Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is six weeks away. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next six weeks. This week is the Atlantic Division. Today is the Boston Celtics
2011-12 Record: 39-27, lost in Eastern Conference Finals
Key Losses: Ray Allen (signed with Miami), Mickael Pietrus (Free Agent), Marquis Daniels (signed with Milwaukee)
Key Acquisitions: Jason Terry (Free Agent from Dallas), Courtney Lee (trade from Houston), Jared Sullinger (Draft)
Depth ChartPG SG SF PF C Rajon Rondo Avery Bradley Paul Pierce Brandon Bass Kevin Garnett Jason Terry (PG/SG) Courtney Lee (PG/SG) Jeff Green Chris Wilcox (F/C) Darko Milicic Dionte Christmas Jamar Smith Kris Joseph Jared Sullinger Jason Collins
The Celtics somehow managed to get younger and more versatile while also shaving nearly $8 million off their payroll. Danny Ainge was able to retain Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass at reasonable contracts, which means the Celtics will return a starting lineup that dominated the second half of last year's abbreviated season (once Avery Bradley returns in January from surgery on both of his shoulders).
Last year's bench was held together mainly by Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus, both of whom needed surgery immediately after the season ended. With them gone, the Celtics brought in perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jason Terry, and young shooting guard Courtney Lee (who will start in Bradley's place for the time being). Toss Jeff Green into the mix and suddenly Rajon Rondo can push the ball up court to some capable finishers at the rim or behind the arc for a transition 3-pointer.
Maybe the best thing as camp opens is the apparent maturation of Rajon Rondo into the team's leader. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as management and Doc Rivers, have all made sure that everyone knows Rondo is the man in Boston now. He is handled the reins well in the early going, organizing team workouts before camp even began, and taking charge in practices.
IF Rondo maintains this level of maturity, the Celtics will have taken a great step forward, without having gone through much of the pain of rebuilding.
Three major pieces to this puzzle, Garnett, Pierce, and Terry, are all older than 34. The Celtics have added personnel that can absorb the hit of losing one of them better than in the past, but it's still something that simmers in the back of every Celtics fan's mind. And behind each one of those guys is a total wild card.
Chris Wilcox and Darko Milicic are going to be the back-up bigs. If KG goes down, Boston will be relying on one of the two guys on its roster that missed time due to heart surgery last season... and another guy who some say needs surgery to implant some kind of NBA heart. The specter of extended time this season with Darko getting major minutes is not one Boston wants to face.
Should something happen to Pierce, it will be up to Green, the other heart surgery recipient, to handle the load (more on him in a moment).
And if Terry goes down, then it is up to Courtney Lee to be the main guy off the bench. He is quite capable of being a high-quality sixth man... but then the Celtics have to hope other guys (Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Jamar Smith) step up.
This is not ugly now, but it has the potential to be.
Jeff Green's four-year, $36 million contract might be the most discussed deal of the summer. In Green, the Celtics have a young, athletic swing man who has a tantalizing upside.
He also has a long scar running down his chest from open heart surgery a year ago, and no telling how his body will react to it.
Beyond that, he has been statistically... let's say... undeserving of an average of $9 million a year. Danny Ainge had no choice, really, but to give Green a massive contract (this is why). Now he just has to hope this goes well.
This could certainly work out for Green. This is his first full training camp under Doc Rivers. This is his first full camp along side Hall of Fame veterans like Garnett and Pierce. And he is never had a passing point guard like Rajon Rondo on his side. Those things, along with a new, take-charge perspective on life could mean a new and improved Green that will have a lot of people eating their words.
The "ugly" will come to fruition if someone can use Jay Z's words to describe Green.
"You can try to change but that's just the top layer. Man you was who you was before you got here."
It will get ugly in Boston if Jeff Green remains the guy who is not quite quick enough to guard the 3 and not quite strong enough to guard the 4. It will get ugly if his long-range shots continue to clang off the rim. It will get ugly if the Celtics are forced to make Green a 10-minute-a-game guy instead of the 20-25 minute a game guy they are hoping for.
Because Paul Pierce cannot carry the load as much as he used to. If Green's performance puts added demands on Paul Pierce's body... now THAT could get ugly.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Celtics? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by hashtagging #CelticsDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Celtics throughout the day.
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