A couple of days ago I did a minor article about where I believed the season was going to end for the current NBA Champions, the Boston Celtics.
In writing the article, I made two major mistakes: 1) I assumed the 76ers were going remain in possession of the East’s seventh seed and were headed for a series against Boston, and 2) I assumed that Kevin Garnett was going to return as early as the first round.
The latter of those two sins is, in my opinion, the more forgivable.
Reports concerning Garnett’s return were optimistic as recently as a week ago…besides, this is Kevin Garnett we’re talking about.
Before this year, Garnett had only failed once to play in 70 or more of his team’s regular season games.
All throughout his seasoned 13-year career, he’s played the game with the wisdom of a vet and the athleticism of a rookie and, until now, we haven’t really seen much sign of him slowing down. But now, the general consensus appears to be that Garnett will not return until as late as the NBA Finals, if at all.
Without Garnett, the Celtics’ ferocity exists only on paper. Their center, Kendrick Perkins has been solid for them, but in a potential matchup with Cleveland, he simply wouldn’t be enough to take advantage of their secretly weak interior. For all of Mikki Moore’s height, he just hasn’t provided them with the inside force coming off the bench that the Celtics had hoped he would.
Their near-perfect team symmetry has been greatly damaged and though both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have done their parts in keeping the team above water, they won’t be able to hold off the sinking forever.
In the simplest of terms, without KG, the Celtics’ “Banner 18” has become mission impossible.
Garnett really does account for that much. Even if you ignore the consistently all-star caliber numbers he brings to the table, he brings so many other intangibles to the Celtics. It is impossible to ever fully determine the worth of his intimidating presence. It’s equally impossible to place a number value on the consistency he’s shown in getting his team’s entire roster riled up time and again.
In last year’s playoffs, his passion for the game inspired his teammates and electrified the entire city of Boston and that is a large reason why the Celtics were able to boast a superb 14-1 home record on the way to last year’s championship.
Kevin Garnett IS the Boston Celtics (or he is, at the very least, their barometer).
Don’t let the Celtics’ 18-7 record without him fool you. They can make up for his scoring. They can even make up a little bit of his rebounding, but without him they are reminiscent of the undermanned Lakers team that lost last year’s Finals.
They can still put up similar stats, they can still win games, they may still win a playoff series or two, but their interior presence will be vulnerable for teams like the Magic and this year’s Lakers to exploit at will.
You should still look for the Celtics to advance past the young and inexperienced Bulls, maybe even sweep them, but afterwards, summer will probably come much earlier than expected for the current champions.
It's official: you may now count out the Boston Celtics.