Got an amusing response to a recent article from Jon Duke of CSL on twitter. He said: "you are taking the fun out of everything lately... no Billy Walker, no Ray Allen trade rumors... what will your readers say?" Now, I assured him that you would have no shortage of things to say, regardless of how I painted the picture. However, he's got a (funny) point.
I do have a tendency to be the Captain of the Good Ship Lollipop sometimes (I have my moments of frustration but for the most part I'm pretty chill with this team). So in the interest of representing multiple perspectives (in particular the more nervous fans - this is Boston after all), here are a few reasons to bite your nails and nervously rub your lucky rabbit's foot.
1a. Injuries: The theme of the blog for the last couple weeks has been more about who can't play than who is playing. I'll put it this way, I get the feeling that Garnett's career will eventually end abruptly. Maybe not this year, but sometime before the end of his contract he'll go down with an injury and we'll never see him on the court again. And with the way the team handles injury news, we probably won't know for sure that we've seen his last game until months after it happens. Hope I'm wrong about all that, but I wouldn't put money against it.
Now if you really want to slam on the panic button, consider the fact that this year's version of KG's absence is starting to feel a little like last year where the timetable keeps changing. There's always a chance that he might not be back this year. There's even a small chance that we've already seen the last of KG and we just don't know it yet. (shudder)
Pierce I could see fighting through pain, but we've also seen him be streaky and downright ineffective when he's been hobbled in the past. Ray is a shooting guard that relies on muscle memory and lift on his jumper. Limit him physically and he'll have to make adjustments - that's not a good thing for a shooter. And we haven't even talked about Rondo, Perkins, Daniels, Big Baby, or any other freak accidents that can and probably will happen between now and the Spring. Injuries happen to everyone, but you can already see that this team could see more than their fair share this year.
1b. Age and Minutes: Gotta love Doc's ability to draw up a great play out of a timeout and by all accounts he's great with the players. But his rotations are mystifying at times and everyone is rightly worried about the minutes the Old 3 are playing. They have way too many miles behind them to risk playing long minutes in the first half of the season. The last thing we need is for players to be worn down for the playoffs.
2. Top Teams Competition: The Cavs are playing fantastic ball right now and are looking to add pieces at the deadline. The Magic aren't playing that great right now, but there's plenty of time for them to get things together. Plus they play defense and can get hot on offense, so they are going to be a threat in the playoffs regardless. I'd still throw the Hawks in the equation, despite recent struggles, because they have so much athletic talent (matchup nightmares abound).
And I haven't even mentioned the West yet. Of course the defending Champion (hate writing that) Lakers are back and perhaps better than ever. Say what you want about Artest, but he's a very good defender. If the Lakers somehow stumble, you can't write off the Mavs, Spurs, or even the Nugs or Suns either.
3. Second Tier Competition: While the Celtics have every right to consider themselves in the top 2 or 3 of the Eastern Conference, there is no such thing as a first round bye in the NBA. You still have to go through a couple of teams before facing the powers of the conference. Right now the teams lined up for the 6-8 spots might include teams like the Heat, Bobcats, Bucks, and Bulls. Every one of those teams creates matchup problems and should be considered dangerous because of their athleticism. If we catch any one of those teams on a hot streak and we could be bounced out of the playoffs before we know what hit us. (Yes, I'm leaving the Raps off the list, not because I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but because I don't fear them in the least. Which of course means that they'll beat us in the first round)
4. Rebounding and Turnovers: The Celtics are still 3rd to last in the league in rebounds per game. Granted, they don't give up a lot of rebounds either, so the differential is almost even. Still, there are too many nights where we end up losing the board battle and end up losing the game as well. Turnovers are worrying as well. Thankfully the Celtics take away more turnovers than they give away, but unlike rebounding it isn't a matter of somebody getting the lose ball. Pace factors into it a bit, but for the most part you can have a good defensive team taking away the ball and still take care of the ball yourself. The Celtics don't always do that. Some turnovers are to be expected with a team that likes to pass the ball so much, but it can get out of hand at times.
5. Roster Questions: I can't complain about the team's starting 5 (when healthy) and having Sheed, House, Baby, and Daniels (when healthy) is a nice 9 man rotation. With that said, Sheed has been guilty of coasting on many occasions (I can forgive the techs but I want effort). House has always been streaky. Baby is still getting up to speed and Daniels is unavailable.
And beyond those guys it is anyone's guess. Doc loves Scal but he's having a down year and his best years are nothing to get too excited about. Tony Allen is playing really well but nobody can be sure how long that will last. Shelden Williams provides nice rebounding and hustle, but hasn't exactly won Doc over. Walker and Giddens? Forget it. They are "break glass in case of emergency" options only.
Nobody has a perfect bench and some of these problems are (hopefully) short term issues. But I'd feel better if we had another solid rotation guy and I'm not sure we can get what we want in a trade with only our expiring contracts pu pu platter to offer. Having an extra roster spot open to throw at this year's Cassell/Marubry experiment is all well and good, but I'm not sure that will be enough.
Conclusion: I'm sure I'm missing several more things we could be worried about, but this pretty much covers the worries that lurk in the dark corners of my mind. Sure, we've had some feel-good wins lately. I know our record is 25-8. But that doesn't mean we can sit back and coast to the Finals (despite what I said on the ticket giveaway post). Its a long way to June. Anything can happen (for better or worse). Be afraid, be very afraid! (Just kidding, ...sort of.)