David Aldridge of NBA.com recently ranked the off seasons for each of the 30 teams in the NBA. He ranked the Celtics 5th, behind the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers and Utah Jazz, respectively. Aldridge gives the following assessment of the C's moves this summer:
THE SKINNY: The band's back for one final run. With Rivers, Pierce and Allen all committed for another go-round with Kevin Garnett, the Celtics return most of the team that knocked off the top two seeds in the East and led for most of Game 7 on the road against the Lakers. But Boston couldn't seal the deal, and one wonders if the veteran Cs have enough emotional energy for another assault. O'Neal will be counted on to replace Wallace's defensive presence, and the hope is that rookie Bradley, along with a full season of "Donkey" Robinson, Daniels and Glen "Shrek" Davis, can give Boston some oomph in reserve. If Garnett, who looked like he was finally coming back from his knee injury in '09, has enough left in the tank, the Celtics are still relevant.
This isn't exactly Earth shattering news, but it's good to note that as of now, some members of the national media still hold the Celtics in high regard. In fact, earlier in his column, he pointed out that the Celtics are still one of four contenders (along with LA, Miami and Orlando) when discussing the team that had the best summer of all, the Miami Heat:
THE SKINNY:The Heat left everyone choking in its dust this summer, executing a plan that, benefitted by insider info or no, was still the NBA equivalent of the straight flush. There were a million ways that Riles' plan could have fallen apart, not only leaving him without a second superstar to pair with Wade, but without Wade. And getting quality role players like Miller with what was left of Miami's cap room, and convincing Haslem to leave millions on the table from other suitors, was just as impressive. Look, none of the real contenders — Orlando, Boston and L.A. come to mind — are scared of Miami. But the Heat is relevant again, a threat to win it all.
Keep in mind that the Celtics can still make a couple of moves by signing another player with the veteran minimum and by using Sheed's contract. At any rate, it seems as if the league isn't falling for the Celtics' act of "playing dead" throughout the regular season, only to strike hard during the playoffs. However, just like last season, most observers feel that the age and relative health of the main rotation players is their biggest issue.
Without a doubt, the eastern conference as a whole has gotten a lot stronger. Miami essentially replaces the Cleveland Cavaliers as the most likely #1 seed in the east. The Bulls and Bucks both got stronger and if for nothing else, the Celtics are lucky that the city of Boston is not geographically located in the southeast region of the country. The Magic and Heat will be fighting all year to take the #1 seed and the division while the Atlanta Hawks will still be strong. You can also sprinkle in the playoff incumbent Charlotte Bobcats as well as improved Washington Wizards team, it's clear that the division will be as tightly contested as southwest has been for the past few seasons.
It might not seem like it's that big of a deal, but being in arguably the weakest division in basketball certainly helps the Celtics. Especially if they plan on "pacing" themselves during the regular season again. unfortunately, with Boozer and even Amare Stoudemire moving east, it makes the western conference a little less powerful, meaning another easier road through the playoffs for the Lakers. Perhaps the Jazz can actually take a game from the Lakers in the playoffs. If Yao's foot got reconstructed with something stronger than balsa wood, maybe the Rockets can challenge them a little. Phoenix will not be returning to the western conference finals, and can the Spurs return to their glory years for one more season? Dallas overspent on Brendan Haywood and loaded up on big men in an attempt to contend with LA, so maybe they can finally stop choking in the playoffs. The team that gave the Lakers the biggest scare (other than the Celtics) was Oklahoma City. If Kevin Durant can make an even bigger leap, they just could give LA problems yet again.
Let's be real though. Clearly, whichever team makes it out of the east has the most difficult path. Thinking back, it's truly remarkable and historic even, that the 4th seeded Celtics defeated the likes of Cleveland and Orlando without home court advantage. That just doesn't happen much, or ever really.
One thing is certain: The Celtics, especially Rajon Rondo are not afraid of the Super friends in Miami. Can we start the 2010-2011 revenge season already?!?!