By A.Sherrod Blakely
SACRAMENTO, Calif. It might be time to officially ditch all this Big Three talk when discussing the Boston Celtics.
The NBA released its list of All-Star reserves Thursday night.
And as expected, the Celtics led the way with four players chosen.
Paul Pierce, who will be making his ninth All-Star appearance - only four Celtics have been chosen more often - will be joined by Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
This will be the first time since 1975 that the Celtics will have four players participate in the All-Star game. It's also the first time since 2006 (Detroit Pistons) that one team produced four All-Stars in the same year. That quartet of Pistons included former Celtic Rasheed Wallace.
Even before it became official, Pierce anticipated that he would be joined by Allen, Garnett and Rondo.
"I look at the top of the Eastern Conference, position by position, I think between me, Ray, Kevin, Rondo, we're right up there," Pierce said prior to Thursday's announcement.
For a good chunk of the voting period, it appeared the C's would have two All-Star starters in Rondo and Garnett.
However, injuries took both players off the floor at various stretches this season.
That time off the court coincided with New York's Amar'e Stoudemire putting up big numbers, and Chicago's Derrick Rose leading an injury-riddled Bulls team - coached by former C's assistant Tom Thibodeau - to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference.
"It's great for Rose," said Rondo shortly after learning that he would not be an All-Star starter. "He definitely deserves to start, the season he's having."
Rondo's play has been impressive, as well.
He's averaging a league-best 12.5 assists per game, in addition to shooting a career-high 51.5 percent from the field.
As for Garnett, his status as an All-Star can't always be measured in his statistics.
He's averaging 15 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, but scoring and rebounding make up a small part of what he brings to the Celtics.
Garnett is their defensive anchor, the last line of defense that has once again been instrumental in the Celtics ranking among the NBA leaders in just about every statistical category on defense.
"I know my role," Garnett said. "Defensive stopper, come out and get Ray and Paul open, move the ball, be a post presence. Come out there, make sure we're energized, ready to play."
And then there's Allen, who far too often is overlooked when it comes to doling out praise and accolades on this Celtics team.
Garnett's fiery on-the-floor persona is hard to ignore. You have Rondo making how-the-heck-did-he-do-that passes all the time. And then there's Pierce, a "professional scorer" leading the way offensively most nights for the Celtics.
Allen has been arguably the Celtics most consistent player all season, evident by him averaging 17.3 points per game, which ranks second on the team.
Known for his long-range shooting, Allen is connecting on a career-best 45.3 percent of his 3-pointers. And with 2,552 under his belt, he's just nine made 3-pointers away from surpassing Indiana great Reggie Miller as the NBA's all-time leader in that category.
"His shot is perfect," said Sacramento coach and former Celtic, Paul Westphal (1972-1975). "He hardly has to bend his knees to shoot. He hardly has to face the basket. His release is so quick."
Allen is just one part of the winning formula in Boston, one that coaches throughout the league have long recognized not only for their play, but how that play meshes into what has become one of the elite teams in the NBA.
"They have different styles," Westphal said. "They blend well together because they don't play the same game. So all they do is make each other better than pound at each other's strengths."