Last season ended on a somber note as the Celtics tried to make the push for banner #18 without the physical assistance of Kevin Garnett but none of us will soon forget the “Boston is a Brotherhood” campaign and how amped up something so simple could make an entire fan base.
After seeing that commercial or the first time during the 2008-2009 playoffs, I personally could not help but believe that these Celtics would push through and get it done. However, one too many injuries plagued them in those early summer months and they got the best of themselves.
Heading into the 2009-2010 season, the story seems to be one that we have quickly become accustomed to here in Boston, local team is favored to win the Championship by everyone and their mother before a single game is played (besides those residing in NYC, LA, or Cleveland – until Lebron leaves town). This team going into this year is stronger than it has been any other year, even 2007 with a deep presence on all corners of the court and here we will take a little time to go over some of what to expect as we enter this season of what guarantees to be amazing basketball.
We all know and love this starting 5 for the Celtics. Centered around the “New Big 3″, or “The Boston Three Party” as they were named in their ESPN commercial fame, of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. These three men might be the hungriest players in any sport starting with the day after the previous season ends until the buzzer sounds at the end of the last game of the year, hopefully with green and white confetti raining down on them. All three of them (and really most of the team in general) have been working out extensively this off season in a way no one has ever seen before. To see guys with the resumes that these three hold working so hard to achieve further greatness is a drive that is so honest, passionate, and a true asset in wake of plenty of pro athletes these days that get big headed and forget that they are role models.
Paul Pierce - #34 – Small Forward: Pierce has remained the one constant on this team over the last decade. From the seasons that ended abruptly in the first round in the early 2000s withAntoine chucking up threes to being on a team that could barely muster 20 wins to winning his first NBA Title in 2007, Paul stayed in Boston. After being surrounded by mid-level talent for years, the Celtics finally gave Paul the supporting cast he needed to set “The Truth” free here in Boston. He has been an NBA All-Star 8 times and was NBA Finals MVP in 2008. Now in his 11th season, Paul has averaged 22.9 points per game over his career, entirely with Boston. Paul is still amongst the league’s best small forwards and has upped his defensive game since the arrival of Garnett. Pierce just turned 32 and as long as he can stay healthy this season, he should be able to once again average his 18-20ppg with an enhanced defensive game from last year.
Ray Allen - #20 – Shooting Guard: Allen is one of the best pure shooters in the game, not just in the current day NBA but in the history of the game. Allen’s ability behind the arch (.409 three point average in ’08-09) and behind the stripe (a career high .952 free throw average in ’08-09) are a true asset to this team. When you see the ball go to Ray-Ray for a last second shot, you just watch as the ball spins perfectly through the air and through the hoop every time. Allen is another aging veteran having turned 34 in July but he partook in a vigorous training program in the off season which included him losing upwards of 30 lbs… from where, I am not really sure but believe that this is a contract year and Ray will be proving to everyone in the NBA that he has a lot left in the tank. Expect Ray to have a career season which may be hard to believe knowing his past but he will do everything within his power to get it done. I will predict 17ppg and he will UP his free throw percentage to .979!
Kevin Garnett - #5 – Strong Forward: Garnett is one of the most feared men in the NBA. His ferocity on the court is unlike any other starting with his pregame rituals of slamming his skull into the padding underneath the hoop and tossing up the hand powder in Tommy Heinshon’s face to the numerous pictures of KG framing the team name donned on the front of the jersey and yelling incoherently while inadvertently slobbering everywhere. It might be some of the most beautiful disgustingness that ever existed. KG brought an instant air to Boston that this would be Titletown USA from the moment he was traded here and beyond and he delivered immediately. He has brought senses of teamwork and unity, defensive awareness, and drive toward a bigger goal to this team and the young players who have been able to train with and under him will be better for having done so. Remember that KG was one of those last big names to successfully come to the NBA straight out of high school and now at the age of 33, in his 15th NBA season, he looks to bounce back from a right knee sprain that was surgically repaired in the off season. KG should be able to stay healthy this season and help this team return to the promised land with his leadership, motivation, and court tenacity.
Kendrick Perkins - #43 – Center: Perkins is another NBA player that made the jump straight to the NBA from the high school level, being one of the few players who has been with the Celtics as far back as ’03-04. Perkins is coming off of a very productive summer where he was married and had fellow starter, Rajon Rondo, in his wedding party. Perk has lost 20 lbs this off season and is looking mean and “green” and ready to go this season. A lot will be asked of him with the new found strength in the Eastern Conference, having to face the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, and many other big men who can really challenge Perk down low. Assuming Kendrick can keep his shoulder, which he has had issues with in the past, healthy he should be able to be a huge force down low this year. He showed a lot of promise late in the season last year and even though he seems to have a quiet demeanor, his fiery side comes out very quickly when prompted. Perkins should be able to average 10-11 ppg along with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks… and hopefully hold his technicals to a minimum with Rasheed Wallace taking most of the heat.
Rajon Rondo - #9 – Point Guard: The 23-year-old Rondo is the x-factor in this ’09-10 season. Coming off a season where he was able to be highlighted a lot more with the loss of Garnett and other role players sporadically, Rondo is ready to show that he is now one of the NBA’s elite point guards. After last season averaging 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game (16.9, 9.7, 9.8, 2.5 in 14 playoff games), Rondo is looking to be able to lead this team from the point and better his numbers from last year. With his ability to dart past most defenders and somehow get that circus roll-up shot off the backboard every time, he is a real threat as long as he continues to develop that 17-20′ shot. It also helps that the Celtics do not have a true backup point guard on this club so Rondo should see good playing time as long as the Celtics aren’t pushing for the “big lineup” that will show Marquise Daniels running the point. This season I can easily see him continuing on the pace he started in the playoffs and averaging 14 points, 6.5 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals per game.
This bench really reminds me of what we were graced with in ’07-08. We still have a few of the pieces from that team like Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House, Tony Allen, and Brian “Scal” Scalabrine. The Celtics will use these players in similar ways as the have in the past and it really may be the chance of a lifetime for at least two of them. Davis had an amazing run last year with the absence of Garnett and later Leon Powe and he is ready to show off what he can do after trying to hold out for a better contract offer in the off season and ending up back in Boston. Baby will see his playing time and touches reduced dramatically from what he saw late last year but hopefully he is able to keep it in perspective and stay positive about his progression, he is also another player that came into camp 50 POUNDS lighter than last year! Eddie House is going to make a serious push on the 6th Player award this year being one of the best 3-point shooters n the game, let alone coming off the bench. Eddie showed late last season that he is ready when Doc calls and he is hungry to get back to the NBA Finals again this year. Tony Allen continues to show flashes of absolute geniusness on the court but it is often followed by a boneheaded rookie-like error or two. It really seems as if this season may be Tony’s last chance to prove himself before he gets shipped off to a team where he will undoubtedly become the future of the NBA and we will sulk about it. Scal is another story. No offense but Scal has nothing going for him on the basketball court no matter how good he was in college. Being the “token red-headed Irish guy” on the Boston Celtic is a large task but I am sure we could fill it with someone slightly less useless on the floor like Troy Murphy or something. His commentary is great though so Scal, if you are reading, don’t leave town, just give back your jersey. He may even have a hard time competing for time with some of the other talent on this bench this season.
A couple other bench players returning from last season are J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker. Walker had right knee arthroscopic surgery just a couple weeks ago and has no timetable for his return while Giddens should be at the bottom of the barrel this season averaging 2 points per game in over 11 minutes per game this preseason.
The new editions for this bench are where the real excitement is. Players such as Marquis Daniels, Rasheed Wallace, Shelden Williams, and Rookie Lester Hudson come to this team with a lot to offer and the Celtics plan on taking advantage of all of it. ‘Sheed was the biggest transaction of the off season as he has been a big presence on many Championship teams in Detroit and had a very successful career on the court despite his storied antics of technical fouls. ‘Sheed and KG go way back since they entered the NBA in the same draft class, which prompted the fabled visit of Celtics management and the Big Three to ‘Sheed’s home during the off season to help him to decide Boston was the place for him. He will allow the Celtics to be able to sub in for KG and Perkins and see little difference. Daniels is another key acquisition and a very versatile one at that. He can play any position from Point Guard to Small Forward which will be great seeing whereas the Celtics do not have a true backup point guard and Daniels can really shoot too well to play the position regularly. The Celtics will be able to match up with a very good sized “big lineup” with Daniels running the point and any combo of players from there.Williams came over from the Minnesota Timberwolves and is entering his fourth season in the NBA after a successful college career at Duke. Williams is a 6’9″ forward who who averaged 12 minutes per game last year with a little over 4 points, 5 rebounds per game as a role player. Hudson is a 25 year old rookie who was the Celtics’ only draft pick in the 2009 draft with the 59th pick from University of Tennessee – Martin. Hudson recorded the only quadruple-double in NCAA history (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals vs. Central Baptist College). Hudson is a young guard who has looked very promising in what we have seen of him since his being drafted.
This bench all in all may finally be the bench this team has been trying to put together all along. Definitely a step up from last year and between Daniels and ‘Sheed alone, the team and the fans can finally get over the loss of James Posey after the ’07-08 season.
This 2009-2010 season is really looking to be a season of numerous amazing moments for the team and the fan base. If you haven’t paid attention to this team over the past few years or you maybe even haven’t been interested in watching the sport much at all, I highly suggest that you reconsider this season. I am promising you now, and telling you early enough so that you can still make an informed decision, to make sure you tune into these games because there will be some magical moments happening on that floor. We may have a team assembled this year that will easily rival those great Celtics teams of the Red Auerbach era and the original “Big Three”.
With several games against Eastern and Western powerhouses such as Cleveland, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and others, the push for the Eastern Conference Championship will prove to be a tough road this season but the Celtics should be geared to do it. Only a few weeks ago, Rasheed Wallace reportedly advised a Connecticut media outlet to expect this team to beat the 72-10 record set by the Chicago Bulls team in the ’90s. I am not sure that I would say this team will only lose 10 games but it should be close. My prediction on the season is a 70-12 season, a “close but no cigar” if you will but it only give them something more to build on going forward.
As it was reported in a July article on NBA.com, “It wasn’t long after Boston was knocked out of the playoffs by Orlando that the world’s most frustrated spectator, Kevin Garnett, told team owner Wyc Grousbeck that he guaranteed the Celtics would win the NBA championship in 2010 and 2011.”
Well Kevin, now is your chance and you better believe that we will stand behind this team 100% and help to bring the intensity to the house that Pierce built!