With more miles added to their veteran's legs and all the talk about the new "Big Three" in Miami it seemed this off-season that people had somewhat forgotten what a power the Boston Celtics had become in the Eastern Conference.
Well with their play so far this year it looks like we have all been reminded. Led by MVP candidate Rajon Rondo the Celtics once again look like a team that has been to two NBA championships in the past three seasons.
To date they are an Eastern Conference best 36-11and look primed to defend their throne as the beasts of the east. If anything the Celtics may actually be getting stronger as the season progresses with the health of several key role players improving.
Almost every NBA fan is hoping for the clash of the titans between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat with a trip to the 2011 NBA Finals on the line.
Whether it be that highly anticipated matchup, or a showdown with the Orlando Magic or up and coming Chicago Bulls it really will not matter in the end.
Here are ten reasons why no matter who they face the Boston Celtics will come out on top and take their third Eastern Conference championship since 2008.
There are no statistics to back up a feeling of hunger or to label a team full of heart. But this team lost a painful Game 7 to the Lakers in 2010.
Kevin Garnett & Co. are the ultimate competitors and the loss can not sit well for these Celtics. They will do everything in their power to get another shot at evening up the renewed Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry at two championships a piece since 2008.
They also realize there is a window on their opportunity for greatness and this group will not let it pass.
This is another intangible that can hardly be measured but only seen but one that is vital to success. Another year together and these Celtics have become even closer.
In addition to that Shaq has fit in seamlessly in Boston. His dancing, pranks, and reaction to fines have become youtube sensations. He also brings even more playoff experience to a team that was not really lacking any to begin with.
On the court the Celtics seem to know where each other are going to be at all times. They are averaging an NBA best 24.4 APG.
It is important to understand that the Celtics are not just beating up on weaker opponents during their hot start to the year. Instead they are actually playing more effectively when they get to face up against the Eastern Conference's best.
As a veteran team it seems as though the Celtics have always played to the ability of their opponents. At times they struggle against some teams (Philadelphia in particular) that they should handle easily.
However, the Celtics have played excellent, compiling a 15-3 record, against projected Eastern Conference playoff teams.
Included in this is a 2-0 record against Prince James and the much talked about Miami Heat.
It seems simple, but the 2010-2011 Boston Celtics are shooting at an unusually high percentage. Eight players on their roster are shooting higher than 50 percent from the the field.
Prolific scorer Ray Allen is having the best shooting season of his career. He is averaging a career-high 50.2 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three.
On top of that, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Glen "Big Baby" Davis are all shooting career-highs from the field.
As a team, the Celtics are far and away the best shooting team in the NBA from the field, connecting on 49.9 percent of their shots.
The Celtics have always been a great defensive team but with Tom Thibodeau moving on to coach Chicago, and the early absence of Kendrick Perkins, a decline would not have been a big surprise.
However, with Lawrence Frank at the reins their defense has been as tenacious as ever. The Celitcs are holding opponents to an Eastern Conference low 91.5 PPG.
While Chicago, Orlando, and Miami respectively all find themselves in the top ten of this category, none of them can matchup with Boston.
They also find themselves top three in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage. When Perkins fully recovers his excellent low post defense should help Boston be in consideration for tops in the league in that regard.
A nice added bonus that shows the Celtics commitment to defensive excellence is seen with Glen "Big Baby" Davis. The potential sixth man of the year candidate has brought his game to a new level this season and currently leads the NBA in charges taken.
The addition of Shaquille O'Neal headlines an overhauled bench.
The past two seasons, the Celtics have had to battle through the playoffs shorthanded. In 2009 they were without Kevin Garnett, and in 2010 they lost Kendrick Perkins to a knee injury.
For the time being, The Big Shamrock has found himself in the starting lineup. But the return of Kendrick Perkins will likely push Shaq's 9.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG in just 21 minutes per game to a bench spot.
With Glen Davis also serving as capable bench players, the Celtics have plenty of big men to rotate. This could certainly come in handy against the likes of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.
On top of the big men, the Celtics have also brought back Nate Robinson for a scoring spark off the bench. There have even been rumors that they are looking to add more veteran pieces, such as Richard "Rip" Hamilton who is likely to be bought out by the Pistons.
This team's depth will not allow for an injury to derail its title chances.
The Celtics survived a minor injury scare from Kevin Garnett's earlier this year, and have managed to stay mostly healthy thus far this season.
Garnett also looks to have finally rebounded from previous knee injuries and is averaging 15 PPG and 8.9 RPG.
His rebounding total is his best since coming to Boston, which shows a player who has regained his leaping ability.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have started every game for the Celtics. The depth on this team will allow for a decline in minutes for both of these stars. The much needed rest down the street will only make them stronger come playoff time.
It is almost comical to think of when Rondo was the biggest question mark for the Celtics heading into the 2008 season.
Rondo has long emerged from the shadow of the Big Three and is taking on a starring role. At this point, it almost feels wrong to use the term Big Three at all while describing the Celtics.
Rondo has established himself as an elite point guard, and he leads the NBA with 12.5 APG. Last season he led the league with 2.3 steals per contest, and this season he has actually improved to the tune of 2.4 SPG.
For now it appears that poor health is the only thing that could possibly slow him down. This season he has already missed eleven games for a variety of ailments but currently appears to be healthy. If anything this could just make it so his legs are even fresher when things pick up in the playoffs.
On top of that, he could be on a short list of MVP candidates with Amar'e Stoudemire, Derrick Rose, and Kevin Durant.
Typically for veteran teams as the season goes on the more minutes and mileage put on a player can cause them to slow down or entirely break down.
However, the depth on the 2010-2011 Boston Celtics allows for many interchangeable parts in order to keep their stars fresh for when it matters most.
Most of this years squad has been together for the past two NBA finals appearances since the green dynasty was renewed. Those who are not are new additions who bring their own past playoff experiences to the table.
Most notably the Celtics signing of Shaquille O'Neal brings even more experience to their team. The Big Shamrock has been to five NBA Finals during his nineteen year career. He also has showed up on the big stage, averaging 24.5 PPG and 11.7 RPG during the playoffs in his many appearances.
The acquisitions of Jermaine O'Neal and Delonte West also brings in two players that have reached the pinnacle of an NBA career with a trip the finals. Even Von Wafer has some playoff experience during his season with the Houston Rockets.
These Celtics are not the type of team to be nervous during a big spot. Their seemingly endless supply of past playoff minutes will put them at a distinct advantage over others, such as the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, who are far less familiar with what it takes to win in the playoffs.
As it currently stands the Celtics have a three game advantage over Chicago and Miami in the East and all signs point to the road to the NBA Finals going right through Beantown.
Playing Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals in Los Angeles must have made Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics realize that having the best record in the NBA can pay huge dividends.
This season they appear to be on a mission to capture the best record in the NBA and ensure that any decisive Game 7 in the playoffs will be played in their building.
The Celtics know the damage they are capable of at the TD Banknorth Garden and have posted an Eastern Conference best 22-3 record at home this year.
Since "The Big Three" formed in 2007, the Celtics are 27-7 in home playoff games, with three of those seven losses coming without Kevin Garnett in the 2009 playoffs.