After surfing the virtual media cyber-super highway, it's been clear that there is a great deal of trepidation regarding how the aging Celtics core is going to survive. This is a grueling gauntlet of a season. There is almost a game ever-other day, with 20 back to back games scheduled. While this is a situation that every team will face, conventional wisdom has led many to believe that the older core of this team will be particularly vulnerable.
But, there is another way to look at this team relative to the task at hand. Much has been made of Doc's statements regarding "adding power forwards" and "playing an 11 man rotation". Celtics fans have been in constant deliberation over how the Center position will shake out as well as the greater rotation in general. When Doc made his statement regarding KG playing center, it was still commonly assumed that David West was going to be coming on board. After that fell through, general opinions of this team, its rotation, and overall chances have varied widely.
So after gathering all of this information, chewing on it for a while, and swallowing the reality that this team is likely a finished product, (don't count out a zero-hour veteran minimum acquisition of some note) I've come to the conclusion that Boston may be the BEST prepared to handle this schedule. Many things have to work out of course; health will still be paramount to any level of success. But, it can be obtained, and here's how.
Ruminate on the concept of truly using an 11 man rotation, as Doc mentioned. The team has added personnel that all drastically improve the overall athleticism of the group. It seems that Rajon Rondo is not only going to be given the proverbial keys to the car, but in striving to get in that "MVP" discussion, he has been given a wealth of shooters/finishers work that mission.
Imagine a scenario where the "old guard" of JO/KG/PP/Ray simply don't play much, if at all, during the majority of these incredible back-to-back sets. In these games, Rondo is allowed to do his best impersonation of Derrick Rose while Wilcox/Bass/Johnson/Green run the court with him. The residual guard core of Daniels/Dooling/Bradley/Moore all bring defensive prowess, which can translate into turnovers from aggressively playing the passing lanes and harassing fatigued ball-handlers.
Remember, the rest of the league is faced with playing these grueling schedules and history has shown that the older teams have actually fared better during the last labor-shortened season. Many of the contenders that Boston is challenging are not extremely deep, even if they are younger. New York and Miami are exceptionally top-heavy in talent. While their young legs may help in some instances, playing near 40 mpg will wear anybody down. Chicago is a bit deeper in personnel, but also more reliant on the singular talents of a lone superstar than the others, their bench being, at best, only arguably superior to Boston's.
If you accept this as reality, then there are really two ways this plays out. Either these top-heavy contenders play inferior back-up talent for longer stretches to rest their stars, thus losing playoff seeding, or they over-play their stars and risk burnout come playoff time. Boston's superior depth and ability to add experienced, yet athletic talent, is a huge plus for negotiating the regular season grind.
It also should provide Boston with a rare opportunity to develop some of their less experienced players as well. This type of strategy has greatly benefited Greg Popovich over the past few years, as his younger players have learned via trial-by-fire to become valuable contributors. This is where Johnson, Bradley, and Moore have a chance to seize a small opportunity and grow it into a larger impact down the road.
If Boston can duplicate this type of success, they could be even better prepared for the playoffs than the individual talent on the roster belays to the casual eye at this point in time. Clearly, this could also never come to pass, but it's possible based on the superior depth of personnel that Boston has collected relative to their top competition, especially in the Eastern Conference.
Running against tired legs or porous talent plays into the hands of an up-tempo approach combined with tenacious defensive pressure from the back court and athletic frontcourt personnel running in transition. The ability to play these personnel groupings allows for a greater chance at developing chemistry and overall impact. All of this adds up to less stress and pressure on the aging veterans which equates to a healthier, fresher result from the best players on the team.
In all of this - Rajon Rondo becomes the key to this puzzle. After all the trade drama, Rondo is in the perfect position to play with all the authority and responsibility he has so greatly craved. This is his chance to synergize all these disparate parts, improve his image, and raise his game into the stratosphere of the players he views himself as equal to.
Stranger things have happened, and this promises to be a strange season...stay tuned...