Boston Celtics: Do the C's Have Another Championship Run Left in Them?
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The NFL lockout may be over, but the news regarding the NBA's current labor impasse looks far less rosy. Both the players and the owners appear firmly entrenched on their respective sides, and the chances of the regular season starting on time—with the Celtics hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 2—appear bleak.
If there winds up being a 2011-12 season, full or abbreviated, one of the most pressing questions surrounding the C's will be whether or not they have the firepower, fortitude and ferocity to make a run at the franchise's 18th title.
Anyone who paid attention to last year's squad knows it ultimately ran out of gas against the younger, more athletic Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, falling in five games to the eventual runners-up from South Beach.
Before the lockout hit, the C's drafted a pair of seniors from Purdue, forward JaJuan Johnson and guard E'Twaun Moore, but (like every other team in the Association) were precluded from doing anything else to improve the roster. It remains to be seen what president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has up his sleeve once the lockout is lifted. But under a certain set of circumstances, the championship door remains open, at least a crack, for the Green.
As unappealing as an abbreviated season might seem, it could be a huge boon for Boston, the quintessential veteran team led by a core group all of whose members are on the wrong side of the hill. A 50-game schedule (or less) would lessen the load on Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and especially Kevin Garnett, who looked positively well done by the time the Miami series rolled around.
Coach Doc Rivers can manage his veterans' minutes all he wants; they are all still subject to the rigors of an 82-game slate. Imagine Garnett, Pierce and Allen come playoff time without having played any back-to-back, 35-plus minute stints from early November through the new year. If Ainge can fortify the depth in the frontcourt beyond just Johnson (not to mention lost puppy Jeff Green), a half-season's worth of KG could look a lot closer to the 2008 version than the 2011 one.
Much more needs to fall into place than just the Celts' old men getting some extra down time. The center position, once a strength of this team, especially defensively, has become a black hole since the trade of Kendrick Perkins. There's no way this team is getting anywhere near another title with just Jermaine O'Neal and his decrepit knees manning the paint.
Green, if he's back, needs to find himself—his passivity and unwillingness to mix it up throughout his stay last season was brutal to behold, and that's just from fan's perspective. Think about Rivers' agita levels trying to go through Green's maddening inconsistency on a daily basis last year.
And Rajon Rondo, who emerged as one of the top five point guards in the league last year, also seemed to wear down post trade deadline. Some of it was injury-related and some of it (likely) had to do with his reaction to his best friend Perkins' departure. But Rondo, still seemingly a bit immature, has got to do a bit more growing up; maybe he can work on that while hitting the gym for 1,000 mid-range jumpers per day during the lockout.
There's still plenty of talent, desire, skill and championship mettle on this Celtics team. With the right tweaks, additions, subtractions and maneuvering, title No. 18 isn't out of reach quite yet.
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