You have to like Jason Terry's confidence. He's never had a shortage of that.
By now, you’ve probably seen Terry’s new tattoo on his left biceps of the C’s logo. “There’s the lucky leprechaun,” he told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton during an interview Thursday at Canton’s Reebok Headquarters that will air Sunday night on Sports Final, “and he’s spinning the Larry O’Brien trophy, which we will win this year.”
The tattoo involves a modification of the trophy he had inscribed prior to the Dallas Mavericks' successful 2011 title run, a move that combines his usual brashness with an unmistakable message to Mark Cuban and his former team.
Dallas never showed much interest in bringing Terry back, so the spurned scorer went where he was wanted, which—naturally—just happens to be the same team fated to win it all this season.
Terry must know how to pick 'em.
To his credit, he's right about this much. The Boston Celtics did indeed improve this summer, and Terry's addition wasn't the only reason. A sign-and-trade acquisition of shooting guard Courtney Lee and the return of Jeff Green will significantly improve the rotation's depth.
Rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo could ease some of the pressure Kevin Garnett incurs during the regular season, keeping him fresh for the games that count most.
However, that's where his good sense stops.
The prophetic conclusions about this season are another story.
Forget that the Heat came out on top last season. It's not about the past. It's about the fact that the Heat remain dangerous while the rest of the Eastern Conference has made vast improvements.
Boston's own division includes some of the most improved of those teams, namely the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. No one should pencil in the Nets or 76ers as title favorites just yet, but they're the sort of teams who will make a march through the Eastern Conference much more difficult.
The Celtics may be capable of beating anyone (including the Heat) on any given night, but they could also prove quite vulnerable to some of these emergent clubs.
They could prove even more vulnerable to the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks, potential contenders who were already beginning to hit their strides last season. With a full training camp and some minor improvements, both the Pacers and Knicks have the firepower to beat Boston.
Only time will tell which of these teams become legitimate favorites.
For now, we can only take a stab at which clubs have a chance. Perhaps Terry could learn something from that kind of caution.
After all, Boston still doesn't have a big man who can contain the likes of Roy Hibbert or Andrew Bynum. Kevin Garnett may be asked to once again play significant minutes at the center position, but head coach Doc Rivers won't want him getting saddled with foul trouble against elite seven-footers.
Nor does Boston have an answer for Miami.
It will be better prepared with Lee and Green helping out on the wing. Of course, being "better prepared" doesn't mean the Celtics will be adequately prepared. The fact remains that Miami still features the most dominant one-two punch in the game, a combination that's too quick and too strong for anyone in the league to stop over the course of seven games.
Terry's team will still have a chance, maybe even a pretty good one.
But it will still be just a chance. There are no guarantees in this game, not for Boston and not for Miami.