Boston Celtics - Celtics 24/7
Last Season’s Record: 24 – 58
Key Losses: Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes and Delonte West
Key Additions: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey and Coach Tom Thibodeau
1. How Sweet It Is –
The last time the Celtics had a realistic shot at winning a NBA title the roster boasted the Big Three in the twilight of their careers, while featuring young up and comers in Reggie Lewis and Dee Brown. The 1990-1991 Celtics won 56 games but fell short of bringing banner #17 to Boston. So hear we are 16 years later with what seams like an over night reversal of fortune engineered by Danny Ainge and company in spite of the draft gods, and with it a chance at bringing an NBA championship back to Boston where it belongs. How sweet it is to know that you can’t watch or listen to the pundits of the sports world talk about probable 2008 NBA Finals contenders without talking about the Celtics and not have it be a punch line.
2. The Good-
Simply put, the Celtics starting 5 is as good as any starting 5 in the NBA period. I don’t see any way for teams to stop the Celtics dynamic Triad. Furthermore it isn’t probable that opposing coaching staffs will have the ability to contain the trio.
Out of the projected starting 5 Kendrick Perkins may be the one player that provides the biggest surprise. This is his second season under the vigilant eye of Coach Clifford Ray. Perk took a beating last season, both on the floor and in print, despite undergoing shoulder surgery before the beginning of last season and being hobbled with Plantar Fasciitis, an excruciatingly painful condition. In spite of it all Perk battled through it, and even managed to string together some very nice games, 22 of which he grabbed 8 or more rebounds. Coach Ray can now concentrate on crystallizing Perks role by narrowing his focus to defense, rebounding and opportunistic offense. There is no question this kid has the heart and talent to be a starting center in this league, the question for Perk will be, and has been, health and staying out of foul trouble.
Boston is much improved on the defensive side of the ball. Rondo, Posey and Tony Allen are legit defenders capable of shutting down most players at their position. The tandem of KG and Perk will force teams to rethink bringing the ball in to the paint. Pierce and Ray Allen aren’t going to be All NBA Defensive Honorable Mentions, but they aren’t Dan Dickau either. With Coach Thibodeau taking the second seat on the bench, is it possible that a team coached by Doc Rivers will be good on defense?
Coach Thibodeau will allow Doc to keep his job for a season or two more. Coach Thibodeau’s impact on a team’s defensive ability is remarkable. During his 18 year career spanning 17 seasons his teams have consistently been among the stingiest in the league. His teams have been in the top ten in fewest points allowed 14 times over the last 18 years. During his time in NY, the Knicks were a defensive power house. You may remember the Knicks rattled off 33 straight games in which not a single team could break the century mark, a league record. While with the Rockets he helped the Rockets post top 5 defensive team statistics in total points and opponent field goal percentage. Since Doc has been unable or unwilling to cure the Celtics defensive woes, Ainge did the next best thing in getting somebody that could do it for him.
The Celtics roster as currently constructed is at least 9 deep. House, while not my ideal pick as a backup point, is a deadly outside shooter. Posey is an excellent defender and is no slouch on the offensive side of the ball either. Assuming the reports about the progress of his knee is true, Tony Allen, if he is indeed healthy and can stay that way, could be a sixth man candidate. He is a lock down defender and is capable of putting up 15+ off the bench. Pollard is a blue collar type player that can defend and will battle on the glass.
3. The Bad-
Despite the apparent progression and obvious athleticism of Rajon Rondo there is cause for concern. The Celtics are giving the reigns to a completely revamped line up, which now consists of a trio of super stars, to a second year player that doesn’t have a reliable or proven back up. House has good ball handling skills, but has an assist to turnover ratio of about 2 and change. If House was the kind of player that takes the ball to the rack to create, his high A/T could be excused or at the very least understood. Considering his disserved reputation for being a perimeter sniper combined with his top ten three point field goal percentage and paltry .62 free throw attempts per game, it’s obvious the reason for his high A/T is poor decision making. Not something you need from a back up PG.
Tony Allen played adequately at the point, and is adequate in limited minutes or in a pinch, i.e. foul trouble, blow out, short term injury to Rondo, but he isn’t a back up point guard. Gabe Pruitt was a combo guard at USC. He started his college career as a two guard, and began running the point as a junior when it became obvious he wasn’t going to be a two at the next level. Pruitt has yet to play a single NBA minute and shouldn’t be counted on as a back up.
Pollard is currently projected to be the first big off the bench to spell KG or Perk. Considering Perks propensity to get in to foul trouble early, Pollard may get more minutes than his balky back is prepared to take. After Pollard you have, presumably, Scal, Powe, and Batista. At this point we know what to expect from Scal. He can defend a little, he can shoot once in a while and is pretty fair on the glass. Powe is a high energy guy that isn’t afraid to mix it up. Powe has a better offensive game than advertised and is an OK defender despite being an undersized power forward. Big Baby is polished and could really help to solidify the front court rotation if he can step his game up. Davis may go down as the biggest steal of the 2007 NBA Draft, or he’ll be playing in Uruguay in three years. Batista played well during the FIBA tournament, but has yet to translate that potential to the NBA. The front court isn’t ideal and it has question marks, but it is adequate with the potential to be deep.
4. The Ugly-
Doc Rivers. I like Doc, I think he’s a hell of a guy and prior to this past season I was as staunch a Doc supporter as you could find in Celtics Nation. No more; his in game decision making is suspect at best. It was suspect long before this past injury plagued season (just reference Boston’s last playoff series against
Indiana). He has no idea how to implement an adequate defense. During Docs first year in Boston the Celtics won the Atlantic Division title despite having the one of the worst interior defenses in the league. The up-tempo offensive system has yet to materialize. Instead we watch a bastardized version of the high post, half court, offense with Perk standing with the rock in his hands at the top of the key as 4 other players stand around the perimeter. Every beauty queen has their blemishes and the Celtics armor isn’t with out its chinks, but Doc constitutes a gaping hole. I hope I’m wrong because I want to be a Doc supporter, I’ve just watched too much ineptitude on his part to be one right now.
5. The Unknown-
Will the new look Celtics be able to seamlessly integrate three enormously talented individual players in to one team single purpose of mind?
Will Eddie House and Tony Allen be good enough to take control of the point when Rondo isn’t in?
Will Rondo be able to run the point?
Can the Celtics stay healthy?
Can the Celtics still win in spite of Doc?
6. A Few Things I Won’t Miss-
I won’t miss hearing any one of a number of sports casters asking "What has gone wrong with a once proud franchise?" I won’t miss listening to Steven A Smith’s negative semi-coherent blather on all things Celtics. I won’t miss looking forward to the Draft in December. Most of all I won’t miss the losing.
Boston will go 52-30, and overcome early chemistry issues.