JON BRYANT ’14
Many people watch the first five games of a season and are convinced that this is how the rest of a team’s season will pan out. The departure of one of the Celtic’s “Big Three”, Ray Allen, to the Miami Heat, has been a source of concern for fans. A recent rivalry between the Heat and Celtics has developed as the Heat crushed dreams of bringing one more championship back to Boston last season. Not only did Allen sign with the Heat, but he also did it for half the money the Celtics were offering him.
In the first game of the season the defending champions Heat looked dominant and the Celtics out of sync as the Heat won by a comfortable 13 points and Ray Allen contributed (19). After the loss to the Heat, the Celtics looked to bounce back against a mediocre team in the Milwaukee Bucks; however, again they lost by double-digit points and looked absolutely terrible in all aspects of the game. They were only able to score 30 points in the first half, and got outrebounded by a wide margin. Lots of criticism towards the Celtics has evolved and people have been quick to point out the Celtics’ absence of identity and inability to rebound (they were the worst rebounding team in the NBA last year).
Recently on ESPN the Celtics were ranked the 11th best team in the NBA, and there has been talk of them not even making the playoffs this year. All of these speculations are ridiculous, and premised off five games of an 82-game regular season. The season is still very early and these early games have very little impact and significance on what a team’s future holds. By the end of the regular season the Celtics will look like a completely different team; they will be one of the best teams in the NBA, and a legitimate championship contender.
It is important to note that last year people were saying many of the same negative things about the Celtics: too old, can’t rebound, “year 5 of a 3 year plan.” But what happened last year? The Celtics ended up being the hottest team in the NBA come playoff time. They reached the Conference semifinals, and were only one home game playoff win away from reaching the finals. They did this without Avery Bradley (widely considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the league), without Chris Wilcox (one of the team’s best rebounders), and with a hurt Paul Pierce trying to guard and score on Lebron James. All of this goes without saying the Celtics missed Jeff Green who underwent life threatening heart surgery. Green is an athlete that can provide scoring in bunches. This year the Celtics are back, they are healthy, and they had a very good offseason. The Celtics acquired a trio of guards in Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa, who will all make an immediate impact. All of them can shoot the ball extremely well, replacing the loss of Ray Allen, and can defend well too, certainly much better than the 37-year-old Ray Allen did last year. Additionally, Boston came away with an absolute steal in this year’s draft. Jared Sullinger provides the Celtics with a low post presence; he is one of the top rookie rebounders in the league.
At this point in the season the Celtics have not found their identity, they are trying to figure out how to piece all of their new and old assets together so that come playoff time, they will be a well functioning machine. The combination of Rondo, Terry, Bradley, Lee, and Barbosa is one of the deepest and most talented backcourts in the league. The addition of Green, Sullinger and a healthy Wilcox filling in for Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass will be invaluable.
Lastly, this year the Celtics have a healthy, slimmer, ripped up Paul Pierce who looks like the Paul Pierce of old, throwing down some monster dunks in the first few games. If there is one thing that true Celtics fans understand, it is that come playoff time the Celtics know how to win. They simply kick it into another gear and elevate their game to another level. Ultimately, the combination of a deeper and healthier Celtics come playoffs time will make them one of the most legitimate title contenders, and people will have a very different view about the Celtics then they do now.