Though most of us are fixated on our beloved Pats (and rightfully so), I thought I might at least give the heads-up that the NBA season kicks off tonight with our Celts opening up against the hated (yes, the teams truly HATE each other!) Heat
in Miami. (5:00 Pacific.)
Some may recall that a hobbled and depleted Celts squad came within 10 minutes of beating the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In the end, the boys just flat ran out of gas, but not for lack of trying. Rajon Rondo was incredible, recording a triple double in the loss, and near singlehandedly led a 4th quarter comeback. It took a triple-double from LeBron James
in Games 6 and 7 to knock off the Celts and go on to win the 2012 title over OKC. Unfortunately, both Paul Pierce
(knee) and Ray Allen
(ankles) were hobbled, and the Celts were without emerging star second-year guard and defensive guru Avery Bradley
. The Celts had also lost reserve forward/center Chris Wilcox
at the end of the season, and 6th-man forward Jeff Green
at the beginning of the year due to heart issues. Rookie big man Greg Stiemsma
played admirably all year--all while hobbled by an injured foot. (Sadly, Stiemsma was lost to Minnesota in free-agency, and the Boston faithful wish him well. He's a real gamer!) All the while, Kevin Garnett
, now entering his 18th season, moved to the center position at season's end where he was reborn and anchored the best team defense in the NBA, leading the Celts through the Eastern Conference where they ultimately fell to the Heat.
However, this year, things are VERY different. Folks are already saying this year's squad is as deep as the 2007-08 title team. I like them a lot, though I don't know that they are as good as that team, who had KG, Allen, and The Cap 5-years younger. However, this is unquestionably the best bench ever assembled in the New Big 3 era.
On that note, with the departure of Ray Allen to the rival Heat--a not unexpected and even defensible move for those paid attention to how Ray got the short end of the stick the past few years--the Celts now have a new New Big 3, this time led by Rajon Rondo. For the past 2 or 3 seasons, it had actually been more like the New Big 3, Featuring Rajon Rondo, or even The Big 4. I was prepared to call them the New New Big 3, or the New Big 3, V2.0, but I think it's time to put the Big 3 label away for good. This is Rajon Rondo's
team, end of discussion. He has committed to stepping up as the unquestioned leader of the team on and off the court. (Of course it helps to have KG and The Cap watching his back.) Doc Rivers
has handed Rondo the car keys, and he will drive the Celts revamped offense. I expect him to score more, while still averaging in the 10-12 assists per game range. 15 and 12 are not outside the realm of possibility, and if he plays well enough, he could be an MVP candidate. Pierce is coming back as healthy and efficient as ever, and KG seems poised to continue his steller late-career play.
Now, as to that bench. First, Avery Bradley will be out for a few more months recovering from double shoulder surgery. Consequently, the Celtics
got creative and performed a sign-and-trade with Houston to pick up shooting guard Courtney Lee
. Lee is a young, athletic 2-guard. He has experience, having been to the Finals with the Magic
as a rookie in 2009. He is an above-average 3 point shooter, a good transition player, and a good defender. He will make a strong backcourt-mate for Rondo. The Celtics also signed via free agency veteran 6th man Jason Terry
of the Dallas Mavericks
. Terry is still very productive and offers instant offense off the bench. He will fill some of the floor-stretching void left by Ray Allen, and actually will be a better fit in the Celts offense as he does not need to run off screens to get an open shot, which he can get off the dribble. This should further open up the floor for Rondo to his thing. Once Avery Bradley returns, the Celts backcourt will be fully-stocked and loaded.
As to the frontcourt, workhorse power forward Brandon Bass
will remain a starter. The Celts also signed Jeff Green, who sat out last season with the aforementioned heart ailment. Green is still young--26 with 4 years experience--and will be a great combo 3-4 off the bench to spell Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. He has looked great in the preseason. Chris Wilcox is also back from his heart issue, and he will provide hustle, rebounding, and a great transition partner for Rondo. The center spot is still the place where the Celtics lack quality depth, but Darko Milicic
should be serviceable, providing good defense and rebounding--basically what one would ask of a backup center. Jason Collins
will see very little action, but he is an elite defender at the center position and will be a great asset against the better offensive centers in the league (Brook Lopez
, Andrew Bynum
, Dwight Howard
But size up front is not really what the Celts need. Make no mistake: This team was built to beat the Heat. Miami lacks any real quality big men (apart from Chris Bosh
) and the biggest concern is (1) frustrating LeBron James (we can't stop or contain him), (2) forcing LeBron James to take jumpers (yeah, he's so important he gets to topics), (3) defending Wade one-on-one (which we can do with Bradley), and (4) keeping the open outside looks by Ray Allen, Shane Battier
, Eddie House
, Mike Miller
, and Rashard Lewis
to a minimum.
One thing I expect is that the Celtics offensive woes from past seasons (bad, grinding, slow, inefficient and halfcourt-oriented, will be a small or nonexistent problem this year. Additionally, I expect the Celts to be right there with the Heat again in the playoffs, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see another classic 7-game Eastern Conference Finals. In the Finals, obviously the Lakers
(or longshot Spurs
) pose their own problems, but for the Celts this season, it's all about beating the Heat.
Let's go green!
Like · ·Follow PostUnfollow Post · Yesterday at 11:57am near SeattleChris Porter likes this..Ryan Jager I forgot to mention the underrated signing of former sixth-man of the year and instant offense generator Leandro Barbosa
. If need be, he will add another weapon to the Celts offense.
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