The Boston Celtics enjoyed a terrific, but highly inconsistent
season that ended up with one win away from achieve their second NBA
Championship in 3 years.
Publicly they were one of the powerhouses of the league at the start
of the season. After all, they pushed Orlando to a grueling 7-game
playoffs series without Kevin Garnett in the previous season and with a
healthy KG and with the addition of Rasheed Wallace in the free
agency, they were a legit candidate to win it all.
Indeed they showed such predicaments early on the season, as in the
Christmas day they were carrying a 23-5 record, but since then, the
Celtics looked like a mediocre team by playing the rest of the regular
season by going 27-27 in the next 54 games.
It’s hard to figure out the reasons for such inconsistency and bad
overall play from them. Yes, they are a veteran team and eventually
their old guys simply aren’t able to perform at their best in such
marathon season, but when you lose at home against the likes of the
Nets, 76ers or the Wizards, it is really hard to accept those struggles.
Rajon Rondo was probably the only bright spot of the Celtics during
the regular season, as he emerged as a true floor general and was
consistent since day 1 of the season.
The Celtics ended up with the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference,
so they would have home court advantage only in the first round of the
However, in the playoffs the “old Celtics” were back and all the
previous conversation about their inconsistency during the regular
season was really irrelevant.
Their trademark “Celtics defense” was back and on the offensive end,
they were a true balanced team led by Rajon Rondo that exploited every
possible matchup advantage. In the Finals, the Celtics were 24 minutes
away from winning the Championship and eventually with the presence of
Kendrick Perkins on the floor the outcome would have been different.
2009/10 Advanced Stats:
Pace 22nd 94.6
Offense 14th 105.0
Defense 5th 100.9
Rebounds 25th -1.48
Projected Depth Chart:
PG: Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Avery Bradley
SG: Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, Von Wafer
SF: Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels, Stephane Lasme
PF: Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Luke Harangody
C: Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Semih Erden, Kendrick Perkins
Going into this season, the formula is basically the same as the
last year, as the Celtics retained all of the key players from a season
ago, save for the now-retired Rasheed Wallace and GM Danny Ainge added
Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal to complete the frontcourt.
The Celtics despite all their struggles during the regular season
were a top 5 defensive team, however their rebounding struggles were
unexpected: 25th in rebounding differential (-1.5 per-game) and so,
Ainge knowing that Perkins won’t be available to play soon, he picked up
the two O’Neal’s to improve in such area. Orlando is already a top
rebounding team and with Miami emerging, the Celtics will have to
improve dramatically in this department.
It is pretty amazing the development of Rajon Rondo as a player and
personality in the team. Do you remember of the 07-08 NBA Celtics’
Champs, in which Rondo was the weakest link of the team and every team
in the league ignored him, when the Celtics had the ball? Well, by
averaging 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per
game, he’s emerged as one of the pre-eminent players at his position in
the league, and one of the most unique, too. Yes, his 3pts shooting and
FT% is still problematic, but Rondo found a way to contribute in every
other aspect of the game. With 24-years old, Rondo is the only
projected starter that has less than 32 years and unquestionably, he is
the face of the franchise for the future.
Paul Pierce got his extension this summer and he is still the go-to
player down the stretch for the Celtics and the team’s leader in the
locker room. However, “the Truth” looked just a tad slower and less
explosive last season and his inconsistency was well documented in his
overall numbers: After shooting 52.9 and 50.3% from the field in October
and November, Pierce shot 39.5% FG in December. He also shot 36.1% FG
in February, so the Celtics must be cautious with his usage rate during
the regular season.
The same thing can be said about Ray Allen, although Allen is coming
from playing 80 games in the regular season – his personal high since
the 2000-01 season! His willingness to sacrifice from a superstar player
into a role player in Boston has been notable and the Celtics
appreciated that by giving him an extension as well in this summer.
Kevin Garnett made a nice comeback last season, but his physical
struggles were well evident. During the regular season he logged 29.9
minutes per game – season low since his rookie season and his 14.3ppg
and 7.3rpg are far from the player that once dominated the league in his
position. However, in the playoffs he raised his level and completely
outplayed both Jamison and Rashard Lewis in key pivotal matchups that
the Celtics had against the Cavaliers and the Magic. He’s a smart player
and knows pretty well about his body limitations, so we can expect him
help the team in other facets – facets that aren’t documented in
stats, but that gives the Celtics a mental edge into the games.
While Perkins is out (he is hoping to return in mid-February), one
of the O’Neal’s is going to have to start for this team. Apparently, it
is Jermaine who will receive the nod of being the starter, who quietly
posted 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a starter
in Miami last season, however I just can’t forget how pathetic his play
was in the playoffs against… the Celtics! Shaq is in the decline of
his brilliant career, but only his presence down low in the floor is
enough to give some discomfort to the opponents. It’s quite curious
that if you think about the most potent teams going for this season:
Lakers, Magic, Heat and the Celtics, Shaq played for all these teams in
With such a veteran roster it is imperative that the Celtics second
unit has to be an energetic unit when they are on the court and that’s
exactly what they are. Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Glen Davis are
energetic players (even Robinson showed some nice things last season
with a Celtics uniform) that can change the outcome of the game. Glen
Davis is poised to be the 6th man of this team and he simply doesn’t
have afraid to pull a jump shot in crunch time.
The Celtics are undoubtedly one of the few legit powers in the NBA,
although their path will be different than the Magic or the Heat. It is
hard for us to have a real perception of their value during the regular
season because they proved wrong all the skepticism created with their
inconsistent play in the second half of season before the arrival of
the playoffs. However they are one year older and the Eastern
Conference has seen one powerhouse emerge in a matter of months.
Nevertheless, we just can’t count them out!