NBA Focus: Celtics

By: Shawn Davis

If you missed my playoff column you can read it here – don’t worry it’s amazing.  Aside from that – in this edition – the focus will be on the present and future of another team that had their championship aspirations suffocated: the Boston Celtics.

As someone who watched the Celtics closely since Pitino (yeah, I know) ran and then sunk the ship, I was glad that the franchise turned into a contender over the last few years. Once they got the gift of Garnett from then-Timberwolves GM Kevin Mchale, we all knew that they about to really throw their name into the title scramble. From there they were able to swing a deal netting them Ray Allen on the evening of the 2007 draft.

Now just being a fan of basketball in general, this combination of transactions blew me away. So now Boston just put those three hall of famer’s next to the 2nd year point guard, Rajon Rondo, and instantly were one of the favorites to win it all. Personally, I was excited for Ray Allen, who has always been one of my favorite players and I felt that this would be the best chance for him to get a ring. From the time his Bucks team was eliminated (in 7 games) in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, I didn’t want him to be on the “Best Players Without A Ring” list.

Pierce, the longest tenured Celtic, had played through some terrible seasons where his on-court demeanor spoke to many like he wanted out. There were trade rumors but Pierce proclaimed that remaining in the green was what he wanted and it was great that management decided to keep him in the fold.

NBA Focus: Boston Celtics

Are we still contenders? Hmm…

Present:

  We just saw them lose to an athletically superior team in the Heat. Early in the regular season many had the Celtics either making the Finals or winning the whole prize, which was warranted. Funny thing is Chicago and Miami had other ideas and more importantly Danny Ainge decided to trade Kendrick Perkins at the WRONG POSSIBLE TIME! This team boasted that their starting five – when healthy – hasn’t lost a series. Cool, right? Not.

Ainge felt he needed  a move to get younger, warranted, but to move Perkins so they wouldn’t have to  deal with his upcoming free agency was shortsighted. They should have kept the team together (and more than likely won the title) and if they lost Perkins for nothing…then so be it. Isn’t it about getting the title? I understand the need to infuse youth but you don’t mortgage a chance at a title when the deal hurts you in the present. This team is built for today.

The trade went down, in my opinion, because they experienced fools gold when Shaq gave them quality minutes. Shaq had a positive impact on the product on the floor but his presence (along with the fact that Jermaine O’Neal was recovering) rendered Perkins expendable, unfortunately.

Rondo’s injury changed the series because he was playing with one arm and wasn’t able to dominate the pg battle versus Miami. My thought was that if Rondo doesn’t give his complete stat-sheet-filling effort at least three times, the Heat would finish them in five or six…and that surely manifested.

Future:

  Doc Rivers signed an extension for the next 5 years which will give them stability at the top. Delonte West’s return to the team was a boost and he’s a vital piece of the rotation as he can back up both guard spots effortlessly. Allen is a workout wonder and has a meticulous diet program similar to Steve Nash; so basically you can count on him.

Pierce entered this season in the best shape he’s been in for years and it continued to show with his excellent play on the court. Garnett is his usual high intensity self so he’ll be charged up to go after another title. The wildcard, which has been the case since he became the starter, is Rondo.

Entering this upcoming season he needs to bring a consistent jumper to the table, absolutely has to! He can get to the rim effortlessly, gets his guys the ball in their favorite spots, and is the best man-to-man defender in the league. You know a better defender, on the ball, than Rajon? I don’t feel there is one. Next season I think he needs to increase his scoring; this season he averaged 10.6 ppg and I think he needs to be in the 15-19 ppg range for the Celtics to be as dangerous as this group can be while giving them everything else he currently does. His free throw percentage also has to rise from .568 % to somewhere in the 80’s as he’s an elite guard and he should NOT be a liability in tight games.

As a big fan of the Diesel, I’m sad to say that he can’t be counted on anymore. He is one of the greatest players ever but his body cannot keep up with the physical strain of a long season. I wanted him to get healthy because I love to see how much havoc he causes in the paint and I’m sure Boston feels the same way. Jermaine O’ Neal gave them an infusion of energy in the Knicks series but he couldn’t help when they needed good minutes against Miami.

With their core four in place and West they still have a foundation to compete. Jeff Green (who I think is a good player) can anchor the second unit or start if opposing teams go small and I feel their biggest concern is size and toughness. They need to focus on acquiring a young center that can score in the paint and give them a defensive presence. There are too many times when they depend on jumpers falling and when they don’t the offense becomes stagnant, which is a big reason why when they get up on a team, they have trouble closing. Garnett is a jump shooting big who doesn’t score in the paint as often as he used to so addressing the need there would do wonders on those bad shooting nights.

Big Baby Davis’ time has probably run its course and he could be used to acquire a draft pick or a young big man. A young shooting guard would also be wise in order to boost the bench and groom Allen’s successor.

Their window is still open but this was a lost year. Boston fans….you’re still a contender and only minor tweaks are needed to be back in the hunt.

Photo: Sportslogos.net

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