The 2012 season proved to be a difficult one for Celtics fans across the board. After taking a 3-2 lead against the Miami Heat heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston collapsed and saw their championship dreams vanish into thin air.
The offseason however proved to be memorable, as the Celtics put together one of the best benches in the league, by re-signing Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox and picking up Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.
Sure, Miami, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles (the Lakers) all look better on paper at this juncture, but zero games have been played. We don't know how well Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant, as both need the ball in their hands to be successful.
We also don't know the severity of Dwight Howard's back injury and when he will be back in playing shape. In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant still have failed to find a way to co-exist and similar problems from previous years could hamper the Thunder's progress. Throw in the fact that the Celtics lost to the Heat after seven tight games, and you can make the argument that Boston can still hang with the best.
The question is not whether Boston will remain a title contender this year, but rather how long can they sustain their winning ways.
As much as Celtics fans want to hear answers like "they will always be in contention," even the most positive would not agree.
This offseason was a big one for Boston, not only because they needed to put together the majority of their roster, but also because it was a turning point in Danny Ainge's career as general manager.
Ainge was basically given a choice to either completely rebuild around Rajon Rondo or keep the band together for future seasons in the hopes that their championship window remains open.
As we all know, Ainge chose the latter, because he saw championship potential in a squad that was one win away from being in the Finals.
While the move does make sense for fans, choosing to not re-build could backfire for the Celtics by keeping the Celtics out of playoff contention once the older current core retires.
In three years, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce could and probably will not be members of the Celtics. It will be a daunting task to replace these four players.
Without Garnett and Pierce, Boston is a fringe playoff team without a doubt. What both bring to the table, in terms of leadership and playing level, is irreplaceable.
The way the NBA is structured requires for a team to have a big-time scorer, who can take big shots in big moments. Without Pierce and as "The Truth" declines, Boston will lose this element, especially if Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley do not improve offensively.
In addition, you need to have a defensive leader who can anchor the team and preach intensity on every single player. KG personifies this description and as he ages, his talents will also be missed.
Bass and Terry are the savvy role players that any good championship team needs to make the step from "very good" to "elite."
At the end of the day, it looks like the Celtics' championship window is closing very fast. In three years, Boston might be left with an almost-30-year-old Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. Sure, that could be a solid group, but championship contender? Probably not.
Boston needs to win now without a doubt. Otherwise, we will look back on Ainge's signings in a negative light.
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