owned the legendary organization until his death.

For the third consecutive season, co-captains Paul Pierce (25.9 points per game) and Antoine Walker (20.1 points per game) average more than 20 points per outing and led the team to their second straight 40+-win season (44-38). It marked the first time the Celtics have won 40 or more games in consecutive seasons in a decade (since 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons). Despite the scoring heroics of both players, playing time added up as Walker logged 3,235 minutes (41.5 per game-4th highest in the NBA) and Pierce played in 3,096 minutes (an average of 39.2 per game). Pierce became just the second Celtics player to record three straight 2,000-point seasons (2,048); Larry Bird recorded four straight from 1984-87. Pierce and Walker combined for 47.6% of the team's points in 2002-03 and both players were named the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of Week on two different occasions during the regular season. The co-captains were both named to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team. Pierce ranked first in the NBA and broke the franchise record in free throws made and attempted, shooting 604-for-753 (80.2%) and he was a member of the United States 2002 World Championship team.

The Celtics ranked 4th in the NBA in steals per game with an average of 8.78 per contest, while they took care of the basketball, ranking 7th in turnovers per game (13.99 per game). The Celtics used the three-point line to their advantage as well, leading the NBA in three point field goals made and attempted, shooting 719-for-2, 155 (.33.4%). The 2002-03 Celtics now hold the NBA record for three's attempted in a season, as they surpassed the Dallas Mavericks 2,039 treys attempted in the 1995-96 season.

The Green and White were one of sixteen teams to make the NBA Playoffs. Boston defeated the Indiana Pacers in the First Round however were stopped, for the second consecutive year, by the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
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2003-2004: Danny Ainge returns, key trades bring new faces, O'Brien steps down

The Celtics were busy battling the New Jersey Nets in the 2003 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals when, on May 9, the announcement was made that former Celtics great Danny Ainge would return to the Green and White as the Executive Director of Basketball Operations. Ainge, a key member of the Celtics 1984 and 1986 World Championship teams, jumped right into his role on Draft Night when he traded draft rights to acquire guard Marcus Banks and high school standout center Kendrick Perkins.

As the 2003-04 Celtics were grinding through the double sessions in Training Camp preparing for the upcoming 82-game regular season slate, a major move change the makeup of the team on October 20th. The team acquired center Raef LaFrentz, forward Chris Mills, guard Jiri Welsch and a 2004 First Round draft choice from the Dallas Mavericks, in exchange for Tony Delk and co-captain and seven-year Celtics star Antoine Walker. Two months later, on December 15th, the team acquired veterans Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart (and a Second Round draft choice) from the Cleveland Cavaliers, in exchange for veterans Tony Battie, Kedrick Brown and Eric Williams.

The win-loss record hovered around the .500 mark for a good part of the first half of the season but on January 27th the team had to make another adjustment. Head Coach Jim O'Brien stepped down and Assistant Coach John Carroll was named the Interim Head Coach. Carroll and the C's would compile a 14-22 record over the final three months of the campaign, which included another trade just before the trading deadline, on February 19th. The Celtics acquired veteran guard Chuck Atkins, Lindsey Hunter, a 2004 First Round draft choice and cash from the Detroit Pistons, in exchange for Mike James and Chris Mills.

Over the final 21 games, Davis slid comfortably into the 6th man role averaging 16.7 points while shooting 52.5% from the field and 45.0% from three-point territory. Co-captain and iron man Paul Pierce became the first Celtic since Larry Bird (1983-87) to post four consecutive seasons of 3,000+ minutes (with 3,099). Pierce also became the fastest Celtic to ever score 10,000 points when he accomplished the feat in his 431st career game, surpassing Bird who scored his 10,000th point in his 436th career game. Center Mark Blount finished the season strong, posting a career-high 19 double-double games and finishing runner-up to Shaquille O'Neal in Field Goal Percentage for the NBA (shooting 56.6%). The Celtics made their third consecutive playoff appearance, bowing out to the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

 

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