Pivot Points: Boston's Revival Complete, Celtics Have Their Swagger Back

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 16, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - DECEMBER 03:  Forward Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics reacts during play against the San Antonio Spurs on December 3, 2009 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We have heard the whispers of doubt for months. Kevin Garnett is not fully healthy. Ray Allen has lost a step. The Boston Celtics don't play defense with the same intensity of their 2008 championship year.

Well, apparently the Celtics weren't listening, but maybe we should have listened to Paul Pierce when he said that the Boston Celtics were the team to beat in the NBA this season.

Wait a minute, if I'm not mistaken, didn't the Los Angeles Lakers win the title in 2009? And didn't they re-load in their efforts to chase an elusive repeat?

Pierce's theory is the Lakers won the championship by default due to the season-ending injury to Kevin Garnett, and that the Celtics never had a chance to defend their championship won in 2008.

A brash statement from a brash player, but based on Boston's early season performance, it's hard not to put some stock in Pierce's words, because the Celtics have elevated their game to another level.

After two early season hiccups against Atlanta at home and Indiana on the road, the detractors' whispers became roars, and another home loss to Orlando only boosted the decibel level of the doubters.

The Celtics did have their share of issues such as a perceived lack of athleticism and the fact that they were being out-rebounded by inferior teams.

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Eleven wins in eleven games has gone a long way in silencing the doubters and the dominate fashion in which the Celtics have won those games has sent shivers down the spines of the rest of the NBA.

The defense, at first maligned, has become the most feared unit in the league, and that is reflected in Boston's league-best road record.

In order to be a good road team the ability to get stops is a must, and the Celtics have shown the propensity for shutting down opponents when the outcome of the game is on the line.

Ray Allen may have lost a step, but the emergence of Rajon Rondo more than makes up for what is lost with Allen due to the tides of time.

Rondo signed a lush contract extension recently, and it appears to be money well spent, as Rondo has matured into perhaps the most complete point guard in the NBA.

Besides being a potential walking triple-double, Rondo's scope of skills is such that it has an impact on every part of the game, and he still has the ability to improve.

His quickness makes it almost impossible to stay in front of him on offense, and that same quickness gives him a similar advantage on defense. When he does penetrate the defense, he has the strength to finish emphatically at the rim.

His jump-shot is improving, and his court vision has him among the league leaders in assists. Rondo has performed so well that a strong case could be made that he is the Celtics' MVP so far.

Along with Rondo's coming of age, the return of Garnett to health has infused Boston with the familiar swagger it walked with in 2008, and has completely re-shaped the team's mentality.

Although the Celtics gave a valiant effort in last season's playoffs, they lacked the confidence level of a Boston team with Garnett in the fold, and appeared to play desperately instead of assuredly.

Garnett changes that aspect as he brings the Celtics an attitude, an edge, and a fierce desire to compete regardless of the circumstances. The Celtics simply refuse to believe that they can be beaten.

It helps that they had the foresight to sign Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels in the offseason to help shore up their front court and their back court, and those moves have paid immediate dividends.

Wallace gives the Celtics a dimension that they previously lacked—a player comfortable playing either in the paint or on the perimeter. His long-range shooting skills make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.

Additionally, he seems to have bought into the mission of the Celtics. He has proven to be the perfect teammate, and another burst of energy to utilize coming off of the bench.

Daniels has proven to be a legitimate back-up for Rondo, and his presence allows reserve guard Eddie House to slide to the shooting guard position where he is much more dangerous playing off of the ball.

For all of the questions these Boston Celtics have faced, their league best record probably gives a better answer than words ever could.

The outspoken Pierce has been saying for months that his Boston team is the favorite to win the championship, and judging by the recent play of the Celtics, his words have to be taken seriously until proved otherwise.