Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yeah, the Celtics are the team to beat in the East

(Photo from Boston Herald)
Sorry Heat, you have the star power but the Celtics are having a strong off season gearing up for another trip to the finals. Probably one of my favorite quotes of the summer so far is Rajon Rondo's comments on the Heat's off season moves:

"What is there to be nervous for?" he said. "I'm worried about L.A. That's the team we need to beat. Miami looks really good on paper, and I'm sure they're going to be really good. But they still have to come together as a team. I'm not saying they won't, but who knows if those guys can jell?

"Our biggest opponent each night is ourselves - that's how I look at it. Not to be cocky or anything, but that's how we honestly feel. We are the defending [Eastern] champs. Once the first game of the regular season starts, that's irrelevant. But we are going to go into training camp looking to get back to the Finals and win it."

Rondo's not worried about the Heat, he's worried about the only team that beat his Celtics in the playoffs last year. And honestly, doesn't that just make 100% perfect sense? Celtic management seemed to agree as the Celtics... well, they pretty much got huge. Having to replace an injured Kendrick Perkins, they signed Jermaine O'neal and Shaquille O'neal. They brought in Von Wafer to a one year deal, and they drafted Avery Bradley, a really good pick at pick #22. Along with re-signing Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson (plus Doc Rivers), this team is built to make a run.

Size and rebounding played a major role in the Finals a few months ago and now with a front line of Jermaine, Shaq, KG, Perkins and Glen Davis, I mean my goodness... that's low key HUGE. You're telling me in a 7 game series, with 2 or 3 of these behemoths clogging the lane, Chris Bosh will take advantage by taking free throw line extended jump shots, Joel Anthony will take advantage by crashing boards (all 6'9" of him) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will take advantage by taking baseline jump shots?

"But Dwyane Wade and LeBron will carry this team!" Well I don't know if you've seen LeBron James' jump shot you'd second guess your self and Dwyane Wade will be knocked on his ass like he's been his whole career, especially with the Celtics' physical style of play of NO EASY BUCKETS. I also have this strange premonition that LeBron will once again wilt under pressure and take a back seat against the Celtics, hoping Wade will carry the team. But we'll see.

Sidenote: My predicted 1-8 in the East is 1. Heat 2. Magic 3. Bulls 4. Celtics 5. Atlanta 6. Milwaukee 7. Knicks 8. Charlotte (but really it's a toss up for that 7 and 8 spot).

The Celtics, like the Lakers, addressed needs this summer. While they had to retain their core, they also needed length/replacement for Perkins. Jermaine O'Neal signing is huge and here's why:

No, Jermaine is not an all star. Especially in his years at Miami. But let me throw this out there. Jermaine was probably the 2nd best player on Miami behind Wade. Okay, maybe tied for 2nd with Michael Beasley, but he was their #1 post option. On a team with Paul Pierce, KG, Ray Allen and an actual point guard running things in Rondo, I'm predicting a more than average year from Jermaine O'Neal with his super annoying ugly jumpshot that somehow finds its way through the net. Here's a highlight video of him going against Zydrunas in a Heat/Cavs game from the 08-09 season. Again, 2nd best player on that team...

And for a substitution? Bring in Shaq who might not have the explosiveness of 10 years ago, but he is a huge person and can still change shots and like I said, will put people on their asses if they come to the lane. Like he did a few months ago against his new teammate!


Look, the Heat have the star power. They will beat good teams and pummel bad teams. But when it comes to the playoffs where strategy comes into play, where rebounding plays a large role, where other playoff teams are preparing by resting their star players for the REAL season, where injuries come into play and good bench players and depth play a huge part in a team's success, that is where the Celtics will shine. They made the finals, were a few points from winning the championship, they addressed their needs. They can cruise for stretches and rest their core and make a run in the playoffs like they did last year. Laker fans needn't be worried about this super Heat team, they need to worry about the Celtics. Again.

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