It is historically evident that all players on a team must work as one to reach their ultimate goal. Even the teams with one vital superstar (most recently Kobe's Lakers, Wade's Heat, and Jordan's Bulls) were full of other semi-stars, key role players, and team chemistry. But it is those teams in between, that don't need to rely on their No. 1 to step up almost every night, that are sometimes most impressive.
The Detroit Pistons overcame all odds against Shaq and Kobe's heavily-favored Lakers in the 2003-04 NBA Finals, taking care of them in six games by playing a team game that featured a shutdown defense. Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Rip Hamilton all had the ability to contribute on any night, and the selflessness to find the open man.
The San Antonio Spurs won every other championship from 2002-03 to 2006-07 with a similar philosophy and were criticized for being one of the most boring winners in NBA history. Their defenses (including shut down defender Bruce Bowen) stifled the league's best offenses. They featured balanced offensive attack in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili (David Robinson/Stephen Jackson in '02-'03).
The Boston Celtics have reaffirmed the success of this structure in the past three years, coming in second in points allowed per game (90.3) on their way to a title in 2007-08. The Celtics finished third and fifth in the next to year in points allowed, consistently turning up their intensity in the playoffs to shutdown and outwork opponents.
Whether it was Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and now, Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have had the ability for any player(s) to step up as a go-to option on any given night offensively. Regardless of a true No. 1 star, these core players are necessary on teams for the engine to full run (proof: the loss of Kevin Garnett during the 2007-08 season).
The bigger picture for all these teams, however, shows a full roster of sacrifice. A true championship team has a group of individuals that are willing to take any role to reach that one goal. Do not expect this year's Celtics to be any different.
With the addition of Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal, the Celtics seem poised for another championship run. To beat the Heat, Lakers, and the other giants of the league, the Celtics will need each player to know his role come playoff time. Oh yeah, they must also be fortunate enough to be healthy.
Adding Shaq has led some critics to believe that the 15-time all-star might be disruptive with his desire for minutes. They may not be considering that Shaq has joined the Boston Celtics in likely the last year of his career with a ring as his lone goal. OK, maybe the thought/gratification of beating his ex-teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant might have just a little bit to do with it.
Shaq and any other competitive player should want to be on the court, but it is the ability to accept whatever role is dealt to them that will define this year's Celtics, particularly at the center position.
It is uncertain who will start at center for Boston in the first half of the year, but look to see a level distribution of minutes for Jermaine and Shaq.
Kendrick Perkins is currently targeting a February return and has shot down any thought of complications due to the arrival of the new big men.
In a phone interview with Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe Perk laid down the following:
Regarding Shaquille O'Neal:
“I thought it was a great pickup for what we got him for,” Perkins said by phone from Texas. “Shaq is a Hall of Famer. He can always help us. I think it was a great pickup. I am glad that he is on the team. We just got one goal, and that’s just trying to win the ring.”
On Earning Back His Starting Center Spot Even When He Returns:
“I don’t see it threatening me at all,” he said. “I gotta work hard. I know I gotta fight to get back to where I was. It’s no problem with me. Hard work is not a problem.”
On Team’s Offseason Acquisitions:
“Those are great guys, Jermaine and Shaq, who should help pretty well,” he said. “It’s good to have everybody back. We’re pretty much all like a family. We got very good chemistry going and guys got one goal in mind and that’s to win the ring. I’m glad everybody is back.”
Maybe I should have just let Kendrick Perkins write my article.
Coming from a young center, it is impressive to see the effect that the veteran leaders have had on him. Along with Rajon Rondo, the youth of the team has been and continues to be mentored by its veterans, bringing their greatest potential out of them.
The Celtics are full of these stars who have chosen to remain or join the team in pursuit of a championship. Evident by the offseason, their goals were not to deepen their pockets, but a desire for at least one more day in the sun.
The Celtics vets are loaded with records, awards, and previous accolades with which they are no longer concerned. Be ready for a team defined by their unity.