Go back to the year 2007 when Celtics fans' hopes of acquiring collegiate stars Greg Oden or Kevin Durant blew up right in front of them as the team somehow ended up with the 5th pick in the NBA draft that year. This was supposed to be the beginning of a new Celtics team, a foundation for a brighter future. Then something miraculous happened. The Celtics became a contender seemingly over night with the acquisitions of stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Now, six seasons, a championship, and the inevitable break-up of the "Big-Three" later and the Celtics may be looking at their best team since that magical 07-08 bunch.
The departure of Ray Allen to the rivaled Miami Heat in the offseason has led to an increased amount of tension between two teams that didn’t like each other to begin with. While this was the move that made all the headlines in the offseason, and will certainly be the focal point of the season opener between Boston and Miami, it cannot overshadow the significant additions the C’s have made since their conference finals loss to Miami last season.
Soon after Ray’s departure, Boston signed free agent veteran guard Jason Terry to
essentially step right in where Ray left off. Terry has transitioned very nicely in the second half of his career into a clutch shooter off the bench and a great personality to have in the locker room. Look for "The Jet" to become a fan-favorite in Boston, as he can also play the role of team mascot, but don't worry, not in a Nate Robinson - in your face non stop - kind of way.
The Celtics then added another shooting guard in former Houston Rocket Courtney Lee. Lee had other options on the free agent market, but he decided to join the band of brothers in Boston to add to an already impressive roster. Lee should be able to provide the team added depth and some much needed fresh legs off the bench for a team that has clearly slowed down their style of play over the past few seasons.
Other offseason additions included veteran shooting guard Leandro Barbosa and center Darko Milicic. Each of these players will have their chance to contribute, but may see somewhat limited time with a roster that is full of healthy bodies.
Capping off an offseason of roster adjustments, the Celtics drafted power forward Jared Sullinger from Ohio State to provide more of a presence in the paint, as well as the Syracuse combination of Fab Melo and Kris Joseph to add more youth to the already deep bench.
Transactions that may prove to be just as significant as the offseason additions are the moves that Danny Ainge made to keep Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Chris Wilcox in Boston. Each of these players will provide a younger core to the team that it has lacked over the past few campaigns. With Green and Wilcox going down last year with serious heart issues, it is great to see that they have both made full recoveries and are ready to contribute to this year's squad.
Now that we have laid down the map of the 2012-13 Celtics roster, we will transition to some of the main questions and concerns that they face enter in the new season.
1. Is this now Rajon Rondo’s team?
Now that the “Big Three” has finally been broken up, it is safe to say that this is Rajon Rondo’s team. Rondo still plays like he gets no respect, yet he has learned how to control his emotions for the most part and contribute in as many ways as he possibly can to the overall success of the Celtics.
While the Celtics will hope for no injuries throughout the season, Rondo would be the one player they could least afford to lose. His value has only grown over his 6 years in Boston, and now with any controversy between the point guard and Ray Allen behind him, Rondo’s main focus can shift to controlling the team to the best of his ability every single game.
2. Are the Celtics the 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference?
Entering the season with their deepest roster in recent memory, it is no stretch to say that the Celtics will contend for the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference. It would appear their main challengers for the number 2 slot in the East would be the Pacers, the Nets, and possibly the Bulls and the Knicks.
For Chicago, their hopes will come down to how fast they can get their MVP point guard Derrick Rose back on the court, while with the Knicks, no one truly knows how they will perform in their second full season of the Carmelo Anthony project. New York has given no reason to believe that the way their team is currently set up will produce any kind of significant success, so their position in the East is still up in the air.
Indiana has a proven young bunch that could give Boston some trouble, yet they should not be too much of a challenge with the improvements that the Celtics have made in the offseason.
Finally, the new look Brooklyn Nets appear to be the wild-card in the Eastern Conference this season. Between their new location, new faces, and basically whole new vibe around the team, it is hard to tell how everything will mesh together. Brooklyn has the talent to compete in the East, but the Celtics should still be favored to be the 2nd best team in the conference when all is said and done.
3. What is this team’s biggest concern?
Injuries. The one consistent with the core of the Celtics dating back to the 07-08 season is how they absolutely need their team to stay healthy if they want any hope of competing for an NBA championship. That belief still stands with this years bunch, regardless of how deep the roster may be. While the depth would help Boston stay afloat during the regular season if a key player did go down, they cannot afford to be missing any of their main pieces come playoff time. Teams like the Heat and the Lakers have the fire-power entering this season to still contend without key players if they need to, but Boston simply does not have this luxury. In what will certainly be a season filled with uncertainty and question marks, one thing is for sure: the 2012-13 Boston Celtics must remain healthy if they want any chance of winning an NBA title.
Awards and Predictions:
Jared Sullinger. Look for rookie forward Jarod Sullinger to be a pleasant surprise for this year’s team, as he had an impressive preseason and looks to prove doubters wrong that he can still be effective despite his lack in height and jumping ability.
Darko Milicic. While the Celtics certainly don’t expect much from one of the biggest draft busts in recent history, Darko Milicic will still find a way to be a letdown on this year’s club. He may have the size that Boston desperately needs down low, but his skill set is simply lacking and he has not been able to prove himself in any of his previous stops in the NBA. Look for Milicic's role to be limited as the season progresses, as he may not even make it far past the All-Star break.
Rajon Rondo. It’s very simple; the Celtics will not win a title if Rajon Rondo is not the MVP of this team. As previously mentioned, the Celtics go as Rondo goes. Rajon himself has even stated that he believes the green team is one of five clubs in the NBA that has a legitimate chance of winning an NBA title. While that number may be on the smaller side, he does have a point. It is also nice to see that he understands that this is now his team and that he will need to perform to the best of his ability if the Celtics want to raise banner number 18 this year.
Jason Terry wins the 6th man of the year award. While it may be a stretch to hand Terry this award, he has all the pieces necessary to make it happen. Terry is a proven veteran scorer who is completely fine with coming off of the bench. He has been very durable over the past few seasons, and he has won the award in the past. As far as we are concerned, those aspects make up the checklist for 6th man of the year candidates, so Terry should have a great chance of accomplishing this impressive feat for the second time this season.
As a side-note, one of the top candidates for the award entering the season, James Harden, has all but been taken off of the “ballet” for the award following his departure to Houston. This is due to the fact that Harden will certainly play the leading role on that new-look team.
The worst-case scenario for the 2012-13 Boston Celtics goes a little like this.
The Celtics open the season by getting blown out in Miami after having to sit around as their bitter rivals raised a banner and received their championship rings before the game. Oh yea, Ray Allen also has 25 points in the win, shooting 7 for 7 from 3-point range.
Then Rajon Rondo gets a Derrick Rose-like injury a few weeks later, resulting in his absence from the roster for the majority of the season including the playoffs.
Avery Bradley’s return date continues to be postponed and eventually it is announced that he will not return until the 2013-14 season, so Courtney Lee has to assume the point guard position. The once highly praised offseason additions end up greatly underperforming, as the team can’t put any significant win streak together while they severely lack any kind of chemistry.
The Celtics then receive the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference entering the playoffs and face the 2-seeded New York Knicks. By this point the Knicks have somehow put themselves into a championship contending role, and Spike Lee trash talks KG and company all series as the Knickerbockers sweep Boston in a dominant fashion, leaving the C's looking like the ghosts of their 07-08 form.
The Celtics open up the 2012-13 season with a blowout win in Miami, after the raising of the Heat's banner goes south when the banner itself rips in half midway through its trip to the rafters.
The green team then cruises their way to a 23-7 record heading into the new year. In the meantime, the Heat are lacking the motivation they need to contend for a second straight title as they have several setbacks throughout the season.
The playoffs role around and Boston is the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and sweeps the “rivaled” 8th seeded New York Knicks (again) in the first round.
Boston then goes on to handily take care of the Indana Pacers before hosting the Miami Heat in the conference finals.
Then the roles from last season are reversed, as Boston hosts Game 7 of their conference finals series with Miami and subsequently crush the Heat at the Garden, as the fans chant “It’s all over” while Ray Allen and company leave the court with their heads down.
The Celtics then cap off their miraculous run with a 4-1 series win in the NBA Finals over the San Antonio Spurs, proving that their added youth in the offseason was the difference, as the team wins their 18th championship in its storied history.
While the actual outcome of the 2012-13 season for the Boston Celtics may surely fall somewhere in the middle of these best and worst case scenarios, that is what makes the beginning of a new season so much fun. As Kevin Garnett once stated, “Anything’s possible,” and truer words could not describe the upcoming season for a Celtic team that is very hungry for an 18th banner.
Let the games begin.
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