While all of this summer's NBA focus has centered around the Miami Heat, there is a different team in the east that is not ready to relinquish their title of Eastern Conference Champions.
With so much talk and excitement about the new three-headed monster in Miami, a lot of people may not even remember that just a couple short months ago, it was the Boston Celtics that were representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA finals. And while their offseason hasn't garnered nearly as much attention, it may have been enough to make them the team to beat.
So far this offseason, the Celtics have re-signed backup point guard Nate Robinson, who more than showed his worth this postseason. They also re-signed their sharpshooter, Ray Allen, to a two-year deal. And, captain Paul Pierce re-signed as well, almost ensuring that he spends his entire career in Celtic green.
After two seasons in Miami, Jermaine O'Neal brings his 14.2 points per game to Boston. And then there is the other O'neal.
Shaquille O'Neal, the NBA's fifth all-time leading scorer, signed a two-year deal with Boston in hopes of acquiring ring number five. While O'Neal may not be the dominant player he once was, he gives Boston a bona fide proven center who will instantly replace injured Kendrick Perkins.
The critics will say that the Celtics as a team are too old, and that injuries are bound to happen, costing them any sort of deep run into the playoffs. Instead, we should be talking about this teams championship experience and depth.
Aside from gaining the O'Neals, and the re-signings of Allen, Pierce and Robinson, the Celtics still have Kevin Garnett. Not to mention Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels can still contribute valuable minutes off the bench.
The Celtics' only major loss from last season's Eastern Conference Championship team was defensive-minded guard Tony Allen, who signed with Memphis. There are also rumors that Rasheed Wallace will retire, which would be a loss of a valuable role player.
While the Miami Heat now have three of the best players in the league on their roster, the Boston Celtics now have, in Pierce, Garnett, Allen, and the O'Neals, five of the best players over the course of the last 15 years. Add Rajon Rondo to that, who is becoming one of the top two or three point guards in the league.
Combined, those six Celtics have a staggering 52 All Star game appearances and eight championship rings. The Heat big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can only bring a combined one championship to the table.
So, while Miami is the sexy pick to take on the Lakers in the finals, the road to becoming Eastern Conference Champions still has to go through Boston.
And while Boston certainly doesn't have the youth that Miami boasts, they more than make up for it with experience and championship pedigree. After all, these are the reigning champs of the east, and anytime you can add a player the caliber of Shaq, that can only make you a better and more dangerous team than what you were the year before.