Have I mentioned lately that I'm really excited about the Celtics upcoming season? The Celts have basically been off the radar since before I left Boston in 2000. After years of perpetual success, the team hit some very tough times and just couldn't seem to put things together. The loss of Len Bias, Reggie Lewis and the additions of Rick Pitino and Jim O'Brien were the downfall of the organization. For every positive thing that has happened to the Celts over the past 10 years, there has been equally negative things. PP is obviously the best thing the C's have done, Antoine Walker was a good choice early, but he soon became a bad player (bad shots, bad wiggle, big ego, diminishing skills), Al Jefferson was a real bright spot. Bad draft pick after bad draft pick, bad trades for expiring contracts and old guys 5 years past their peaks just wasn't the answer. Bad ownership and management has also been another set back to this organization. Ainge is a moron. Basically his most recent deal is his saving grace, but it hardly makes up for the horrible deals he has made in the past.
But oh what a deal this one was. After making a draft day deal for Ray Allen that gave the C's a second scoring option to make PP happy - which btw, Ainge HAD to do, this team without PP is basically a joke - he scored big time points. The KG trade was magnificent, if not a total robbery. KG is one of the top 3 players in the game right now, and is top 20 of all time. He is still relatively young and in his peak, and he is hungry. KG is the kind of guy that Boston fans will fall in love with - he's a dirt dog, he's a team player, and he's humble. He is everything the C's are looking for. The Big 3 (of 2007-08) are going to be exciting - Allen has the outside touch and ball handling skills to keep the inside free for KG. KG will be able to rebound at will and play fast paced basketball that he can excel at. PP will be, how do I say this and make sense, more free to the basket. He'll be able to get to the basket and score more freely. PP is probably one of the most annoying players who drive to the basket because he is always looking for a foul (Kobe is the worst). But with only one guy to beat and one guy in the paint to stand up to him, PP's scoring HAS to go up.
Obviously we have huge holes at PG and C - probably the most important positions on the court. PG will be manned by a kid that slipped to the 2nd round a year ago - but he has proven to be quite a rebounder and a decent defensive player - which is exactly what the C's need with the big 3 hoisting tons of shots and playing minimal defense. Rondo will surprise this season - he needs to work on his ball handling, but his pass first mentality will help the big 3. Perk is a bigger concern, but some on - how much do you have to do when you have a 7 foot freakish PF playing beside you? He's a rebounding specialist and that's what he needs to do this year.
Is this team championship material? No, obviously the West is the conference to beat - they are freakishly talented and those teams are stacked with great players and veteran deep benches. Is this 2007-08 team the best in the East? Well - maybe top 3. They are better than the Knicks and Raptors, and they can compete with the Nets and Heat. The main concern will be health. That is the number 1 opponent for this team.
My original intent on wiritng thsi was to make a comparison to the OTHER big 3 - Bird, McHale and Parish. Now, I'm not saying that the big 3 of PP/KG/RA is as good the old big 3 of KM/RP/LB, but I am saying that they have the potential to come close. The old big 3 had spare parts filling the PG and SG roles - Ainge and DJ were good players, but not All Stars, legends or all time greats by any means. But they all played within themselves - they all knew their roles, they all played their hearts out, and they all were never intimidated. Growing up a Celtics fan during the 80's was quite possibly the best sports era of any team in any sport. (I guess the Pats over the past 5 or 6 years was fun - but I'm no Pats fan.)
If the new Big 3 can play within themselves and know their roles on this team, then the 2007-08 (and future) C's could be quite special. Allen needs to control the ball on the outside and improve his shooting percentage, KG needs to own the middle, dominate the boards and run the ball through the low post, PP needs to take advantage of single coverage (finally!) and make good shooting and passing decisions. Rondo needs to know when to get the ball into each scorers hands and when to make the other team pay for defending them! Perk needs to keep his hands up the entire game and block shots and rebound EVERYTHING. The bench needs to provide intelligent veteran leadership, defense and no suckitude.
Bird > Garnett - well no one compares to Bird except maybe Michael Jordan, but Garnett is at least close. They play different positions, but both are gritty players who LOVE the game. Garnett is a better rebounder, but Bird was a leader and pure shooter.
McHale > PP - McHale was an inside machine that played some of the best defense I've ever seen. PP doesn't play defense, so that is hardly comparable. PP can score, drive and draw fouls, and he's clutch - that has to mean something.
Parish > Allen - Allen adds an outside presence that the Celtics have lacked since Dana Barros. He adds ball control and passing ability that makes him more of an Ainge than a DJ. Parish was a rebounding machine who had an unstoppable sky hook. Although he wasn't counted on to score much he was counted on to control the other teams big man.
I think that although the the Old Big 3 adds up to a better team, the new C's are younger and have more scoring potential. Obviously there are only so many shots in a game, and they have to be spread intelligently to make this team successful. I think that can happen.
I'm guessing the C's lead the Atlantic Division - and they will hit the 50 win mark - basically equalling what the Cavs did last seson in a conference where no team has gotten much better (well maybe the Knicks - but they will find a way to suck). I'm guessing that the Big 3 will be very equal this season - averaging about 20 points each a game, KG will average 12 boards, and Allen will average just under 9 assists, while PP will avg 5 and 5. I think they will beat the Chicago in the 1st round of the playoffs, and lose to Detroit in the 2nd round. 2008-09 will be a better season.
More importantly the city of Boston will be abuzz in the winter months - the Celtics will be relevant again and they will be good. KG jersey's will FLY off the shelves and respect will be poured on the parquet. Now we need to get some life into the Bruins. Forsberg anyone?