07-08 Recap: 66-16, 1st in East - Last year, the Celtics embodied the Bantu word of ubuntu , which means to promote the success of the group over individual accolades. After acquiring Ray Allen for expiring contracts and the fifth pick in the draft and following that up with getting Kevin Garnett for a promising prospect and a few sticks of gum, the Celtics seemed ready to get this franchise back to prominence. The idea of ubuntu was the foundation to lay when the Celtics traveled to Rome for exhibition games sans cell phones, entourage members, and groupies. They became a team on that trip and formed instant team chemistry. When they entered the season, the problems set forth by the media and analysts were that the Celtics didn’t have the proper players on the bench to win a championship, despite having signed Eddie House and James Posey.
In season, the Celtics acquired Sam Cassell after he was released for being too old for Los Angeles and convinced P.J. Brown to come out of retirement and stop entering Michelle Obama look-a-like contests. By the end of the season, the Celtics were historically phenomenal on defense. They were fueled by the desire of KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to validate their careers. They were helped by young guys like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins looking to be effective when called upon. They finished with the best record in the league by seven games and figured to roll through the playoffs.
However, when the post-season came the Celtics ran into troubles on the road. Due to their lack of ability to play well against the Hawks on the road, it took them seven games to dispatch a team that won just 37 games in the regular season. The Celtics needed one of the greatest playoff performances in Celtics history (and that’s saying something) from Paul Pierce to out duel LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. In the Conference Finals, the Celtics were able to make more plays than the Detroit Pistons and move on in six games. And in the NBA Finals, the Celtics showed resilience and the proverbial “wanting it more than the other team” by constantly countering the Lakers whenever they made a big run. The Celtics won the NBA title in six games for their 17th in franchise history (an NBA record).
In the off-season, the Celtics drafted J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, two high-flying wing players with a history of issues. They lost James Posey to the New Orleans Hornets after they were unwilling to give him four years on his new contract. And they signed Darius Miles in an attempt to completely ruin everything they had just built up over the past year. Luckily for Celtics fans, he was cut a couple of weeks before the regular season.
The Starting Five
PG Rajon Rondo 10.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 49.2% FG (Rating - 7)
Showed during the playoffs that he could be a top playmaking point guard on both ends of the floor.
SG Ray Allen 17.4 ppg, 3.1 apg, 180 3FGM (Rating - 8)
May have lost a step on offense but he’s still the deadliest shooter in the NBA.
SF Paul Pierce 19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg (Rating - 10)
Claims to be the best player in the world. Leading the Celtics to a second title would perhaps justify that.
PF Kevin Garnett 18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 53.9% FG (Rating - 10)
Anything is posssssssssiiiiiibbbbbbbbllllleeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!
C Kendrick Perkins 6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg (Rating - 7)
He won’t win any whistling competitions since he has no upper lip, but he’s slowly developed into a really nice bruiser down low.
Bench Rating: 7
Losing James Posey really hinders this bench’s confidence in clutch situations but they still have enough good role players to be effective. Eddie House and Tony Allen are the two main guards off of the bench and Eddie House seems to be the only reliable three-point shooter outside of Ray Allen on the entire team. Tony Allen will have to fill in for the departed James Posey on defense and Leon Powe will have to step in for the departed P.J. Brown too. If Bill Walker can adjust quickly as a rookie and be the best athlete off of the bench, then this will have to work a lot less to defend their title.
Breakout Player: Rajon Rondo
The Boston Celtics were very careful and cautious with what they allowed Rajon Rondo to do last season. They didn’t want him to go off on his own, try to make too many plays and damage their title hopes. Rondo showed great growth during this time and really outplayed most of his competition during the playoffs. He completely overmatched Mike Bibby in the first round and stepped up as a good playmaker in the NBA Finals. This season, he’ll have more of a free reign to make plays. He shot 49% from the field because he never took a shot outside of his abilities. I think you can expect more of the same this year with better playmaking ability. His assist to turnover ratio should be a lot like what he gave us in the playoffs (3.65:1).
Biggest Disappointment: Kendrick Perkins
There are two things that bother me about Kendrick Perkins. First is his lack of an upper lip. Our not-so-resident cynic, Andy Eisner, is convinced that Kendrick is incapable of whistling. The second is the fact that he has had three shoulder surgeries in his career with the latest one coming in September. I find it hard to believe that Perkins can undergo the punishment of a full NBA season with a tender and recovering bad shoulder and still be completely effective. I think that he probably needs a full off-season of recovery to make sure that the shoulder is healed properly. He’ll still be an effective rebounder but can he score when needed?
Coaching Situation: Doc Rivers
In a span of about 10 months, Doc Rivers went from media darling who will be the handicap to the Celtics championship hopes to a media darling who has complete job security, a three-year extension on his contract and a championship ring. Rivers isn’t the most competent X’s and O’s coaches but he does know how to bring his players together and get them on the same page. His ubuntu philosophy was the best way to get this team to buy into the championship style of defense that they played and for that reason, Rivers is worth keeping around.
Prediction: 1st in Atlantic Division
Let’s be serious here – anything less than the Celtics winning a championship is a failure. This is still arguably the best team in the league in spite of losing James Posey and replacing him with Darius Miles Bill Walker. The Celtics were one of the Top 5 greatest defensive teams of all time last year and bring back the same intensity this season thanks to Kevin Garnett. Veterans like KG and Ray Allen have tasted championship glory and will want to repeat. Paul Pierce knows that winning back to back titles will solidify him as one of the best in the league the best like he claimed to be just a couple of months ago. Guys like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins need to show that they are more to this team than just role players. They are out to prove that they are integral parts of the success of this franchise and that they mean a lot to the future of this organization.
This Celtics team should still be in prime position to win this title. But they are going to need guys like Tony Allen, Bill Walker, and Eddie House to step into the role that James Posey left empty. They will need Glen Davis and Leon Powe to be good enough to keep Danny Ainge from having to sign veteran free agents that could end up disrupting the chemistry of this team. This Celtics team still has holes that need to be accounted for and fixed like they did last season. But they can overcome that with effort and playing as a unit. Another season of ubuntu will bring the Celtics an 18th NBA Championship.
Review in association w/Zach Harper from Talk Hoops.