Boston's Big Three [v2] Era: Big Time Basketball

Whew. Now that we don't have to hold our breath anymore worrying about Rondo injuring himself overseas....

After taking most of the summer off, it is time for me to rejoin the land of NBA basketball and the Celtics in particular.
Let’s start with the reloaded Celtics.

No. Let’s go before even that.

The Celtics recent history reads: NBA Champions, lost in Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, lost in NBA Finals.  
That is pretty heady stuff for a team that fans thought getting an aging Gary Payton was a big deal about 6 years ago. Hey, I was one of those who thought so. How far this team has come.

Welcome to the big time. And, make no doubt, it has been fun. Excellent basketball, unique, strong personalities wandering in (and out), nationally televised games, and deep playoff runs.

From a team you couldn’t bribe a legit star to come to, to a team where Shaq, one of the game’s biggest names ever, signs to play for the minimum. Why? To play with the league’s toughest, orneriest mix of basketball players the league has seen play in a long while. Pit bulls in green jerseys.

Jermaine O’Neal chooses the cold confines of New England to play with this Big Three Plus One instead of joining the newly formed Big Three on the team he left on sunny, glittery South Beach.

If you don’t love rooting for them, you absolutely love hating them. Adding Rasheed gave them an overdose of verbalocity with the refs last season. Shaq and Jermaine will save most of their comments for the opposing team. A defiant, us-against-them attitude has run through this team from its inception. At times, it probably seeks inward targets. Ubuntu has been stretched at the seams along the journey. So was the team’s relationship with its own fans.

For reasons that are only partially understood, this team flipped the bird at the regular season and flipped the switch in the playoffs. They defied basic convention, adding the validity of opting to get healthy before putting it into high gear in the playoffs for a run that came up 5 points short of achieving two NBA titles in 3 years.

Along the way they spanked 2 pretenders contenders and returned from a 2-1 deficit to lead the Lakers 3-2 before coughing up Perkins, the advantage, and the title.

That three year run has and continues to produce major excitement for Celtic fans who are watching a small cadre of top stars entering ‘none too gently’ a time in their careers where there is more road in the rear view mirror than ahead of them. And they are bound by a young star on the rise who exudes that same incredible confidence and mental toughness.

Coming Attractions….

  • An emerging Glen Davis, a unique player with unique talent in a contract year, where expectations will be higher. 
  • The quiet man, Marquis Daniels, hoping to make a louder impact as he seeks redemption for an off year marred by yet another injury. 
  • The might mite, 5’9" Nate Robinson, an explosive scorer whose expectations will be higher as he starts the season with the team and will know the plays and his teammates better. 
  • Von Wafer also seeking NBA redemption as the new three point shooter and more. 
  • Avery Bradley defensive minded, hard driving 1st rounder. Will he be the first 1st rounder to make an impact since Rondo in 2006?
  • Luke Harangody, summer league star looking to prove that wasn’t a fluke 
  • The mystery 15th roster spot probably won’t be the 15th man on the depth chart – but who will that be?

The Celtics’ marketing catch phrase starting last season was ‘Reloaded’. Maybe it should have been Rondo Rising, Garnett Healing and Wallace Waiting. But who knew then?

It will be interesting to see how this season plays out.

Reloaded might be more apropos this season. At least it is Reloaded –Part 2. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that both Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal would be donning Celtic green this season. Okay. So we’re getting some high mileage players. They are definitely not from the ‘Certified’ section of the used player lot with a boatload of guarantees that come with the purchase.

It is a Celtic response to deal with the length of L.A. and the seriousness of the injury to Kendrick Perkins. Rebounding, shot blocking and clogging the middle just got better. How much will they miss Perkin’s pick and roll and team defense?

The basic structure of this team has had so much success that it has caused one imitator in Miami and might create another in New York, if Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul end up having their way.  

It is an all star cast held over for at least one more run. Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are joined by former stars now playing supporting roles in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq. And they will look for strong support from the ensemble cast of Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and Marquis Daniels.

Can a rookie climb into that group?
Who will fill the missing piece of swing defender?
Will Shaq really accept a lesser role?  

This isn’t ‘Gary Payton coming’ to help a middling team. This isn’t a young team working toward future hopes and dreams. This is an all star cast adding two former all stars and some very interesting character actors in support, seeing if it can win as a one of world’s greatest ensembles. Or will a star emerge from them to lead the way?

They are guaranteed to entertain, will deliver dynamic performances and will be among those teams nominated for best of the year. But they are out for only one thing, to win the NBAs’ version of Best Picture of the Year, the NBA Title.

Like always, that will require another strong performance by the starters, but this time it will require some outstanding performances from the bench players to bring it home.

Assuming a healthy year for the team and an improved Kevin Garnett, this picture’s director, Doc Rivers, will still need to coax a strong performance from some of the supporting actors in this show to guarantee another shot at winning the title.

It is possible that they will be the Greatest Show on Earth. What they want to be is the Greatest Team on Earth. There is a difference and we will be there to watch it all unfold. Front row seats all.


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