10 Thoughts on the Boston Celtics in 2011-2012 (NBA Season Preview)
December 19, 2011INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
1. Rajon Rondo is really the key to this team. Last year, early, when he was on, the Celts looked unbeatable. He fell of hugely after the Kendrick Perkins trade and hasn’t been the same since. With trade rumors swirling, will he bounce back with a chip on his shoulder or collapse? This is an immature guy, but he’s both the best passing point and best defending point in basketball. Any shot improvement or major aggressiveness makes the Celtics title contenders if healthy, but I have no faith that Rondo can give them that anymore.
2. For years, this team has been limited Kevin Garnett’s minutes, with good reason, as he’s both their most effective and important player. First of all, his amazing help defense is the key that makes the entire team work on an elite level. Second, his post-game is easily the most reliable offense they have when it works. And, honestly, if the Celtics are going to win in the playoffs, I find it hard to see how that doesn’t become a major weapon, but Garnett’s also a dominant mid-range shooter with an unblockable jumper. Why not run some pick and pop with him? Again, though, these are all playoff suggestions, as just keeping Garnett upright will be a challenge given this schedule.
3. Doc Rivers is a great coach when everything’s going well, but with the chemistry issues, I’m unsure how good a fit he is for this team. The Defense will remain great, but is he creative enough on offense to utilize all the different talents he has in non-predictable means?
4. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen remain timeless. They are the two constants on this team and hugely important given the questions surrounding Rondo’s maturity and Garnett’s legs.
5. As far as depth goes, this team is utterly screwed. Jermaine O’Neal is never healthy as the starting 5 is a huge issue and his main backup seems to be undersized Brandon Bass with Chris Wilcox likely getting a lot of burn, too. On the wings, well, no Jeff Green for the hear thanks to a heart issue completely destroys their wing depth. Keyon Dooling is a hell of a defender, but I strongly doubt he’s a viable backup for a title contender. Finally, they have Marquis Daniels, but after the huge injury, let’s see what he has left. That’s a ton of team defenders and not much else. This year, with the importance of depth magnified, the Celtics are in a lot of trouble.
6. This is the final year on the contract of basically everyone but Pierce and Rondo. Clearly this team wants to start over with new marquee talent, but they aren’t on Dwight Howard’s list, Paul and Deron aren’t fits, so rebuilding will be a mess in all likelihood. Doc is signed on long-term, but it isn’t hard to see a contention draught coming for this squad, just like their rival Lakers.
7. Nenad Kristic returning from overseas, or a Kenyon Martin coming in from China, at a discount, of course, could make a world of difference for this club. K-Mart, especially, fits the team concept, and were he willing to play crunch-time 5, would significantly change the team’s outlook, at least assuming the explosiveness he showed when he returned from injury last year is a permanent return to grace.
8. Danny Ainge, from trading Perkins to nearly trading Rondo, has shown a notable lack of loyalty to his former championship core. Loyalty doesn’t win rings, usually, but since the team was predicated on their “Ubuntu” unity idea and they could really use guys like Garnett and Allen on a discount, this shortsighted dishonor may cost the Celtics. They cannot count on another KG coming on the market.
9. Seriously though, from team defense to depth to chemistry and for the future, how badly would they like to undo Perkins for Green? And that was before the Green injury. Being overly aggressive seems to have undone their title hopes.
10. I think this team is primed for a hot start, then a slowdown as the schedule catches up to their aging legs. By the playoffs, unless the first round is incredibly spread out again, I can easily see them as a first-round upset waiting to happen. If it’s spread out, they still won’t get out of the second round. The team isn’t as good and deep as Miami or Chicago, and, well, perhaps even New York. They should still have enough steam left to win the division as the Knicks learn to play with one another, but their only real hopes of contention lies with Garnett suddenly reverting to the form of a decade ago on bum knees, not happening, or Rondo making the leap to becoming a superstar.