The C’s have landed in Rome… and how about KG showing up in Italy in the Che Guevara shirt? Viva La Revolucion.
Chuck and I will put our heads together (insert hollow sound joke here) for a bigger preview of the Celtics season after we see a little of what the C’s have to offer in the preseason. This way, we’ll have some amount of actual basketball on which to base our opinions.
However… Jeff Clark has once again organized the entire NBA bloggerdom to put together previews of everyteam starting today. And for those of you skeptical a-holes who think organizing something like this just involves sending a mass email… just know this: Jeff actually travelled the country knocking on every bloggers door (or the door to their parents’ basement.. whichever the case may be). It was a very impressive Power Point presentation.
So here we are… leading off. You can catch the other Celtics previews here.
Last Years Record: 24-58
Key Losses: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West
Scott Pollard Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
It is a rare feat in sports to make one trade that it so big, it redefines your franchise. And let’s be honest, that’s what the KG trade did. The Celtics made the move for Ray Allen and we all thought “hmm… not bad… what else you got”… even though it meant acquiring a future hall of famer. But once the KG trade was announced, it was like the Earth suddenly changed the direction in which it rotates. The Celtics went from dormats to contenders… before Al Jefferson could even leave his house. Tickets that could be bought for below face value last season will now double in price. A team that was ignored in sportscasts is now the lead story (or near the top anyway). Only now have the Celtics, a 24 win team last year, gone through their first practice (how does KG play ball in a sweatshirt?) and yet they’re 6-1 favorites for the championship. Is there a more significant move than that?
Add to this mix one of the NBA’s best ever shooters in Ray Allen, and one of the leagues most respected defenders in James Posey.. and the Celtics are primed to make those oddsmakers look good.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Scoring: When you have 3 guys who have been number one options for years… you’re going to score. And one of the things the C’s can do is come up with a substitution pattern than will make sure one of those guys is always on the floor. I know… I know… “Substitution Pattern” and “Doc Rivers” do not generally mix. But I’m really counting on this to be too easy for even Doc to screw up.
But taking it a step further… the scoring won’t just end with Pierce, KG and Ray Allen. Tony Allen, when he gets healthy, proved he can be a scorer when called upon. Posey, House, and potentially Gabe Pruitt have the ability to hit open shots. They SHOULD be able to get those open shots with the other stars around. And don’t underestimate what Rajon Rondo can do if the floor is spread. You tell me… if you’re guarding KG down low, or Ray Allen/Paul Pierce on the wing… are you going to leave him to try to stop Rondo? Even if you do… will you be able to get there in time to prevent the fastest guy on the court from getting to the rim? Don’t be shocked to see Rondo drop 12-15 points… and on some nights do it on 7-8 shooting because he took nothing but layups.
Defense: How shocking is this? The Celtics are actually strong defenders. Doc actually has the option of situational lineups. Think about going into the last minute and a half of play with a 5 point lead. You can have Rondo, Posey, Tony Allen, KG and Perkins in there and have a pretty damn good defensive team. Brandon Wallace may also be able to fill that role in an emergency like a foul-out or injury.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Depth: The Posey signing really went a long way to address this issue. Posey and Tony Allen (as usual, this is “when healthy”) will likely be the primary wing players off the bench. They are both great defensively…. but the knock on Tony is his injury history and the knock on Posey is that he’s not a consistent offensive threat. As I said earlier… we probably won’t need them for their offense like we used to… but it would be nice. Where we’re especially thin is at the center position. Not everyone is sold on Perk in the first place, so there is some issue with what happens after he comes out. ESTEBAN! might be able to step in and help… but he’s a big question mark. It was really nice that he had a huge FIBA tournament… but that was only the FIBA tournament. International teams might play very well against Americans… but international individuals don’t always follow suit. I’m holding out hope that we stole him and that Scot Pollard can play the Olowokandi role… but it’s very possible that we’re going to be talking about what to do at this position for a while.
4. What are the goals for this team?
There’s one goal here: NBA Finals. Last year’s lottery bunch is gone. This offseason’s complete reconstruction of the Celtics has given everyone very high hopes… myself included. Furthermore, there’s no reason to think anyone in the East is so significantly better than us, that we won’t either be the favorite, or at the worst a slight underdog. Detroit is getting older, and they’re not the same team they were. Miami has serious depth issues. Cleveland is still a one-man team. Toronto and Washington are up-and-coming teams… but the C’s experience now vaults us past them.
5. Will all these guys REALLY be able to play together.
It’s the big money question for the C’s. “Experts” will say there aren’t enough basketballs… or there will be in-fighting once someone doesn’t get to take the final shot. I say it’s a bunch of bull. Paul Pierce willingly gave Delonte West opportunities to take the final shot. I like Delonte a lot, but he’s not Ray Allen or KG… so I don’t see any issues with Paul giving it up to any of them either. KG regularly passed in final shot situations too… which was a big criticism in the past. But instead of passing to Troy Hudson or Marko Jaric… he’s got Pierce and Ray Allen. And Ray is just too cool to bitch in that situation.
The bottom line is that this is a perfect storm for the Celtics. These are three guys who have been around for a while… and they’ve all been on a LOT of losing teams. Suddenly, they’re all together on the same team. Each of these guys has gone from playing with various scrubs over their careers to having two hall of fame teammates. It will take some egregious transgressions from one of these guys to screw this up… and none of these guys has a history of that. I have a hard time believing they won’t make this work.
Might it take some time to jell? Yes, it might. I wouldn’t be shocked by a couple of sloppy early games as they try to figure it out… but I wouldn’t be shocked to see that end quickly.
Predicted Record: 49-33
Why won’t I go 50? Basically, I’m going to give them a little wiggle room for getting to know each other. I think they can win up to 55 games… but I’m playing it cautious when I consider the “Doc Factor” and the potential for early struggles. Maybe I’m also a bit gunshy after making a huge prediction last year. So shoot me. I’d rather be wrong when they go over my prediction.
Herald: Allen puts knee to full test | No time to relax | Globe: Matter of practice for KG | Day 1 in Rome | MSNBC: 10 key storylines | DraftExpress: New nickname G.P.A. 3.0? | NY Daily News: Boston & LA once again centers of NBA