These are just some of the words that have been used to describe the "Big 3" and the Boston Celtics over the past few months. After stumbling through the regular season and literally sleepwalking into the playoffs as the 4th seed in the East, many felt that the Celtics could not contend anymore, some even expected them to fall to Dwyane Wade and co. in the first round, but they defied their critics and went farther than anyone expected them to, reaching the NBA Finals, but losing in a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the Celtics are being doubted again. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh forming a star-studded trio down in South Beach, the Celtics have been swept under the rug despite being the defending Eastern Conference champions. Everybody is expecting the Heat to steamroll the rest of the NBA and instantly challenge for an NBA championship. Here are a few reasons why the Celtics are still contenders and a legitimate threat to the Heat.
(Note: I know green is the lowest color on the threat meter, but I was just too stubborn to change the title because I really like it.)
The Heat have a good bench, with three-point shooters in Eddie House and Mike Miller that can catch fire faster than a nylon wave-cap over an open flame and the always passionate, hard-working Udonis Haslem, their bench should be stable and exceptional. Despite what the Heat have, the Celtics' bench is more superior, there's more versatility and depth in the Celtics' reserves, Boston is deep at every position(except Small Forward). The C's bench has almost everything: defense, rebounding, shooting, and good passing/playmaking.
Here's an example as to how deep and versatile the Celtics are:
Celtics' Backcourt Pairings:
Nate Robinson/Von Wafer
Nate Robinson/Delonte West
Nate Robinson/Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo/Nate Robinson
Rajon Rondo/Von Wafer
Rajon Rondo/Delonte West
Delonte West/Von Wafer
Delonte West/Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo is one of the league's best point guards and I doubt the Heat have an answer for him. Chalmers is a good defender, but he has a hard time defending guards like Rondo who are lightning quick and live in the paint. With Rondo's improving jumper and playmaking abilities, he'll be a serious thorn in the side of the Heat.
With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal this offseason, the Celtics have bolstered and thickened their frontcourt. Though their 20-10 days are far behind them, both O'Neals will contribute and play important roles for the Celtics. The C's have more size and can now match the Los Angeles Lakers' frontcourt on either end of the floor, lack of size and frontcourt depth is what really killed the Celtics down the stretch of Game 7 in the Finals.
Seeing Kobe Bryant hoisting up the Larry O'Brien trophy and listening to Ron Artest chanting "Boston Sucks" along with the Laker fanbase during the Lakers' championship celebration had to have lit a fire under the Celtics that only beating the Lakers could put out. I bet everytime they close their eyes, they remember the emotions they felt on that painful night and see the purple & gold confetti raining down again. The Heat have critics to prove wrong also, but the Celtics have a stronger desire to win.
Even without Tom Thibidoeu, the Celtics will still remain one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They will still play nasty, gritty, and physical defense, especially on the interior. If the Heat and Celtics meet in the postseason, KG's physicality on the defensive end of the floor with Chris Bosh will be the deciding factor in the PF matchup and Kendrick Perkins ability to defend the basket from slashers and drivers will also be instrumental against Miami. Miami was a great defensive team last year also, so don't expect that to change either.
This is the deciding factor in the Celtics' quest for another championship or two: the condition of Kevin Garnett's knee. Last season, KG was literally dragging his leg up and down the court, he didn't look like himself and you can clearly tell that surgery hindered his all-round play and his aggressiveness. Now, a little more than a year removed from surgery, KG's knee looks to be fully healed and he seems to primed and ready to perform. Don't be surprised if this upcoming season, Kevin Garnett returns to his 2007-2008 form. With his knee fully recovered, KG's rebounding, defense, aggressiveness, and overall game should improve from last season. In the quest for Banner #18, KG's the key.