With the Celtics being the story of the NBA this season, Jay Satur, a writer from CBC (the Raptors version of The Globe) and I did a little Q&A a few days ago.
They published the first half (his questions to me) which can also be found below and after the jump.
Satur: Watching the Celtics big three, I've been amazed at how unselfishly they play and how they know where the "better shot" is going to be. That was on display with Pierce working beautifully with Garnett on the low block in overtime against Toronto back on Nov. 4. Were you surprised to see the three stars come together so quickly?
Green17: Actually, no. All three guys came in with a great attitude of sacrificing personal achievement for team goals. KG, Pierce and Allen have all had their respective times to shine individually and that has left them with little meaningful post-season achievement. They've bought in that this is their shot to win it all, and it shows nightly. Most importantly, they all have very high basketball IQs which has been paramount for this team to come together.
The pre-season trip to Rome and London was also a great bonding experience for the team as a whole. It gave them a chance to really get to know one and other off the court as well as on the court. And that trip came after the entire team had already been practicing together for a month.
Green17: Hmmm ... some I suppose. From all accounts, Doc is a great guy. KG has already said that he would die for Doc. Obviously some exaggeration there, but the players like him. So far this year, Doc has been pretty solid, but really 95% of the credit for the great start goes to KG, Pierce and Allen and also the veteran influences of Eddie House and James Posey.
Doc (and Danny Ainge) do deserve credit for hiring Tom Thibodeau, who has been a tremendous addition to the staff and installed a great defensive system/mindset which this team has lacked for years.
Satur: Any doubts about depth have to be shelved so far with Boston as a rotation including House/Davis/Posey/ T. Allen is looking solid. But after a quarter of a season, do you see Boston needing to upgrade anywhere? Do you see Danny Ainge trying to address that?
Green17: Actually, I think Danny will be able to relax at the trading deadline this year. The biggest areas of weakness are point guard depth and center. The Celtics don't have the luxury of bringing a guy like Calderon off the bench to run the point, and have compensated for that in a few different ways. Doc has mixed Pierce into the second unit frequently and its been pretty effective. Other than one season each of Kenny Anderson and the ghost of Gary Payton, Paul has never really played with a point guard, so he's very experienced at getting off his own shot. Additionally, because Garnett, Pierce, Allen and Perkins are all such great passers (yes, Perkins, he may be the best passing center in the league) Eddie House can also play with the rest of the starters without grinding the offense to a halt. Many people have bemoaned the lack of PG depth, and its true that there isn't a true point on the bench, but the Celtics have successfully adapted other strategies to overcome this. I think this is an over-rated issue. Could a veteran PG (like a freshly bought out Cassell) help? Sure, but it's not a necessity.
And like virtually every team in the league, the Celtics could use another 7-foot guy who can get a few boards, defend the rim and maybe get a cheap tip in or two. Pollard has been fine when on the court, but I worry about him going down with an injury at some point this year, which is why I suspect Doc has been reluctant to play him much.
Satur: Rajon Rondo seemed to struggle against Toronto's tandem of T.J. Ford/Jose Calderon in their first matchup on Nov. 4. He's shown signs of improvement lately, but is he capable of being the starting point guard on a championship-calibre team for Boston?
Green17: Yes. Going into the season the biggest criticism of Rondo was his jump shot. Well so far this season it has been fantastic. Rondo will never be a long-range guy like House or Ray Allen, but he has really improved his mid-range jumper to the point that opposing defenses have been consistently burned by leaving him open (see first quarter of the most recent Knicks game). Punch up his stats and take a look.
Also, as I alluded to above, the offense isn't totally dependent on Rondo. His main priorities for this team are (i) play good defense, (ii) bring the ball up and initiate the offense, (iii) don't turn it over and (iv) knock down the open jumper. Doc isn't asking Rondo to play a Nash type role, nor is he asked to score consistently. From my perspective Rondo has struggled most at his on the ball defense, which is surprising given his quickness. However, this is something that should improve with experience. He also needs to learn better post defense, as bigger points like Jason Kidd for example will seek to back him down on the block consistently.
The other common criticism CelticsBlog readers have of Rajon is that he's been too unselfish at times. He can beat anyone in the league off the dribble, but at times rather than going all the way to the hoop to finish a seemingly makable layup, he will pass up the shot, dishing to an open teammate taking a longer jumper.
Satur: How have readers at CelticsBlog responded to the team's start but also the 'win now' direction that Ainge has taken?
Green 17: It's actually been a little weird. At the start of the season our forums were quieter than usual. People who had been used to complaining about this thing or that suddenly had nothing to complain about. It's been an adjustment.
For so long the blog has been focused on personnel moves and player development. Up until last year, Danny Ainge had really been the star. Well now the on-court product is the focus. Personally, I'm thrilled with it, the constant debates about the same topics of when will Al Jefferson breakout and will Gerald Green ever "get it" became tiring.
Satur: How long do you think the window is open for this current core?
Green17: Realistically three years, maybe four. The biggest concern is Ray Allen, but I don't know why. He worries me long-term. Eventually KG will also slow down, but I think he'll be able to maintain an all-star performance level (versus MVP level) throughout the rest of his career. Pierce's game has never been over reliant on superior athleticism, like say Vince Carter. He can maintain an effective performance level for quite some time given his ability to get great position and use his size and angles to his advantage.
Satur: Toronto fans experienced a pretty stunning reversal of fortune after flipping most of its roster and improving by 20 wins on 2006, but the Celtics are obliterating that at 15-2 right now versus 5-12 at this point last season. As someone who's closely observed this team through good times and bad, just what has a turnaround like this been to watch?
Green17: To describe this season in one word: elation. Every game is a truly a joy to watch. Realistically this team could still be undefeated - Pierce had a chance to win both games with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out each time.
We have a big group of regulars in our chat room at Celticsblog and frequently this season everyone in the chat room has broken out in giddy laughter - watching the team you love dominate like the Celtics have is a tremendously happy experience. It's great to have Celtics Pride back. I look forward to the playoffs when Boston home crowds remind the rest of the NBA fans exactly how its done. If you saw the opening game of the season, you probably know what I mean - the crowd was electric.