We’ve seen this before, of course.

We’ve seen the Celtics trying to wring one more glory run out of an aging Big Three.

The first time was in 1990, when the names were Bird, McHale and Parish, three iconic figures in Celtics history, and the hope was that they still had the magic, even though age and so much of basketball history told us otherwise.

They went out in the first round of the playoffs in five games that year, went out to Patrick Ewing’s Knicks, losing the deciding game in the old Boston Garden. And in the waning minutes of that game on that long-ago Sunday afternoon, it was more than just a Celtics’ season that was dying. It was the end of an era. .

Now, 22 seasons later, it’s the same script.

Does this Celtics team have one more run in it?

Can the trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce spit in time’s face?

Or is this all little more than a memory tune, like going to see some oldies show that’s more about the past than the present?

Is this the early ’90s all over again for the Celtics?

That question hovers over this new season, as truncated as it is, and it’s not without a certain irony. For it was Danny Ainge who once told Red Auerbach, when it was becoming apparent that Bird, McHale and Parish were deep into the back nine of their careers, to blow it all up and start again. But thinking that and actually doing it are two very different things.

Now Ainge is the boss, and here are the Celtics trying to do the same thing they did in the early ’90s: surround the Big Three with young legs and try to get one more magical run out of them.

In Ainge’s defense, none of this is easy. We live in an era where no one wants to hear about not winning big. Not in Boston, certainly, where the bar is set very high. Not in Boston, where if you don’t go deep into the playoffs it’s as if you almost cease to exist in the court of public opinion. No one wants to hear about rebuilding, for that’s become just another euphemism for no good. No one wants to hear about the reasons why you don’t win.

Ainge knows all this, of course.

He knows that until he brought in Garnett and Allen for 2007-2008, the Celtics were little more than the sound of one hand clapping, buried under the immense popularity of the Red Sox and the Patriots.

He knows that if the Celtics go back to being mediocre, many of the fans will go fast-breaking out of the Garden the way the rats used to run out of the old Garden.

There’s little question the Celtics would be better with Jeff Green, the key acquisition in the controversial Kendrick Perkins trade last year. But now Green is out for the year with a heart issue, and his loss only highlights how dependent this team is on the Big Three, even if all of them now walk on dangerous terrain when it comes to NBA superstardom, the mid-30s treacherous ground.

Pierce missed Sunday’s season opener with a heel injury. Garnett missed the playoffs in 2009 with a knee problem. This is what happens. This is what age does. Especially in a shortened season when there will be more back-to-back games, ones in which the Celtics were below .500 in last year. Lose one of the Big Three over any extended period of time and this will become a lost year.

The Celtics were better going into the season a year ago, at least on paper.

They had Perkins, Shaq, and Jermaine O’Neal to play alongside Garnett. Now? Now they only have Jermaine, whose glory days are all in the past tense, journeymen Chris Wilcox and Greg Stiemsma and a rookie named JuJuan Johnson.

You say you’ve never heard of them?

That’s the point.

But no one ever said back there in the summer of 2007 that this was a team constructed for the long haul. It’s a core group that got one title and came very close to getting another, all while making the Celtics magical again. That’s this Big Three’s legacy, and it’s a wonderful one. The banner in the rafters is testimony.

Now the rent’s coming due.

The early ’90s all over again. Preserve your memories.


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