The Boston Celtics begin training camp tomorrow. The Big Three is back with a new cast of characters (no pun intended).
After the Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Celtics president Danny Ainge signed power forward/center Jermaine O'Neal to a two year deal worth nearly $12 million. Ainge did not stop there. He resigned Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, and Marquis Daniels. The biggest (again no pun intended) acquisition was bringing in the 7-foot-2-inch behemeth known as Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaq's skills may have diminished over the years and he is 38 years old, but he is looking to ride into the twilight of his career with a title. He will be motivated because besides Atlanta and Boston, there was no other organization that threw out an offer for his services. Rebounding was a weakness for the Celtics. In the regular season, the Celtics finished 29th in rebounds per game with 38.6. They got manhandled on the glass (53-40) against the Lakers in Game 7, allowing the Lakers to get second-chance points.
In a move to add more depth on the roster, Boston inked Delonte West to the veteran's minimum. West is suspended for the first 10 games in the regular season due to his arrest for having guns in the back of his motorcycle on September 17, 2009.
This team has the potential to have the greatest frontcourt in the NBA and challenge the Lakers' forwards if the two teams were to meet again in the Finals. There are a few squads who stand in the way to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy: Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Chicago Bulls.
Kendrick Perkins, who is one of the best low-post defenders in the league, is out until February or possibly March after tearing his anterior cruciate and medial cruciate ligaments in his right knee in Game 6 of the Finals in June. He underwent surgery on June 30.
The best case scenario is everyone else stays healthy during the season, especially the Big Three, Rajon Rondo, Shaq, and Jermaine O'Neal. Shaq does not let opponents pick-and-roll them all night when he is on the floor. Jermaine reinvents his career after falling off the planet for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Boston in April. The bench provides a consistent spark from Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and whoever does not start between the O'Neals.
The worst case scenario is all of the key players get injured at some point during the season due to their high mileage. The Celtics cannot contain the pick-and-roll. Shaq becomes dysfunctional like he has in every other place he has been and the reason he was not highly sought after in the first place. Davis does not consistently knock down that jump shot when he is on the floor at the same time as Shaq.
I predict the Celtics will finish with 55 wins this season because Kevin Garnett is a full season removed from the bone spurs in his knee that caused him to miss the postseason in 2009. They are deep and talented in the frontcourt.
The one thing that is worrisome besides the health is the backup wing position.
Daniels needs to make the fans forget about Tony Allen's defense in the postseason because they have similar skill sets. Daniels' confidence decreased after breaking his hand last December and he was never the same player the Celtics envisioned when they signed him in the 2009 offseason.
Boston is optimistic and hoping for another run to the championship although they want to be the ones raising the trophy at the end.