One of the most vital issues facing the Celtics going into the season will be the state of star power forward Kevin Garnett.
Garnett clearly was not at his best last year dealing with the fallout of his hampering knee injury amongst others. His issues elevating were no more apparent than in the playoffs where he sometimes had issues going up for rebounds and alley-oops.
Still, Garnett was a force in the postseason, particularly on defense, and has had the entire offseason to recover further.
Paul Pierce was a testament to this struggle last year as well.
At 34, the 24/12 guy that we saw on the Timberwolves in the 2000's will never reemerge, but could the 19/9 force that helped lead the Celtics to their 17th championship remotely return? It's possible, but unlikely.
With Rajon Rondo rightfully taking some of the weight off the older guys, it is only natural to assume that Garnett will probably not need to post those kind of numbers again in his career. Still, the Celtics will likely need him to be at the top of his game(within reasonable expectations for a 15-year veteran) if they want a concrete chance at conquering a much improved Eastern Conference.
In reality, what this means is a return to backbone stature for Garnett. The 2008-09 postseason loss to the Magic, although valiant, only further demonstrated Garnett as the life-force of the Celtics. The character of Garnett is something that Boston will always be able to rely upon. His intensity, particularly at the defensive end, is relatively unmatched in today's NBA.
This energy seems to grow in its contagiousness as the playoffs push on, giving a team that skeptic critics say will dwindle from fatigue a seemingly constant boost.
If Garnett is able to come back fresh, his play will resonate throughout the team. We should be able to have a solid picture based on the degree of hops he displays in the season opener.
His play will be dictated differently in later games, but it's near certain that the Celtics will want to bring the ruckus when Miami visits the Garden in the opener, which brings up an important point.
Doc Rivers and the Celtics coaching staff must (and will) keep veterans minutes in check throughout the season.
This may result in a lower seed for the Celtics headed into the playoffs, but the health of the team is much more critical than any home court advantage. The staff will undoubtedly delegate the proper days of rest upon necessity or convenience.
With a great work ethic, Garnett gives his team and their fans hope that he will be a prime example of the benefits of off-season rest and recuperation.
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