Boston Celtics' Biggest Challenges for the 2011-2012 NBA Season
It's been a unique and unprecedented offseason for the National Basketball Association.
A lockout that spiraled into not just missed exhibition games but regular season games as well.
A tenuous labor peace that was brokered only after numerous "ultimatums" were bypassed.
Then last week Commissioner David Stern made one of the most controversial decisions by any commissioner of any major sport in recent memory. He vetoed a proposed three-team deal that would have sent All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers and would have sent numerous players back to New Orleans as well as to the Houston Rockets who were involved in the deal as well.
Through all the drama one very simple fact remains. On Christmas Day NBA basketball will be back and with it each team will have to deal with a somewhat unique set of circumstances brought about by the unique offseason that has led up the Christmas Day start of the season.
The Boston Celtics are no exception. The Celtics will have some of the same challenges facing them that other teams will have this season. They'll also have some that will be unique to the franchise.
Of all the various obstacles facing the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics the schedule just might be the most daunting.
Sixty-six games in 124 days.
An average of more than one every other day.
For a team that is on the old side this could be the single greatest problem.
There will be plenty of back-to-back games and even one stretch in April where the Celtics play three games in three nights. This would have been unheard of under normal circumstances.
This season hardly qualifies as "normal circumstances" though.
The good news of course is that a schedule such as this means less time for practice. Players such as Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are all players whose need for extensive practice time is likely less than that of their younger peers.
The bad news is that back-to-back games and frequent travel could lead to more nagging injuries and with games happening at a rapid rate missing one or two weeks will mean missing more games than it would had the NBA been playing a normal schedule.
The schedule will no doubt be grueling. If the Celtics can navigate it though, then the intensity of the playoffs might not seem like such a dramatic change from the regular season.
The Trade Rumors
Rajon Rondo is already dealing with this.
Trade Rumors that have the young point guard headed out of Boston to various destinations in exchange for various players.
It can be easy for fans to forget that players don't just play for the team. They also live in or around the city they play in. Being traded isn't as simple as just throwing on a different uniform and hitting the court with new teammates ( even though that's not that easy either).
Players have friends, families, trusted confidants, places they frequent which are staffed by people they trust.
Getting traded means leaving all that behind at the drop of a hat and then being thrust into a new and unfamiliar situation not just on the court but off it as well.
Those types of distractions can impact on court performance. In addition, a completed trade means incorporating new and unfamiliar players into a system that they're not acquainted with and doing it at an unusually rapid pace in this upcoming abridged season.
The Lack of Glen Davis
Glen Davis had plenty of detractors over the course of his four-year Boston Celtics career. Love him or hate him, Davis was more than an afterthought on those four Celtic teams.
Davis has been a key player off the bench as well as a physical enforcer type of player while he was on the court.
At 6'9 289 pounds Davis was rarely intimidated by an opponent and often could be counted on to provide a positive influx of emotion upon entering the game. He could knock down an occasional outside shot, grab some rebounds, and never shied away from diving on the floor for a loose ball.
That's gone now. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Odds are it's some of both and there are even better odds to suggest that there will be times when the Celtics will miss Glen "Big Baby" Davis on the court. Celtic fans just need to hope that those times are few and far between.
The Role of Jeff Green
Jeff Green enters the 2011-2012 season with as much pressure as any member of the Boston Celtics.
Sure "The Big Three" are going to be counted on to shoulder much of the load as far as the team's overall performance goes, but Jeff Green is the guy who fans are pining to see great numbers from.
Green enters the season as "the guy they traded fan favorite Kendrick Perkins for."
It's not easy replacing a popular player on a team with a fanatical following. It's even more difficult when you arrive in the midst of a competitive regular season, and it's harder still when you seem largely out-of-place on the court for most of the regular season and the playoffs.
Yet that's exactly what Jeff Green will be dealing with as the season tips off on Christmas.
Green is the guy that's supposed to be good. A former first-round and lottery pick. He's put up some decent numbers in the NBA but on last year's Celtics team he was far from first-round pick caliber on the court.
This season there will be no escape from both fan and media scrutiny. Green simply must perform. He doesn't need to appear on an All-Star team but he needs to make his teammates, coaches and fans feel at ease when he checks into the game.
The trading of Perkins for Green was a move meant to strengthen the Celtics for the long term. Green was and still is supposed to be part of the cast that steps up after Allen, Garnett, and Pierce leave.
That time hasn't arrived yet but Green's play last season cast enough doubts that his performance this season will be watched by nearly every Celtic player or fan.
Playing Time for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett
Yes the health of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will be a concern for the Celtics this coming season. However, in the event that both players remain fairly healthy there could be other concerns.
Both players are free agents after the season and as of now neither has made a public announcement that they will retire after this season. If both players intend to continue their careers they may very well be doing so at a reduced salary and/or on another team in the 2012-2013 season.
That, plus the need to try and keep both players in good health could be a cause for reduced minutes at times this season. Trimming a player's playing time is always a tough thing to do. When those players are future Hall of Fame residents, as both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, are it can be downright controversial.
It's going to be a tough balancing act for head coach Doc Rivers who will need to figure out an amount of minutes for both players which allows them to flourish on the court while also allowing for younger players to learn the Celtics' system and hopefully keep the team as whole in the race for the Atlantic Division title and high playoff seed.
NBA games are 48 minutes long. Ray Allen has averaged 37.0 minutes per game for his 15 year career including 36.1 per game just last season. Kevin Garnett has played 16 NBA seasons averaging 36.7 minute per game with an average of 31.3 last season.
It's likely that those minute per game numbers will come down a touch this season. There will of course be some leeway for Coach Rivers but there also exists a tipping point on each player. A point where one or both could become annoyed that their coach is yielding minutes to players with less experience or less talent.
At the same time Rivers knows that he will need both players in top form if the Celtics are to make a decent playoff run. If that means that some nights they only play 25 minutes then that could be a problem.
Finally the specter of free agency means that both players will be more conscious of their statistical performance this year. They know all too well that teams looking to sign them next offseason will be basing proposed contracts on the stats that Allen and Garnett put up this season as opposed to the very impressive career numbers they've accumulated. Less minutes usually means less numbers, less numbers could very well mean less money.
Doc Rivers is in for a uniquely challenging season as head coach of the Celtics and the players are also in for one as well.