The Patriots head into their bye winners of their last two games by a combined score 94-7. The Red Sox are home watching the Yankees in their first World Series in six years. The Bruins are still trying to figure out how to win without Phil Kessel (traded), Milan Lucic (Injured) and Marc Savard (Injured). But guess what Boston? There is definitely something to watch this week…the Boston Celtics kickoff the NBA regular season in Cleveland against LeBron and Zydrunas, er Shaq. After the Cavs, the C’s return home for three games against Charlotte, Chicago and New Orleans.
The Celtics have trimmed their roster down to 15 after releasing Michael Sweetney, which comes as a major blow to Boston-area restaurants. Sweetney aside, the Celtics have the stars and depth to make a serious run at their 18th title.
Let’s start with the obvious…If Kevin Garnett is healthy and on the floor this team immediately takes the shape of a contender. KG controls the defensive end and the boards and more importantly he frees Kendrick Perkins up to be an intimidating big man down low. Offensively KG stretches the floor and opens up the lane for Rondo to penetrate, Pierce to play on the post and Ray Allen to do what he does best and that’s drain 3’s. The most exciting part of this season though has to be the depth. Even during the 2008 championship season the Celtics did not have this type of depth. Yeah, we all loved Posey and Eddie House but the starters were logging some serious minutes.
This season the Celtics will feature a legitimate 2nd unit. Marquis Daniels for me is the big addition. His size and versatility truly puts the Celtics bench on par with some starting lineups. Daniels is a big guard who can play PG and for the first time in a long time give the Celtics someone who can initiate the offense and control the tempo off the bench. This will take the ball out of House’s hands and allow him to roam the arc, which looked pretty nice in the preseason. On the flip side Daniels’ size won’t create mismatches on the defensive end. Big Baby will also be able to spread the floor with his jumper and not have the focus on him like last season when there were some awful dry stretches with the 2nd unit. The big name acquisition, of course, was Sheed. His energy and vet presence will just add to the frustration to teams around the league. As if Pierce and KG weren’t bad enough with their trash talking Sheed will surely lead the charge racking up T’s. Sheed can still drain the 3 and stretch the floor for the 2nd unit and add a bit of a defensive presence down low. The 10th spot seems up for grabs right now with Scal (when healthy) fighting for minutes with former lottery pick and Candace Parker’s husband, Shelden Williams. Like most Celtics fans I pray Tony Allen disappears and allows us to see if we have anything in Giddens. He put up big numbers last year in the D-League but according to Ridiculous Upside he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be an undersized SF in the NBA. Walker probably won’t see the floor for a while after his injury and while I’m very high on rookie Lester Hudson I’m not sure he’ll find a spot in the rotation this year. His length and ability to rebound will be a huge plus for Austin Ainge and the Maine Red Claws.
My prediction for the season is 67 wins and another trip to the NBA Finals. I think the Cavs and Magic will provide for an entertaining Eastern Conference but if healthy the C’s just have too much. The Magic are tough to figure out because losing Hedo and Courtney Lee will hurt them but they get Jameer Nelson back from injury, Ryan Anderson is a solid player and Vince is the wild card for them. The Cavs obviously have LeBron and of course the addition of Shaq on paper is a great move, but Delonte losing his mind certainly hurts. I think for the Cavs to overtake the C’s LeBron is going to have to elevate his game to yet another level.
Celtics over the Spurs in 7 games.