Celtics aren’t finished yet
By Zach Yonk
Thursday, February 18th, 2010
In 2007, Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge orchestrated trades that brought all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston to team up with Paul Pierce. What followed was the biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history, with the Celtics jumping from 23 wins in 2006-07 to 66 wins in 2007-08 and winning their 17th NBA title to boot.
Fast-forward to this season. The Celtics are leading the Atlantic Division with a 32-18 record going into the All-Star break, and people are starting to talk (although quietly) of a slow decline. Fortunately for them, it’s not the type of decline that the Chicago Bulls went through after GM Jerry Krause dismantled the Jordan-led dynasty.
Quite the contrary, the Celtics decline will prove to be a slow one. Let’s get one thing straight … I hate the Boston Celtics. Always have. In 2008 I pulled for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals because it meant cheering against Boston. Needless to say, I was disappointed. One of the doors on my TV stand back home can attest to that.
But I refuse to believe that the Celtics will go away quietly. So now, when I should be scoffing at the Celtics for their slight drop in the standings, I find myself defending their less-than extraordinary performance this season. Partly because it would be too easy to rag on them for getting older, and partly because I feel (gasp!) sympathetic.
The Celtics are the Spurs of the East; quite good, quite talented, but slowly getting further away from the domination they once knew. Garnett, despite his undying passion, is now 33 years old and still adjusting to life on one healthy knee. Allen is 35 and doesn’t make those three-pointers like he used to. Pierce can still take over games, but isn’t getting any younger either.
Right now, Boston clings to a four-game lead in their division over Chris Bosh and the Internationals (Toronto Raptors). While it’s a pretty safe bet to say that the Celtics will hang on to win their division, what is that really saying? If you have the talent that the Celtics have and you play in the same division as the Raptors, Knicks, 76ers and Nets, you’d better win the division every year. The concern for the Celtics isn’t whether or not they will make the playoffs, but where they will be seeded once the playoffs begin.
Once they’re back in the playoffs, their fate rests on Kevin Garnett’s health. The Celtics might have made it back to the Finals last season had it not been for Garnett’s knee injury. With Garnett sidelined, the Celtics pushed the Orlando Magic to the brink in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, holding a 4-2 series lead before allowing the Magic to prevail in games six and seven. If Garnett is healthy during the playoffs, they have a much better chance of making it to the Finals.
Shoot, even without Garnett the Celtics will put up a fight. Despite the overall aging roster, which also has Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House and Glen Davis coming off the bench, there’s still enough swagger in the locker room to make Johnny Bravo blush.
Of course, how can one forget the consistent play of center Kendrick Perkins, one of the most underappreciated big men in the game today, or the continual development of point guard Rajon Rondo?
All in all, the Celtics may not be as dominant as they were two years ago, but don’t expect them to go quietly come playoff time.
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