Here we are again with another NBA season underway. Several questions surround whether or not the Boston Celtics can repeat as NBA Champions.
The "Big Three" aren’t getting any younger. Paul Peirce is 31, Kevin Garnett is 32, and Ray Allen is 33. Will they be able to make it through a full year without any injuries? Do they still have that drive and ambition to win another championship?
Who will step up and take James Posey's place, vacated when he left via free agency? Will the role players still want to be role players instead of stars? Can coach Doc Rivers keep this team motivated enough to win again? Will Rajon Rondo take that next step and become an elite point guard?
There are a lot of questions considering this team just won the championship five months ago. Sound familiar?
Let's go back a year. Allen was traded to the Celtics on draft night. Then, shortly after that, Garnett came in a trade to join Allen and Pierce in Beantown. Questions arose about how quickly they would be able to mesh together, about the ages of the three stars, and about whether they would be able to withstand injuries.
Would the role players be able to be just that, role players? Could Rivers actually coach all this talent? Would Rondo be able to run this team? A lot of questions had to be answered, and most of them were (see below). Banner No. 17 is hanging in the rafters of the TD Banknorth Garden after 22 years of hopes, dreams, deaths, and bad luck.
There are three keys to the Celtics being able to repeat. Besides the obvious, no injuries to the Big Three, Tony Allen and Leon Powe will have to combine to take the place of Posey's scoring and lockdown defense on some of the best players in the NBA (i.e. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James).
Kendrick Perkins will need to play more minutes and stay out of foul trouble (every time he went to the bench with foul trouble last year in the playoffs, teams took advantage of it). Remember what I said above about most of the questions being answered last year? Rivers will actually have to coach this year. He rode his stars' coattails last year and he likely won't be able to do that this time around.
In this day and age, it's tough to repeat in any sport, let alone a sport that has players (and teams) moving more than U-Haul. In the Celtics’ division alone, the Atlantic Division, things have gotten tougher with the addition of Elton Brand from the Western Conference’s LA Clippers to the Philadelphia 76ers and Jermaine O'Neal moving from the Indiana Pacers to the Toronto Raptors.
The Eastern Conference as a whole has improved, as well, with Mo Williams going to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Milwaukee Bucks, and a trade that just happened two days ago that sent Allen Iverson back to the East Coast from the Denver Nuggets to play for the Detroit Pistons, two teams the Celtics had to beat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals last year to earn the NBA championship.
Last year reminded me of my youth, when watching a Celtics game was intense and meaningful. It’s going to be another great year for Celtics fans, but if they are going to repeat, everything has to work out perfectly, and the timing has to be right.
Last year it was.
Only time will tell if it will this year.