Not often do you come within a game of the NBA Finals, add depth to your team, and have just about everyone write you off.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2012-13 Boston Celtics.
Seriously. What more could the Celtics have done this offseason? They re-signed Kevin Garnett. They didnt trade Paul Pierce. They enhanced Rajon Rondos happiness by letting Ray Allen walk (forget for a moment that he ended up with the hated Miami Heat).
So the Celtics took care of their own -- and their own has been pretty doggone efficient all by themselves. After that, they replaced Allen (and then some), by adding guards Jason Terry and Courtney Lee via free agency, and big men Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo via the draft.
Also, forward Jeff Green returns from a heart issue, and guard Avery Bradley returns from a bum shoulders.
The only question that remains is why so many folks seem to think the Celtics are finished.
Oh, its true that Garnett is 36, with the basketball mileage of a 67-year old. Its true that Pierce just turned 35. And we all know theres no telling what might become of Sullinger, who lasted to the No. 20 overall pick, and maybe for a good reason. But maybe not.
The bottom line is this band of Celtics is talented, experienced and has more in reserve than last season. To those voices of popular opinion, that seems to mean little.
To those who prefer reality, it had better count for something. Otherwise, if everything clicks, the Celtics are likely to send out a reminder that, hey, they still got some winning to do.
Last season: 39-27, lost to Miami in Eastern Conference finals.
Coach: Doc Rivers (546-433, 14th year)
Top returnees: PF Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce, PG Rajon Rondo.
Key additions: G Jason Terry, SG Courtney Lee, PF Jared Sullinger-r, C-Fab Melo-r.
X-Factor: Avery Bradley. Prior to getting injured, Bradley was slowly but surely taking over Allens starting role. It wasnt because Bradley offered anything close to the veteran cleverness or outside shooting. Rather, Bradley supplied fresh legs, defense and a game that seemed at least as complementary to Rondo. Now, we get to find out if that type of well-roundedness and camaraderie is sustainable. If so, Bradley will help Celtics fans forget all about Allen, and quickly.
Strengths: No one in the conference can match the intensity of Garnett. The man is just on at all times -- training camp, preseason, playoffs, you name it. Even when hes less-than-healthy (which seems to be the case quite often these days), Garnetts passion has proven to spread. Meanwhile, Rondo cant shoot, but he does so many of the other things so well, you either forgive or just forget. If he can carry over his playoff performance to this season, hell be in league-wide MVP discussions. Along with those two, the Celtics added youth, experience and another prime-time title-winning performer in Terry.
Weaknesses: Two of the three biggest reasons for hope are old enough to date your grandma. Not really, but Garnett and Pierce do have a tendency to, if not break down entirely, show signs of wear and tear. Those backing up KG and Pierce, meanwhile, are still unknown commodities. Sullinger and Melo havent played a real NBA game. Greens situation is scary and theres no telling how well he might recover, or function. And Allens three-point guarantees are long gone.
Outlook: With good health and quick contributions from the youngsters, the Celtics should continue their run of Atlantic Division titles. But if their fortune is even better -- and Garnett and Pierce give them another good year, Sullinger exceeds expectations, Terry turns out to be a natural fit, and so on and so on -- then youd better be prepared. Allen may find himself playing for the Easts No. 2 team yet again.
2012-13 schedule: Link
FOX Sports: Celtics home
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