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2010-11 NBA Preview: For Boston to Beat the Heat, They Need the Garnett of Old

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics warms up before Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last year, Kevin Garnett averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.  The only season in his career in which he scored and rebounded less was his rookie campaign.

Garnett's lack of production could be attributed to a combination of age, injuries and his current situation with the Celtics.  

Boston plays at a slower pace than a lot of teams, and Garnett has two very capable scorers he plays with in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.  Two more factors contributing to KG getting less shots.

Even with all those excuses, there's no getting around the fact that he's slowing down physically.

The Celtics made it to the finals last year, even with Garnett playing at this level.  During that series, Pau Gasol had the guts to say what everyone was thinking: He's lost a step.  Garnett tried to use the comment as motivation, but it was clear that he couldn't hang with Gasol.

Boston did make it to the finals, but they didn't have the Miami "SuperHeat" to contend with.

This year, it will be significantly more difficult for the aging Celtics to make it through the Eastern Conference.  Miami is the early favorite to win the conference championship, but Chicago, Orlando and Milwaukee are improved as well.

Do Garnett (34), Ray Allen (35) and Paul Pierce (33) still have enough gas in the tank to beat these younger teams?

Maybe not... but their is another player on the squad that can carry them now. 

Rajon Rondo will keep this team in contention this year.  He's one of the best defensive point guards in the league, he's a great distributor and he's one of the fiercest competitors.

Another advantage Boston will have over a lot of teams is their depth.  Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Glen Davis, Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins and maybe even Luke Harangody could all make significant contributions this year.

All that may keep the team in contention, but to have a legitimate shot at beating the Heat, the Celtics need more from Kevin Garnett.

Once upon a time, KG was the best power forward in the world.  He averaged over 20 points per game for nine straight seasons.  He led the league in rebounding for four straight seasons.  He was the '03-'04 NBA Most Valuable Player.  That same year, he carried the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Can the Celtics get that version of Garnett back?  No. Time and injuries have caught up to him, he'll never be that player again, and that's fine. This sort of decrescendo is very normal and natural for NBA superstars.

However, Boston still needs more production out of their starting power forward if they want to beat the Heat, and I think they'll get it.

Garnett is over a year removed from a 2009 surgery on his knee and he's had an entire offseason to rest and regain his strength.  

Also, everyone on the Celtics roster is hungry because so many people have already crowned Miami as the Eastern Conference champions.

They'll all play with passion this year, especially in the playoffs.

Garnett's actual numbers may not go up a whole lot this year, because he'll have to share a lot of minutes with Davis, Perkins and both O'Neals.  Still, I expect his production per 36 minutes to be back around where it was during his first year in Boston.

During the '07-'08 season, he averaged 20.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes.

If you combine that level of play with the rest of what the Celtics bring, Boston could very well repeat as Eastern Conference champions.

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