Celtics ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Adam Sweeney
LeBron James and the rest of the Eastern Conference, this is your wake-up call. The Boston Celtics haven’t gone anywhere.
The Big Green came seven minutes from winning another NBA title last season, and were that close to Shaquille O’Neal dropping an infamous “Kobe, How’s my ass taste?” remix. Unfortunately for the Celtics, but fortunately for our ears, age, injuries and a huge rebounding deficiency caught up to them and the Los Angeles Lakers were able to outlast the 2008 NBA champs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Since then, a large segment of NBA fans seem to have forgotten about the Celtics amidst the moves that the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls have made. How anybody can forget about one of the most storied franchises in the Association, I don’t know. Yet here we are.
The film “Red” came out this past week and centers around a group of aging black-ops specialists, led by “Die Hard” alum Bruce Willis, who team up for one last big job. You may as well have cast Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Shaquille O’Neal in the film. Some might say Pierce has been robbed of multiple Academy Awards to begin with in his career. The dude draws contact like Jennifer Lopez does walking through a turnstile. It’s unavoidable.
The Big Three 2.0, passed the torch to point guard Rajon Rondo in the playoffs last season and expectations couldn’t be higher for him right now. The trio may want to share the handling of that torch now, as KG showed significant signs of improvement in the playoffs last season, Pierce went off against every team he faced aside from the Lakers (Thanks to Ron Artest.), and Allen is defying the belief that shooting guards over the age of thirty can’t keep their legs.
That’s not to say things will all go smoothly for Boston. They brought in the bombastic O’Neals, Shaquille and Jermaine, to grab boards in the wake of center Kendrick Perkins’ absence. They add size for Boston but can the team keep its focus with so much attitude? The Celtics have more personalities than the late Wesley Willis. I’ve heard a player say team chemistry is overrated. Yeah, tell that to the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers or the Houston Rockets title teams of the 1990′s. Chemistry matters. Thankfully, they have Doc Rivers to counsel them. Rivers doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the work he has done in the last three seasons, getting some of the most dynamic personalities in the NBA to form a unified front.
On the Rebound
The Celtics were strong in many areas last season. Rebounding was not one of them. Like a clingy ex, they just couldn’t bounce back and got left behind, ranking 29th in the Association in 2009. You’re not winning a title in 2010 that way either and Boston is extremely aware of that. They expect the threesome of Perkins, who will return mid-season, and Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal to pay off big. Whether they can protect the glass remains to be seen. Shaq didn’t exactly go into beast mode last year in Cleveland, averaging only 6 rebounds a game. Maybe Luke Harangody can turn this statistical anomaly around. At the very least, he replaces Brian Scalabrine as the requisite awkward white guy on the team. That is all you can ask for from a Notre Dame Fighting Irish player in Boston.
Right now, Boston is the anti-Miami Heat. Their three superstars are aging but they are surrounded by a sick amount of depth. The Celtics didn’t bring in Bobby Brown, thank God, but they did nab a decent set of players, also admittedly with question marks, this past summer. Aside from the O’Neals, Danny Ainge added Delonte West to the mix, as if LeBron needed another reason to hate the Celtics. Avery Bradley didn’t live up to the hype bestowed on him as a freshman at Texas, but he could be a steal for the Celtics as a rookie. Von Wafer could provide a spark and Marquis Daniels may step up. If he doesn’t, at least the team has his shiny necklace to look at. Then there’s Glen Davis and Nate Robinson, the beloved Shrek and Donkey, who you know are going to win some games off the bench with their energy.
Get your jokes in about the Celtics while you can. Sure, the Big Three and Shaq Daddy may alternate using the wheelchair Paul Pierce used in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. They probably will take some games off in the regular season, as head coach Doc Rivers did last year to keep the team healthy for the playoff run. And Rondo’s jumper, though improving, is still broken like the NBA single-game scoring record Michael Jordan would be if he had played in his prime today. That said, this is a team that finished 2nd in team assists and 5th in points allowed last season, and they have seemingly improved as a team overall. No squad in the NBA overcomes their deficiencies like the Boston Celtics and they are serious title contenders in the 2010-2011 season. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so if The Miami Heat cool off, the Orlando Magic disappear and Irish eyes are smiling after another magnificent seventh game between the Lakers and Celtics.
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.