Every year is a bit of a roller coaster ride, but the past year was a bit of an exaggerated thrill-ride. Terrible 2nd half of the season (down), run to the Finals (up), losing and worrying about the end of an era (down), bringing the band back together with Shaq and Delonte added in leading to a fast start to the new season (up). So what does the year ahead have in store? I don't have a crystal ball, but I do love looking ahead and making some guesses, predictions, and a few SWAGs.
Can't Wait Till The All Star Break
Don't get me wrong. All the games count and you can't just ignore the month of January. In fact, this month includes some nice "test games" against the Spurs, Magic, and Lakers. Also, you can't argue with the results thus far. However, I keep getting the feeling that the best is yet to come. Mind you, this isn't one of those "wait till we're 100% healthy" whines. Cause that ain't happening. This team had to get deeper this offseason because they are going to have injuries. Still, KG is the lifeblood of our team and getting Delonte and Perkins back would be (...hmmm, what's a non-cliche word for "huge?") ginormously impactful.
I feel like everyone on this team is flexible and versatile but most are at their best when they play the role they were put on this earth to do. Pierce should score, not play point forward. Nate should play off the ball. Marquis should fill in the gaps, not bring up the ball. Ray should run circles around defenders, not worry about picking up the small forward slack when Paul is not in the game. Seeing how well this team has performed in less-than-ideal circumstances is what makes them truly scary to opponents when the key injured players return. Which leads me to...
Bring on the Post Season
The Heat created a superteam. The Magic added offensive firepower. The Bulls aren't going away. Atlanta is still out there. The Knicks even got respectable. Call me a homer if you like, but seriously, ...bring it on.
I'm not afraid of LeBron James because of the multiple times we kicked him out of the postseason. I'm really not afraid of Chris Bosh if a healthy Kevin Garnett is walking the earth. That team is going to win a lot of games and they won't go quietly but I maintain that a relatively healthy Boston team beats them in a 7 game series.
The Magic are also going to win some games but ultimately they are going to struggle in the post season if they can't make defenders out of the 3 new guys. And it is hard not to like our chances against any of the other teams in the East.
As for the Finals? Well, it is always nice to see the Lakers struggling and it is interesting to see the other old team that still knows how to win (the Spurs) doing so well. But I'll still be surprised to see anyone but the Lakers in the Finals. In which case, you know, once again... bring it on. (Hopefully I don't sound too much like a cheerleader movie at this point)
Hopefully all works out according to plan because...
Uncertain Future Due to Lockout, Short Term Contracts, and Closing Windows
I will once again risk sounding like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, but this could very well be it for this group. Sure, the core group is signed for the year after this one, but will there be a season next year? Even if there is, will Ainge be able to resist the urge to trade a few of the guys on expiring contracts for future help for Rondo? And we haven't even gone into how the CBA could change the landscape across the NBA.
And even if we get a CBA worked out and we're ready for a new year of contending, Ainge will still have to keep an eye on the future when deciding if he should re-sign Perkins and Glen Davis. Those guys are great pieces for a Championship contender, but are they what you want to build around with Rondo? Maybe, or maybe you'd be better off keeping that cap space open for 2012 when the C's could be in the mix for just about any free agent.
Now it occurs to me that I've made a lot of observations, but not many actual predictions. So here goes:
- We'll tread water a bit till the All Star break
- We'll get reasonably healthy, and really get the groove going headed into the playoffs
- Banner 18 - enough said
- There'll be a lockout
- They'll wait until the last minute before agreeing on a new CBA and we'll only see them play half a season
- Danny will trade a couple of expiring contracts as GM's panic under the new CBA and we reload for later.
- and then... well, then we're getting into 2012 and beyond (where Shaq goes into show business, Ray Allen eventually goes into politics, and we all live happily ever after)