Over the past several years, the Boston Celtics have not had the greatest luck with injuries. Hopefully, that will change in 2012-13. As deep as the Celtics are, there are some players who have to avoid injury this preseason.
I don't care how talented a ballclub is. If one particular player goes down, the whole team can unravel. Just look at the 2008-09 season when Kevin Garnett hurt his knee in March. The C's went from championship favorites to second-round casualties.
In this article, I am not merely going to state the obvious. Clearly, the Celtics cannot afford to lose Garnett or Rajon Rondo. We all know that. What I am going to do is list some key role players that will severely hurt Boston should they get injured during the preseason.
Do not laugh, because I am entirely serious.
The Celtics brought Jason Collins aboard for one reason and one reason only: to play tough interior defense. With Andrew Bynum now in the division and the likes of Roy Hibbert also on the rise in the Eastern Conference, Collins' presence will be very important for Boston this season.
The thing with Collins is that he has showed a propensity for getting hurt in the past. The biggest amount of games the seven-footer has played in during a single season since 2007 is 43. The C's will not need him on the floor for all 82 games this year, but they will need him healthy when matching up against bigger and more talented centers—not just for his good post defense, but to also give Garnett a break, as well.
Chris Wilcox enters the season having just recovered from heart surgery, and that is no small concern. Wilcox is blessed enough to be healthy as a human being right now, so is it asking too much of him to come back and play a major role on a title contender?
The Celtics made it a priority to add some size during the offseason, first drafting Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo and then signing Collins and Darko Milicic. Regardless of all of those acquisitions, Wilcox is the first line of defense behind Garnett. When Doc Rivers sits down K.G. when the first quarter reaches the six-minute mark, Wilcox will be the guy who steps in.
That may now vary depending on Boston's opponent. If the C's are playing against Dwight Howard or Bynum, you might see Collins or Milicic get the call. Ordinarily, though, Wilcox will be the primary backup, and it's vital that he be ready for that role.
Should Wilcox be unprepared, the Celtics will suddenly become awfully reliant on Sullinger and Milicic to provide them with some offense. Sullinger certainly has the potential to do so, but the fact remains, he's a rookie. Milicic has never been able to do that consistently.
Don't underestimate Wilcox's importance to this ballclub.
After coming over from the Orlando Magic in the Glen Davis trade before last season began, Brandon Bass established himself as one of the key members of the Celtics. He possesses one of the deadliest mid-range jumpers in the game, and his defense improved drastically while playing alongside Garnett.
The fact that Boston does not have any proven scorers in the frontcourt outside of K.G. makes Bass critical for the C's. Should Garnett ever be having an off day with his jump shot in the pick-and-roll game with Rondo, Bass can step up and soften the blow. He did it last season, and if he stays healthy, he'll do it this year as well.
As I stated earlier, Sullinger has a ton of potential and could develop into a very reliable frontcourt scorer, but at the moment, he is an unproven rookie. Bass, on the other hand, has demonstrated that he can do this on the NBA level, so losing him would put a boatload of pressure on Sully.
Like Wilcox, Jeff Green recently underwent heart surgery and was forced to sit out the entire 2012 campaign. Now, Green has a new contract—a four-year, $36 million deal—and is ready to retake the floor.
Of course, all eyes will be on Green in the preseason. How he will handle the grind of playing actual games against NBA talent remains to be seen. Not only is he coming off a major surgical procedure, but he also hasn't played a game in a year-and-a-half. It will be difficult for the 26-year-old to get himself reacquainted, to say the least.
Green's importance to the team is really paramount. Outside of Kris Joseph (who has not even been guaranteed a roster spot yet), he is the only true small forward on the Celtics behind Paul Pierce. Should Pierce ever have to miss some time, he will be the guy Doc calls on.
Not just that, but Green's versatility is also crucial to Boston. He can play either forward position and can essentially do anything out on the floor. He doesn't do anything great, but he does everything efficiently, and that's all you can ask for from a bench player.
Green could end up being the key to a potential title run this year, and he obviously has to stay healthy for the Celtics to accomplish that.
With Avery Bradley likely to miss a solid chunk of time (via ESPN) while recovering from surgery on each of his shoulders, it is absolutely imperative that Courtney Lee remain healthy for the Celtics.
When Bradley is there, Boston has the deepest guard rotation in the league. Not many teams can match up with the likes of Avery, Lee, Jason Terry and of course, Rondo in the backcourt. However, with Bradley out for a little while and Keyon Dooling's sudden retirement, the Celtics' depth suddenly disappears.
That is why Lee has to stay on the floor. Fortunately, he has been a pretty durable player over the course of his four-year career, so there really shouldn't be anything to worry about here. With that said, even the hardiest of players can turn an ankle.
Hopefully, Lee stays healthy throughout the preseason. He is the Celtics' starting shooting guard up until Bradley returns (at the very least), and any kind of injury to him would be devastating.