New Year's Resolutions For The Boston Celtics in 2011
As 2010 winds to a close, people all over the globe begin to resolve themselves towards certain things—losing weight, giving more to charity, and becoming a better person are just three example of things people often promise for the new year but fail to deliver.
So it's no surprise that as 2011 rolls around, teams like the Boston Celtics are making mental checklists of things to improve on. In the case of the Celtics, a championship is their ultimate goal, but to achieve that, a number of steps must be taken.
Keep Feeding The Big Guys and Pounding The Rock Inside
The Celtics have been the most efficient offensive team this season, and it hasn't even been close.
They are shooting a league leading 50 percent from the floor, and it's rare that you ever see this Celtics team take a bad shot.
This has much to do with the resurgence of Kevin Garnett, and the interior presence of Shaquille O'Neal. Opposing defenders can no longer afford to gamble off any member of the Celtics' front court.
The Celtics' big men have been wreaking havoc in the interior defenses of most NBA teams, often times drawing two or more defenders. Because of that, perimeter players like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, and others, have been getting free looks at jump shots and open driving lanes all season long.
Offensive efficiency is key, as the team is going through a very tough period of injuries. The offensive catalyst of this team, Rajon Rondo, is down, so it's imperative that the Celtics continue to play efficient inside out basketball in his absence, and even when he returns.
This efficiency on the offensive end is also important, as the Celtics are just 26th in the NBA in free throws attempted (23.0 per game), 25th in field goals attempted (77.3 per game) and dead last in offensive rebounding (7.8 per game). They aren't getting many extra chances at scoring the basketball, so it's important that they continue to make good with the chances they get.
Improved Rebounding on Both Ends Of The Floor
The Celtics have been one of the worst rebounding teams in basketball this season, and while some of that may have to do with the all the injuries suffered, they still haven't performed at a championship level in this vital area of the game.
The Celtics are 26th in the NBA in total rebounding (39.7 per game), and last in offensive rebounding (7.8 per game).
While they are holding opponents to the fewest total rebounds per game in the NBA (38.4), this has mostly to do with the fact that they aren't missing many shots, and therefore there aren't many opportunities to grab boards.
The C's have improved their overall rebounding as a team since last season, but they still stand to improve some, especially when they get guys like Kendrick Perkins, a fully healthy Jermaine O'Neal, and Rajon Rondo–one of the best rebounding point guards in the NBA–back to full capacity.
It's no secret how much the Celtics struggled to rebound the ball last season during the playoffs and during the finals especially, and an improvement in this facet of the game could go a long way towards bringing banner number 18 to Boston.
Play Better With Big Leads and Play The Team Not The Record
Occasionally, the Celtics have trouble playing a consistent, 48 minute game. They might build up a big lead early, yet for whatever reason struggle to keep applying pressure to the other team, eventually allowing them back into the game.
For example, in the Celtics most recent loss to the Orlando Magic, the C's held a 48-38 lead with about nine minutes to go in the third quarter, yet were outscored 48-30 the rest of the way, en route to a 86-78 loss, just their fifth defeat of the season, snapping a 14 game win streak.
During their November 21 loss to the Toronto Raptors, the C's held a 31-23 lead after one quarter, yet let the Raptors dominate the second quarter 38-27. They lost the game 101-102.
During the season opener against the Miami Heat, the Celtics were clearly the dominant team, operating on all cylinders while the Heat struggled with their chemistry. The C's took a 54-37 lead with about 7 minutes left to go in the third quarter, and they looked well on their way to a blow out win. While they won the game 88-80, the C's were outscored 50-43 in the second half.
This might seem nit-picky, but playing with a lead and extending it as the game goes on is one of the most important characteristics of a championship team, which is certainly what the Boston Celtics aspire to be.
Find The Right Bench Chemisty
The Celtics have one of the deepest benches in the NBA. Guys like Delonte West, Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson all have had significant experience as a starter and/or reserve playing meaningful minutes.
To start the season, the Celtics depth was projected to be one of its biggest assets, and to a certain extent, it has been.
The C's have gotten very valuable contributions from Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and even Semih Erden, Luke Harangody, Von Wafer, and Avery Bradley have made positive contributions to this team.
However, because of the injuries, the second unit has gotten virtually zero time as a traditional second unit. Players have stepped up in the absence of starters or other bench players, but they've been playing outside of what Doc Rivers probably envisioned as their role for 2010-11.
Due to all the injuries, we have yet to see the second unit forge a true identity, or a coherent rotation take place. Doc Rivers has done a fantastic job managing players' minutes and doing some needed patchwork, but assuming the Celtics get healthy at some point this season, players will be relegated again to their original roles.
We still have yet to see the Robinson-West combo that looked so good in the preseason, or yet to figure out exactly how Jermaine O'Neal and Kendrick Perkins will fit into the defensive rotation, or even who the starting center will be.
There are still many things left to be established with the bench.
Avoid The "Traditional" Post-Christmas Slide
After Christmas day, the 2008-09 Boston Celtics were a league best 27-3 (.900). However, in February, Kevin Garnett suffered the knee injury that ultimately ended his season and kept the Celtics from defending their NBA title. They were just 35-17 (.673) after Christmas.
Last season, the Celtics were again one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and were 23-5 (.821) at Christmas. However, another rash of injuries and underproduction saw them finish the rest of the season 27-27 (.500).
They were able to put together a very unexpected playoff run, taking the Lakers seven games in one of the more memorable NBA finals in recent history, before ultimately losing.
In a finals series that was decided in seven games, home court advantage could have tipped the scales in the Celtics favor. It's no secret that the Celtics would like to achieve the best record in the NBA, therefore securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
They've been doing a very good job so far, as they're currently sitting atop the East with a 23-5 (.821) record, and tied with Dallas for the second best record in the NBA.
However, the Celtics would be wise to avoid the second half slip which has plagued them over the last two seasons. You would think that this veteran team has learned from their mistakes, and will be devoted to getting back healthy and staying mentally sharp for the remainder of the season.
The Celtics have a number of guys out right now, most notably Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, and Kendrick Perkins.
Shaquille O'Neal has missed a few games here and there with a calf injury, and Jermaine O'Neal is just back from missing 19 games with a knee injury. Both Semih Erden and Von Wafer have been banged up as well.
To accomplish all of these goals and finish the season strong, it's no surprise that the Celtics need guys back healthy.
Rondo is taking his time (and rightfully so), but he could be back in a week or so. Delonte West hopes to return sometime this January, but given the nature of his injury I wouldn't be surprised if that date gets pushed back. Kendrick Perkins is eying an All-Star break return, and has already started doing non-contact workouts. Jermaine O'Neal has played sparingly this year, and who knows how long it will take him to get re-acclimated and if his knee will ever fully heal.
Bring Banner No. 18 to Boston
Many consider this the final year that this current incarnation of the Boston Celtics will be given an opportunity to compete for an NBA title.
With the impending lockout next season, as well as the age of the big three, this could be the last chance for this team to win a title and cement themselves in the record books as one of the greatest teams of all time.
They weren't able to defend their title two years ago, and came up just short last season. I guarantee you that winning a championship this season is on the mind of every member of the roster, and is what motivates them to continue working, practicing, and winning.
Anything less than a championship in 2011 would be a disappointment for the Boston Celtics.
For those of you who watch the Boston Celtics locally on Comcast Sportsnet Boston, you know one thing:
"It's all about future; it's all about energy; it's all about four quarters; it's all about heart, team; it's all about defense; it's all about desire, passion, green, fire...it's all about fire...
It's all about 18."