Boston Celtics: 30 Team Previews in 30 Days
Finished 50-32, first in Atlantic Division, fourth in Eastern Conference.
First Round: Defeated Miami Heat 4-1
Second Round: Defeated Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2
Conference Finals: Defeated Orlando Magic 4-2
NBA Finals: Lost to Los Angeles Lakers 4-3
Additions and Re-Signings
Ray Allen via re-signing, Paul Pierce via re-signing, Marqus Daniels via re-signing, Jermaine O'Neal via free agency, Nate Robinson via re-signing, Avery Bradley via draft, Luke Harangody via draft, and Von Wafer.
Tony Allen via free agency and Shelden Williams via free agency.
The feeling of winning an NBA championship, or any championship for that matter, must be one of the indescribable moments in the sporting world. After seven months of giving it your all for the purpose of one goal that you and 15 of your teammates striven for along with you, you are only 12 minutes away from another title and embarrassing your rival once again.
How many games will the Celtics win?
If only NBA games lasted 36 minutes, a lot of memories that we remember now would be changed forever and the Boston Celtics would be the reigning champions.
The Boston Celtics are three years removed from their first championship in 22 years and are now a few months removed from making a remarkable run to the NBA finals before succumbing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers late in game seven. The Celtics did everything right by holding Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to a combined 12 for 40 shooting and limiting the team to 32 percent shooting overall.
They did everything but win and that hurts any team, but mostly it hurt Kendrick Perkins, who suffered an injury in game six and was forced to sit out in the decisive game seven. You have to believe that if Perkins was in the game that the Celtics could have had a better chance to win, but alas, that's how the NBA world turns, and Boston is ready for one or two more titles runs before their core grows too old.
The Celtics saw two players of their core part of the free agent class with Paul Pierce as a guaranteed re-signing and Ray Allen as a possible loss. Allen decided to remain with Boston by signing a $20 million deal over the next two years and has shown that he is not too old to play by setting an NBA record in game two with seven first half three-pointers. Allen went on to miss all 13 of his shots the following game raising the question of just how consistent Ray Allen can be now.
Allen has been the three-point answer for the Celtics over the past three seasons and had yet to let his team down until last year's NBA finals where he couldn't hit the ocean if he was in a boat. Ray has averaged two three-pointers per game in his three seasons with the team and a steady 17 points to go along with it. Allen has become the biggest scoring threat thanks to his deadly three-point shooting and still has the talent to do it on any given night, which is obvious after watching game two of the NBA finals.
By re-signing Paul Pierce to a four-year contract, the Celtics had basically made him a lifer with the team. Pierce joined the team in 1998 and has been a starter ever since, averaging 23 points and six rebounds over the course of his long career. Pierce has been with the C's since their days of obscurity and has committed to his team no matter what their record was at the end of the season. At 32 years old, Paul could be ready for a few more championship runs before his tires are eventually too worn to compete.
Don't assume that the 32-year-old Paul Pierce isn't a threat anymore. Miami Heat fans remember him as the player who shocked them in game three with a fade away game winner that put the Heat away for good. Last season, Pierce averaged 18 points, his lowest output since his second year in the league. I would count on Pierce continuing to average numbers below 20 for the remainder of his career unless Allen or Kevin Garnett decide to retire before him.
Speaking of the big ticket, no other Celtic has showed their age over the past few years than Garnett who has seen his numbers deteriorate more than any other member of the Boston Three Party. KG averaged 14 points and seven rebounds with the Celtics last season, his lowest totals since his rookie year. The 34-year-old Garnett is mostly used as an emotional leader rather than the dangerous scorer he used to be.
Garnett's intensity and ambition that he brings to every game is instant inspiration for his teammates and it gives them the state of mind that they could go and win every game, much like they did in last year's postseason, when they took out the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference and nearly beating the Western Conference's top team at the peak. While we won't exactly see the Garnett that won MVP seven long years ago, we will see the Garnett that is ready to win and is willing to do anything in his power to push his team to the next level.
While Garnett, Allen, and Pierce are a few years from fading into obscurity, Rajon Rondo is ready to lead the new Celtics when the original three are gone. Rondo has not only become the most versatile player on this team, but one of the more versatile players in the NBA. Rajon has shown flashes of Jason Kidd, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Steve Nash, and he is about to enter only his fifth year in the league. He saw all his numbers rise last season as the original core's numbers began to decline and he picked up the slack by averaging 14 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, and a career high two steals.
Rondo has emerged as a possible top five point guard in the league and proves it game after game with his high basketball IQ, confidence to drive in a lane surrounded by the most fearsome of seven footers, and his ability to lead a team of veterans that couldn't get as far as they did without him. It might come off as embarrassing to Garnett, Allen, and Pierce, but the real leader of this team is a 24-year-old who is coming off of his fourth year in the league.
The Celtics saw their worst fears come true in the NBA finals when they saw their anchor in the middle in Kendrick Perkins fall victim to a dangerous ACL injury. With Rasheed Wallace retiring, the team knew that they had to find stable backups to Perkins that they would be able to rely on when they are most needed. Nabbing Jermaine O'Neal in free agency was a good start.
O'Neal isn't the same player he once was when he was a member of the Indiana Pacers, but at 31 years old, O'Neal can still be called on when needed. He averaged 14 points on a career high 54 percent and seven rebounds while a member of the Heat last season as their starter. He'll most likely come off the bench for the first time since his fourth year in the league, when he was still a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Age is starting to become a large issue for the Celtics, as most of their team, aside from Rondo, Glen Davis, and other role players are the only young players on this team. Grabbing Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley was a nice start when thinking about the future, but the Celtics are going to need more than inexperienced rookies when most of the core is gone. We have seen Garnett's age exposed many times over the past two seasons, when he succumbed to injuries and lacked the firepower that we have seen over his career.
Allen lacks the consistent touch that he has been well-known for over the course of his career as well and could be beneficial to the team if he plays like he did from game three to seven in the NBA finals. Pierce has continued to play phenomenal basketball, but it might not last with 33 creeping up ever so slowly.
Boston can still depend on its talented, young roster, with Glen Davis trying to prove that he can be a reliable replacement to Kevin Garnett. Davis has been making great strides into turning into a threat over the past three seasons and could be considered a steal after being picked 35th in the 2007 draft. He averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes last season and saw himself as a giant threat in the middle in the finals playing against the Lakers bigs.
His size was too much for the likes of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, as he constantly beat them under the net for easy offensive rebounds and lay-ups. Davis averaged seven points and five rebounds in the playoff's off the bench and continues to show that he is the future of Boston Celtics basketball. Davis showed that he can replace Garnett when he averaged 16 points and six rebounds while replacing KG in the playoffs due to an injury that kept him out for most of the season.
The Celtics might show their age, but they have experience. That is a coveted trait that many hopefuls need to have if they want to secure an NBA championship for themselves. It was only a short matter of time before the Celtics' big three would get on of their own and it's only a short matter of time until they makes another run for championship glory.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Kendrick Perkins
This is Pt. 2 of a 30-day series of 2010-11 season previews of each NBA team. My profile will contain every other team that has been previewed before.
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