With Saturday’s win over the Washington Generals…err…the Charlotte Bobcats, the Celtics have had the greatest turnaround in NBA history.
This really is something for my generation of Celtics fans.
I was too young to really appreciate Larry Bird and the original big three. For the most part, the Celtics have been a laughingstock my entire sports life.
While teams like Detroit and Chicago went through good-bad-good cycles, the Celtics remained consistently bad, save for a few REALLY down seasons in the eastern conference.
It’s amazing how all of the Boston Sports teams that don’t play on ice have followed the same path:
1) Horrible ownership leads to years of inept front office decisions and horrible teams.
2) Ownership finally decides to sell the team.
3) New ownership takes over and completely turns things around.
In the Patriots and Red Sox cases, the ownership change eventually led to multiple championships.
While the new Celtics’ ownership haven’t brought in a title yet, they’ve certainly made huge strides. They’ve been willing to pay the luxury tax to improve the team and brought in good front office people to run the team, which is really all you can ask of an ownership group.
The Bruins are the only Boston sports team that have resisted this winning formula of new ownership, and the results are…actually, I’m not sure what the results have been because like most Boston sports fans, I don’t care about the Bruins anymore.
(Translation: it’s not going well)
Back to the Celtics. When they made the move to get Kevin Garnett we all knew they were better. But they had some serious question marks—question marks that led most to pick them to finish somewhere behind the Pistons and Cavs in the Eastern Conference. Some even had them losing to the Nets in the Atlantic. Those people were insane, but they did exist.
As the season moved along, all of the question marks were slowly answered...
The Point Guard Question
Remember when the point guard position was supposed to be the Celtics’ Achilles heel?
Remember that first match up with the Pistons when Chauncey Billups spent an entire half posting up Rondo and making him look silly?
Remember how we all held our breath hoping Sam Cassell would be bought out to become our playoff point guard?
A lot has happened since then.
San Cassell was bought out and signed by the Celtics, but he might not even play in the postseason. Rajon Rondo has made himself the third most indispensable guy on the team, behind Garnett and Pierce.
Over the last few weeks, he’s outplayed Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Chris Paul (twice). That’s one heck of a gauntlet for a second year point guard.
Rondo has been absolutely fantastic. If his development continues, by next season we’ll be calling them the Big Four.
The Depth Question
Remember when people were questioning the Celtics’ depth (actually, some probably still question their depth)?
Leon Powe, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House, Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, and James Posey make up one of the deepest benches in the Eastern Conference. Maybe in the NBA.
Don’t believe me? Numbers don’t lie. Look what they did to Charlotte. I understand, the Bobcats are barely an NBA team, but outside of the Pistons, Celtics, and Spurs, is there another team that could bench their three best players and still win by 23?
Point is, the Celtics’ bench is a strength, not a weakness as long as Doc uses it sparingly in the playoffs (please, someone, remove the words “second unit” from his vocabulary when the playoffs start.)
No Bigs Outside of KG
Kendrick Perkins has been pretty good, especially in the second half of the season.
Granted, Perkins’ job basically consists of catching passes from Garnett under the basket and making two-foot jumpers, layups, and dunks. But he’s been pretty good at that, threatening the Celtic record for shooting percentage in a season. His rebounding has been above average, his foul shooting has improved, he’s actually developed an OK post-up game, and he’s a defensive force.
Coming off the bench, Big Baby and Leon Powe have been more than adequate backups. P.J. Brown gives them even more depth.
Coaching, coaching, coaching
Doc Rivers has, to be nice, never been my favorite head coach.
That said, he’s proven this season that he knows what to do when he’s given a ton of talent to play with. He may be the only NBA head coach that goes 11 deep almost every game, but that might have helped this season in limiting the big three’s minutes.
As long as he doesn’t continue the practice in the post season, we’re OK.
Seriously though, even for haters like myself, Doc deserves consideration for coach of the year. He shouldn’t win, because his team is just too good, but he deserves consideration. Especially after the hand he was dealt last season.
If you held a gun to my head, I’d tell you the Celtics and Pistons were going to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Pistons winning in six or seven due to their experience.
And you know what? I’m perfectly happy with that. Like I said, I’ve never seen a great Celtics team before. This is the first one in my sports-lifetime that actually has a chance to win a championship.
This season, I’m happy with the chance.
I’ll wait until next season to start expecting championships.