It used to be only a few loyalists could stomach the mantra of "wait till next year," but not anymore.
The last two years have proven that gang green is back—if only as long as the new Big Three grace the parquet floor. The major concerns now are health issues, home court, and whether or not Marbury will find his groove.
As the dog days of the NBA see the championship dreams of many teams go down or implode, the Boston Celtics continue on. They have already clinched a playoff berth, and it is a mere formality that they will win the Atlantic Division crown.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, have been winning the game of one-upmanship for home court. Last night they rode the broad back of the ultimate utility man, LeBron James, to victory over the Clippers. Advantage—but not yet game point. Bron Bron has even said that he would increase his playing time to up the chance of them securing home court.
Is this a wise move? Evidently he thinks so—but will he have the energy to bring home the hardware in June? The Cavs came into Boston last week and left their moxy on the chopping block.
Big Baby, Leon 'The Show' Powe and Perkins without Garnett had a 17-22 shooting night. By the time Cleveland tried to flex their muscle, the Celts had already smacked them back down psychologically and physically.
Both the Cavs and the Celts believe home court would make it easier to win the championship. There is a distinction, though—the Cavs believe it is imperative, à la LeBron's compulsion to go full throttle. The Celts, on the other hand, believe it will help, but their experience from last year gives them the edge. The difference is that they believe they can win anywhere.
The key for both to win hinges on the bench's performance, and both do exceptionally well at home. Here is a breakdown of the key reserves and their stats:
Anderson Varejao a.k.a Sideshow Bob vs. Glen 'Big Baby' Davis
Points: Varajao 8.3, Davis 5.4
Rebounds: Varajao 6.9, Davis 3.4
Varajao has more length and is a quicker jumper and pretty good rebounder. Davis has the scoring touch, is a better passer, has a higher basketball IQ, more girth, and has a championship ring.
Though they both have made it to the NBA Finals, Davis has won and Varajao has not. Davis has not reached his learning curve yet and Varajao is what he is—a decent rebounder. His years in the league gives him the lead here.
Powe vs. Joe Smith
Rebounds: Smith 4.5, Powe 4.6
Points: Smith 7.3, Powe 7.7
Smith is not a rugged interior defender, but can play adequate defense and has a reliable mid-range jumper. Powe would rather play rock-em sock-em robot in the paint.
Upside wins out here—Powe has a little more wiggle room for growth, whereas Smith is and always will be an ordinary joe. More years in the league equals more experience.
Booby Gibson vs. the New Microwave a.k.a Eddie House
Assists: Booby 1.7, House 1.1
Points: Booby 7.8, House 8.8
House is instant offense coming off the bench. Defenses cannot afford to sag off of him because they never know when he is going to heat up.
Gibson, on the other hand, has to be a facilitator as well as a scorer. Both are shooting guards masquerading as point guards.
They both have the toughness but House has an assassin's heart.
J.J. Hickson vs. Mikki Moore
Rebounds: Hickson 2.8, Moore 3.2
Points: Hickson 4.2, Moore: 3.5
Hickson is a great energy guy and has better offensive moves then Varajao. Mikki is another energy guy—and just like Garnett, he can knock down the open 15-footer.
Hickson has the edge in upside but because he is a rookie Moore gets the edge here.
Of course, home court dramatically boosts the effectiveness of each team's second unit. However, I would still give the Celtics' second unit the edge if it comes down to having to win a pivotal game on the road. They have been through the Finals and have experienced tougher losses and tougher wins on the road during the playoffs.
The Cavs are enjoying being frontrunners for now—and want to keep it that way. The Celts, on the other hand, keep chugging along, not giving them any breathing room.