The year is 2012. As the sun rises on a new NBA season, a new reality emerges.
Something isn’t right here.
As the league goes about what should be its normal business, there’s an eerie feeling that the new breed of contenders is not alone.
What’s that in the distance?
This is supposed to be Miami and Oklahoma City’s playground. But… is that…… is that………. green and white?
I thought they were dead?
The Boston Celtics were killed off three years ago, at the end of their “new Big 3″ championship window, only to be resurrected for another run. But that was only supposed to be a jolt from the defibrillator. That was only a few extra breaths blown into the terminal patient that was supposed to die when Kevin Garnett’s contract was up.
My GOD…. there’s… there’s… so many of them!!!
But they’re very much alive. Or, at least, un-dead.
Actually, they are, the Walking Dead.
Much like AMC’s hit show, the NBA is besieged with wave after wave of un-dead Celtics that just…. keep…. coming…
It makes no sense. Logic dictates that this shouldn’t be happening. But the un-dead don’t adhere to your logic…… or John Hollinger’s metrics. The Celtics, long written off, are still coming. And just when you think you’ve got them beat… they show up again, and in greater numbers.
Much like the show, humanity doesn’t stand much chance. The Celtics are too great in number… too driven by the smell of blood… too much for the NBA to handle.
In the end, the NBA will succumb to the walkers. In the end, the un-dead will rule the landscape. In the end, the Boston Celtics will cap David Stern’s NBA era by overwhelming the living, and walking away with an NBA title.
The defending champion Miami Heat. LeBron James reminded us with his epic Game 6 performance that he’s capable of winning playoff games single-handedly. But is he good enough to win a series alone? I’m not discounting Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, I just believe the Celtics have defensive options for them. Miami also added a few pieces (Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis) to its shallow bench. An x-factor is the championship hangover. The Heat are coming off back-to-back appearances in the Finals. LeBron played for Team USA in the Olympics this summer. Can the Heat play with that edge, again?
I liked the OKC Thunder to come out of the West… until they dumped James Harden for a one-dimensional scorer and unproven rookies. As for the Lakers, call me crazy, but I do not have faith that Mike Brown can push the right chemistry buttons with the Lakers. Might the San Antonio zombies surface in the East? Regardless, the biggest threat to the Celtics lies within the East.
LeBron James is the “Rick Grimes” of the league. If anyone is going to lead humans past the un-dead, it’s him. But the Celtics have enough to throw at Wade and Bosh where they will be overwhelmed (think the attack on the farm in last season’s finale). The Celtics just have too much this time around. I don’t know what will happen down the road…. but this season, the zombies will be too much to handle.
In the West, I still like the Harden-less Thunder to make it out of the conference. The Lakers have a hell of a starting 5, but they have a terrible bench. And when you consider the starting 5 is relying on a near-zombie in Steve Nash and the hope that nothing happens to Kobe Bryant a year after his second highest usage rate ever, then I’m especially confident in a non-Lakers Finals participant. Remember, in 17 years of NBA play, including 220 playoff games and three international competitions, Kobe logged the seventh most minutes of his career LAST SEASON. Contrast that to the 5-5-5 plan the Celtics have for Kevin Garnett and you tell me you actually expect Kobe to play a full season.
A closer look
I’m going to say this as plainly as I can…
The Celtics are better because of Ray Allen’s departure.
Courtney Lee alone is a better player than Ray Allen is right now. I know and appreciate what Ray was. But what he IS, and what Lee is, are two vastly different players. Lee can hit many of the same shots, but he can also put the ball on the floor without inducing the fear of turnovers. Even bench-zombie Jason Terry can put the ball on the floor more effectively than Allen.
On the defensive end, Lee, Rondo, and, when he returns, Avery Bradley, will provide a defensive presence that will choke out opposing attacks well before they can get established. This group is, as Doc has said in the past, the deepest, most talented group of guards this team has had in the new Big-3 era.
Is there a better five guard rotation than Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa? The Celtics backcourt consists of four guys who shot 38% or greater from 3, three lock-down defenders, two previous 6th Man of the Year winners and the reigning assist champion who is arguably the best pure point guard in the league. Oh yeah, everyone is under 30 except for Jason Terry.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are the Hall of Fame anchors, with Brandon Bass and Jeff Green poised to make major contributions. Bass is the steady-Eddie, while Green - who played out of his mind this preseason – is capable of leading the team in scoring some nights. Rookie Jared Sullinger is an x-factor. If he can contribute legitimate minutes all season, it will help the second unit achieve its primary goal – limit the regular season wear and tear on Pierce and Garnett and keep them fresh for the playoffs. Darko Milicic and Chris Wilcox have the potential to be serviceable players.
It starts and ends with Garnett in the front court, but the Celtics have gotten quite good here as well. Paul Pierce is going to be Paul Pierce (for the non “taking him for granted prose, go here) but the Celtics have two great surprises in the front court that will make them amazingly difficult to beat.
Jared Sullinger is one of the few rookies the Celtics will have had in the Doc Rivers era that can step right in at this level. For once, the Celtics have a guy who is not only committed to going for rebounds, but young and energetic enough to actually do something about it.
And I’m totally buying Jeff Green. I’m in. I think this kid has seen the light after a horrible time in his life. I think past performances can be tossed out the window with him. I think the past year-plus, along with a full camp and being around these guys and Doc Rivers has turned him into something no one else expected. This guy….. watch out for this guy.
Coaching: While Doc Rivers is rightly considered one of the top coaches in the game, I haven’t always been a fan of his rotations and ability to manage minutes (although he gets props for installing the 5-5-5 approach with Kevin Garnett). This roster is loaded. It’s up to him to find the right mix of players. In Doc, I trust.
I am an unabashed Doc fan. My one critique of him has been his ability to manage minutes, but I’ll also admit, that’s probably very outdated at this point. That’s like me still complaining about a problem with the iPhone 1. This is a new time, with new players… but…
Doc hasn’t had this level of depth in quite some time. It’s a nice problem to have, but it could be a problem. Like Chuck, though, I trust Doc to figure it out…. either by finding the right minutes, or finding a way to get the guy who’s not getting the minutes to still buy into the team concept.
I’m all in with the 2012-13 Boston Celtics. It’s championship or bust. Credit Danny Ainge with the witchcraft. He did a masterful job this off-season of upgrading the roster at every position. Defense remains the strong suit, but the much maligned offense has the potential to be dangerous. The Celtics not only have more scorers, but they have guys who can run with Rajon Rondo. There are a few guys who can bang and do the dirty work. The Celtics have the deepest and most versatile roster in the NBA. Mix in the championship experience of key players with Doc Rivers master motivational tactics and genius play calling and you have the formula to win it all this season.
The Celtics tally a 58-24 record and earn the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They beat Miami (4-2) in the ECF and San Antonio (4-2) in an all-zombie NBA Finals.
On July 1, I thought I’d be happy to have another decent team with a puncher’s chance. But this team is better than that, and I’m looking at nothing less than a championship. The Celtics have enough weapons in the right places to get past Miami, even if LeBron is beasting. They have the young legs, the experience, and the depth to match up well with all comers.
I’m giving the Celtics a 55-27 record and a #3 seed in the East… giving a nod to the tougher Atlantic division getting a few more wins against Boston while the Indiana Pacers feast on a weak Central to climb to a #2 seed.
I like the Celtics in 6 over the Heat and in 6 over the OKC Thunder in an epic Zombie vs. Humans showdown.
Beware the un-dead.