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Old 07-20-2009, 05:51 PM
stevo stevo is offline
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Default Ainge has built his best Celtics team yet, but that doesn’t guarantee a title

Ainge has built his best Celtics team yet, but that doesn’t guarantee a title

03:01 PM EDT on Monday, July 20, 2009

By ROBERT LEE
Journal Sports Writer

BOSTON – The debate is on.

Are this year’s Boston Celtics better than the team that won a league-best 66 regular-season games and the NBA title in 2008?

The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean the Celtics will surpass 66 wins and capture the NBA title this upcoming season.

Several other teams have improved a lot since then, including the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers, to name a few.

Once again, those three are the teams that appear to be Boston’s biggest competition for the NBA championship this year.

It’s not just the additions of four-time All-Star Rasheed Wallace and veteran small forward Marquis Daniels that make this year’s Celtics better than the 2008 squad. The Celtics had two young and inexperienced starters in 2008 with second-year guard Rajon Rondo running the point and 23-year-old center Kendrick Perkins manning the middle. They teamed up with Boston’s trio of All-Stars –– Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen –– to help the Celtics raise championship banner No. 17.

Boston coach Doc Rivers will be the first to tell you that Rondo and Perkins have improved by leaps and bounds since then, making Boston’s starting five a lot better than it was in 2008.

Their statistics only tell part of the story. Rondo’s points (10.6 to 11.9), assists (5.1 to 8.2) and rebounds (4.2 to 5.2) all increased from the 2008 season to last year, as did Perkins’ averages in points (7.0 to 8.5) and rebounds (6.1 to 8.1).

They also helped their teammates get better.

James Posey was Boston’s best player off of the bench in 2008, but Wallace is a more dangerous threat than Posey was on both ends of the floor.

“He gives us more length,” Rivers said this month, when the Celtics introduced Wallace to the local media. “He gives us more versatility. Playing Kevin and Rasheed together or playing Perk and Rasheed, or Perk and Kevin, that just gives you so much length and versatility and shooting. Offensively I like him for Rondo more than anybody because I just think when teams try to play off of Rondo, usually what they would do is play off of Rondo and use Perk’s guy, but it’s tough to do that when that guy is standing behind the 3-point line so he does give us a bunch of openings.”

Glen Davis was a seldom-used rookie in 2008 who was just learning the ropes in the NBA. Last year he had a breakout season, averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in the playoffs. He was so impressive that he was invited to take part in USA Basketball’s mini-camp being held this week in Las Vegas.

Davis, however, might not be back with the Celtics next year. Several teams are trying to sign him, including Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, and New Orleans. Because they are subject to the league’s luxury tax, the Celtics might not be able to match an offer that Davis gets if it is too high.

Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that the Celtics would love to have Davis back next year, but “right now Glen [is] out there testing the market and seeing what the market dictates.”

Orlando’s newly signed free-agent forward, Brandon Bass, who has a game comparable to that of Davis, signed a reported four-year, $18-million contract.

Even if Davis does not return, the signing of Daniels gives the Celtics a great backup for Allen and Pierce. Daniels averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year for Indiana and is better at this point in his career than Davis was in 2008, though the two do play different positions.

Along with Posey, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine were Boston’s top guys off the bench in 2008. They have all improved since then, though Powe is an injured (knee surgery) free agent whom Boston has yet to re-sign.

The Celtics certainly appear to be a better team than they were in 2008. Their biggest concern is Garnett, who is coming off his first major injury (knee surgery) of his stellar. But Garnett says that his rehab is well ahead of schedule and that he will be 100-percent healthy when the season starts.

Garnett (39,635), Pierce (30,526), Allen (35,099) and Wallace (34,166) have all logged more 30,500 minutes in their respective careers, and that only includes regular-season minutes. So fatigue could also come into play, but because the Celtics will have a deep team this year, all four of those players won’t be relied on to play heavy minutes like they were early in their careers

Whether or not the new and improved Celtics squad is good enough to raise championship banner No. 18 next June remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

roblee@projo.com

Ainge has built his best Celtics team yet, but that doesn’t guarantee a title | Boston Celtics | projo.com | The Providence Journal
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:58 PM
luke m. luke m. is offline
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Between Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett, man, I bet those are some long ass dicks!
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Old 07-20-2009, 06:07 PM
SlipperyPete SlipperyPete is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luke m. View Post
Between Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett, man, I bet those are some long ass dicks!

That thought keeps you up at night, admit it
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