"Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they’re going to be gray and old." –Rick Pitino
I’m typically not one to jump onto bandwagons. When teams make offseason moves, I prefer to sit back and watch them play, to watch their chemistry before I make any sort of judgment. Likewise, I don’t gauge how a team’s season will go after they’ve played only five or six games. The NBA season is a marathon and anything can happen between November and April. For this reason, I’m not going to overreact to the early misfortunes of Chicago, Miami and Washington. Nor will I assume that Orlando and the L.A. Clippers will continue to sit atop their divisions. I do think, however, that there is something that has to be said.
The Boston Celtics are going to dismantle the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Danny Ainge, in what could be considered a desperate move to save his and Doc Rivers’ jobs, finally decided that he would make some moves to keep the Celtics from sucking this year. Gone are many young pieces and draft picks that would presumably be used to build for the future. Here now are perennial All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. They will team with Celtics mainstay Paul Pierce and spare parts (James Posey and Rajon Rondo excluded) to try to raise another banner to the rafters of whatever the arena in Boston is now called.
I was skeptical at first. I noted the team’s lack of a bench as a strike against them. I counted Rondo’s inexperience at point guard as strike two. Then I considered the past few seasons for Pierce and Allen. I think it’s a safe bet to say that they will miss at least twenty-five games between them due to injury.
Three strikes. The Celtics should be out, sent to the dugout to chew some tobacco and scratch themselves in areas that would outrage the nation if it were a Super Bowl halftime show. Right?
Wrong. I failed to make a very important observation in assessing this team and predicting the outcome of their season. Garnett’s stats will look like those of an MVP candidate before the year is over.
Garnett has toiled in Minnesota for twelve years, winning an MVP award and averaging 20, 10 and 5 almost every year. This was against the wealth of talented forwards and teams that the West could throw at him. Now in the east, Garnett only has to face western teams 30 games out of 82. That means that he will have the opportunity for 52 games act a fool in the paint. The presence of Pierce and Allen means that teams can only do so much double teaming.
To summarize: single coverage against largely inferior competition. Hide the women and children.
Through four games, Garnett is putting up 24, 16 and 6. As I mentioned before, things that happen early in the season must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I would be totally surprised if KG didn’t keep this up. Fatigue may be a factor, but he’ll hit cruise control through most fourth quarters anyway, due to the Celtics putting teams away early and Garnett’s propensity to disappear after the 36th minute of games.
So I’m putting the Celtics ahead of the other Eastern Conference teams, at least for the regular season. I can see them winning nearly sixty games and getting homecourt advantage for the playoffs. It’s far too early to assume that they will make it through to the finals because of their lack of depth and other teams’ experience playing together. However, I think they have as good a chance as anyone to challenge San Utadalstonix for the Larry O’Brien trophy in June or July or whenever the finals wrap up now.
As Pitino said back in 2000, Bird, McHale and Parish will not be donning the green and white as players ever again. They are old and gray, years past making any sort of a comeback as anything else but front-office personnel. (It could be said that McHale is already working for Boston’s front office, but that’s another article.)
However, Garnett just walked through that door. Allen just walked through that door. Pierce was sitting there waiting for them to join him. And while this trio isn’t exactly young and spry, they’re good enough to inspire thoughts of a champagne-soaked locker room after this season’s final whistle blows.