The return of Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett has risen to the occasion, lifting his team to its recent run of success. Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

In a sense, this is what the Boston Celtics were supposed to be in the first place.

Remember when Kevin Garnett first landed in Boston five years ago? The Celtics' new golden era was about to be ushered in, reigned over by Garnett, -- then one of the league's five best players -- longtime Boston captain Paul Pierce and the best long-range shooter in league history, Ray Allen.

We didn't know how the lineup was going to work out. Young center Kendrick Perkins had come straight out of high school in Houston and hadn't really found a niche. Young point guard Rajon Rondo showed promise, but with the new "big three" dominating the ball, we weren't sure how such a poor shooter would fit in the lineup.

As we know now, Danny Ainge's vision for his new Celtics couldn't have worked better that first season, as Boston won 66 games and the franchise's first championship in 22 years. Perkins proved to be an essential defensive anchor in the pivot, while Rondo meshed well with the veterans despite his shooting problems. While Boston remained at or near the top of the East for the next five years, Ainge's vision gradually shifted. The big three eventually handed the baton off to Rondo, who increasingly came to dominate everything the Celtics did on the offensive end.

Flash to the present. Garnett and Pierce are considerably older than when they first came together. Allen is coming off the bench for the Miami Heat, and Perkins has been in Oklahoma City for quite a while. Then in the midst of a flagging season, during which Rondo continued to dominate the offensive attack, the star point guard went down with a season-ending knee injury. Dust off those old press conference photographs, because Ainge's original vision is back in focus. And really, the Celtics had no choice.