Call this the 'post Rasheed quote' article.
For anyone who might be unaware, Friday night I met Rasheed Wallace for the first time and in the course of talking, I asked him about the Celtics’ visit to his home to convince him to sign with the Celtics. It had been said that Kevin Garnett suggested to him that, if he comes to the Celtics, they could be one of the best teams ever.
My question was simple. Did he think that was possible?
Here, from the Celtics Central article is most of the give and take…
Oh definitely. Definitely, playing with those three other guys, also combining that with the guys we have on the bench, I think we definitely can. Me personally, I think we can get that Bulls record. You know we have the talent for it. We have the will for it and…I think we have the defense for it.
Do you want me to use that?
You can. Because honestly, I really do feel that. That was a good team. They had some HOFs on there, but we have a few on this team, too.
That’s a high mark to shoot for…
Doc has also talked about having the best defense ever like, he uses the Chicago Bears the ‘85 team, taking that kind of mentality...
We want our mark to be known as a defensive team, not just high scorers.
Obviously, the eye opener of that comment is…
Me personally, I think we can get that Bulls record.
Since I wrote that article, it has hit the fan. It’s had legs for 5 days now. It might be one of those comments that are referred to during the season from time to time, especially if the Celtics go on a major run. Or mocked if they don't.
Needless to say, it was talked about on message boards, and a number of internet sites picked it up. Finally, a few big media sites picked it up, like Yahoo Sports Ball Don’t Lie, Sportingnews.com's Baseline, and the Boston Globe. It has even made TV air time in a few places, I’ve heard as well.
In the Land of Outrageous Claims
It has a been a preseason with some large statements being made. Reggie Miller said he thinks the Lakers could break the Bulls regular season win record. Doc Rivers said that this year’s Celtics might be able to play the best defense…ever. I will eat a steak and ice cream diet and lose 20 pounds. Or maybe I'll learn five new languages this winter.
The difference is...these guys are serious.
A few thoughts come to mind…
1) I wonder if Rasheed would take it back if he could.
I think that even after all the brouhaha, Wallace would not want to take it back. Granted, I had to ask the right question, but that thought would have come out eventually, if he really believed it.
2) Is it actually possible to beat that Bulls record?
The ‘board wars’ began in earnest. The great thing about a good debate is that both sides can make good cases, otherwise it isn’t a great debate, is it?
Three groups emerged:
A) Some were emphatic that he was delusional
Delusional went something like this…
They are too old. They won’t stay healthy all year. Too many other good teams that they have to play.
Age: Let’s look…
Jordan 32 (years old)
Ray Allen 34
Kevin Garnett 33
Paul Pierce 32
Kendrick Perkins 25
Rajon Rondo 23
Rasheed Wallace 35
Marquis Daniels 28
While the Celtics Big Three are a few years older, Perkins and Rondo balance that with some needed youth.
Other Good Teams: They play the four other top teams, the Lakers, Spurs, Cavaliers, and Magic eleven times total.
If they split those games 6-5, they can only lose 4 more games all season. They still have to play the Hawks, Wizards, Mavericks, Nuggets, Jazz, Blazers and Hornets a total of eighteen times. And I’m leaving out the Bobcats, who always seem to give them a hard time. Seems like a difficult task to me. That means Rondo will actually have to play hard most every game.
Interestingly enough, the year the Bulls won 72 games, Seattle won 64 games, Orlando won 60, San Antonio won 59, and Utah won 55. That would closely qualify as four other top teams.
But you would really need to look at the teams and schedules a bit closer to see if the competition compares to what Boston faces this season. On the surface,at least, they are close. That Seattle team was extremely good and took two games from the Bulls in the Finals.
Injuries: The Great Unknown
They can happen to derail any team, at any time. That can be said for the Lakers, too.
B) Others were sure that it could be possible to get that record
There is no one like Michael Jordan. But Jordan didn’t have Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as his next best teammates either. The Celtics Big Three are still a uniquely strong troika, with Hall of Fame resumes.
The 2007-8 Celtics won 66 games. Granted, they had they something desperate to prove – to each other – to the world. Three legacies were at stake.
Granted there is no James Posey on the 2009-10 team. But there was no one like Rasheed Wallace on that 07-08 team. The starting five are better now because they are in their third year of chemistry together. Rondo is a much better player now. Perkins is a much better player now. That is huge.
Marquis Daniels would start for many other teams. Glen Davis is still improving. Eddie House has found his niche. So has Brian Scalabrine.
Having Rasheed is a game changer. For the first time, the Celtics have a long, tough and effective post defender, and post up scorer coming off the bench. That, to me, is more important than his three point shooting.
My surprise observation: When they were 27-2 last season, they weren’t even playing the best basketball that they are capable of. Often, sheer talent and drive won games. Chemistry wasn’t always that good, in spite of the incredible record. As Doc said recently, there might have been some personal agendas factoring in.
C) Some felt it probably isn’t possible to get the record, but glad that he felt that way.
Self Explanatory – It’s good to be confident and set a high goal. Even if you miss, you will accomplish a lot.
3) Is there a motive to it all?
Psychological advantage? It could just be that Wallace blurted the answer to the question, and the team went and tied him down, gagged him, and gave him nugies afterwards.
Maybe there is more to it. Maybe it is an attempt at psychological advantage, or sending a message to the rest of the NBA. Players read what is written in the media all the time. Reggie Miller’s statement about the Lakers being able to break that record might make some look at them slightly different.
The Celtics might want to negate that image. The mind battles for the season and even for Finals starts now.
Doc Rivers went public stating he thinks this team can play defense a whole level better than it has the past two seasons when it was already the top defense in the NBA with Garnett. Even Cedric Maxwell was surprised at that statement.
The Celtics won 62 games without Garnett for 27 games, with sometimes weak and inconsistent bench play.
Everyone in camp is in great shape, and Paul, Ray, and Doc do not want to hear anything about resting or any kind of pacing. Pedal to the metal, Gretel. Time to get ready Eddie.
Hey, as a fan I would be satisfied with something closer to the San Antonio style of prepping for the post season. I’ve already said that. Crush in the playoffs.
As a reporter, I’m all in on the "stop ‘em and drop ‘em" ride that Doc and the team sees. Let the good times roll.
My own take on the Rasheed quote? It would have to have a number of breaks go the Celtics way to have a chance. I do understand the kind of powerful season that this team can have. It seems a little ambitious, but Paul, KG, Sheed, and Doc have a special ‘road trip to basketball destiny’ planned. Count me in for the ride.
I’ll be at the game in Hartford tonight. Maybe someone will predict a shut out, even just for a quarter. You never know with this group. Maybe they will even make it happen.
They are going to be a pretty good basketball team this season. That's my prediction.