The Celtics' 2006-07 season had a bit of all three: good, bad and ugly.
The Good We saw the emergence of Al Jefferson and Rajon Rondo. Al proved this season that he is one of the better big men in the league. Last season many were ready to give up on him and felt he was soft. When he finally had surgery to have the bone chips removed from his ankle, he came back this season with a lot to prove and for the most part, he proved it. He came back from an emergency appendectomy in just 2 weeks after they estimated 4-6 weeks recovery time. He averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He is also promising that he is just scratching the surface of his talent and will come back even better next season. That is something to be excited about.
Rondo started off slowly, playing behind Telfair and West. When he finally started getting playing time, he quickly moved in front of Telfair and West and was our starting PG down the stretch. The knock on Rondo at the beginning of the season was that he couldn't shoot. But by the end of the season, his shot had improved immensely. Over the final 9 games of the season, Rondo averaged 14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.44 steals per game while shooting 57% from the field. With his quickness, he was able to get to the basket and draw fouls where he shot almost 80% from the line down the stretch, including clutch free throws to tie the game against Detroit. He is quick, has great hands, plays good defense, and can run the offense better than any PG in recent memory. He finished the year as #9 on the Rookie Rankings.
Gerald Green winning the Slam Dunk contest was definitely a high spot for me. It gave us something to be proud of in a season that offered very little to take pride in. I even got a Gerald Green Slam Dunk Champion tee shirt. I just wish his season had gone better.
The good also includes the fact that we have a chance at the top pick in this season's draft that has not one, but 2 franchise players at the top. If we can land Oden or Durant, all the suffering will have been worth it. If our bad lottery luck continues and we get the 3rd or lower pick, we can trade it to bring in the veteran help that Pierce has been asking for. Either way, this draft has the potential of making us a much better team.
The Bad After giving up the 7th pick in the draft to get him, Telfair sank from starter to 3rd string as the year wore on. His defense was sub par and he also was unable to run the offense efficiently. It was obvious by the end of the year that the Telfair experiment was a bust. In the meantime, Brandon Roy is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Gerald Green comes with a ton of potential and he seemed to be making strides in the first part of the season. But as the season wore on and down the stretch, he seemed even more lost on the court than he was last season. One thing I noticed is that toward the end of the season, he hesitated on his shot. He is best when shooting off the catch and not taking too much time to think it out. But in his last few games, he seemed to be thinking too much. He would fake and then always dribble in a few steps. He seemed to be losing his confidence and took a step back in his development at the end of the season.
The team was hit by injury after injury starting with training camp and not letting up until the end of the season. West missed significant time with assorted injuries from a bad back to an infected toe. Ratliff played in only 2 games as he sat out with a bulging disc in his back. Wally had one sprained ankle after another until he finally shut it down to have surgery. Pierce went out with s stress reaction in his foot for what was originally to be 2 weeks but ended up missing 24 games with the foot and when he finally came back from that injury, he suffered a recurrence of the elbow injury that caused him to have surgery in the off season. He misses a total of 35 games this season after missing only a handful of games in his previous 8 years in the league.
Perk was over his shoulder surgery and was poised to make a leap this season when he was plagued with plantar fasciitis. He played through pain most of the season and in spite of that, improved quite a bit and should be able to make a leap next season just as Al did this season. Kandi was signed to be able to fill in should there be injuries but while Perk was battling the foot injury and Ratliff was battling the back injury, Kandi tore a muscle in his abdomen and was out as well. Doc joked that he had 21 feet of center on the injured list. Gomes also missed considerable time with a calf injury and then a foot injury. Tony Allen's injury will be addressed in the "ugly."
I can't leave the bad from the season without addressing Doc's coaching. He got a pass from many because of all the injuries, but we still saw many of the same coaching mistakes that he made in the first two years of his tenure. In spite of seeing improvement in several of our young players, the team as a whole did not improve. Doc still uses strange rotations and will take out a unit that is doing well and break up the momentum that they are building. He puts in a small lineup against a bigger opponent when we don't have any rebounders. He still doesn't have a clue on defense and hasn't gotten the team to effectively run a pick and roll. In spite of this, Danny and Wyc are still making noises about signing him to an extension and this is most unfortunate.
Perhaps the worst injury was when Tony Allen crumbled to the floor after missing a dunk after the whistle on a foul. Before the injury, Tony was reaching another level in his play. He was a force on offense and defense and was becoming a leader on the team. He was our best perimeter defender and his energy set the tone for the rest of the team. Then in one sickening moment, his season was over and the air was let out of the team. This may have been the worst point of the season. We can just wait and hope that Tony can get back to where he was before the injury.
As a result of the injuries and to some extent, our inexperience, the team went on am 18 game losing streak. It set a new team record for consecutive losses but stopped just short of the league record. We finished with a 24-58 record, worst in the East and second worst in the league. We won only 12 games at home, a far cry from the 1986 team who lost only 1 home game all season. This streak was truly ugly.
The season started with the death of our beloved patriarch, Red Auerbach only 4 days before the season. The season was dedicated to Red's memory and it is truly ugly that a season this bad was dedicated to a man that great. Mid season, the team lost another great when Dennis Johnson died of a heart attack. There was a pall cast on this season from start to finish.
The games against Milwaukee and Charlotte were very ugly and obvious tank jobs by the coach. The team played hard, but with Doc using Ray down the stretch as the PG along with Telfair at the 2 and not calling a time out to set up the final play with an inexperienced PG leading the team, it was obvious that we didn't want to win those games. Gomes admitted as much in his quotes that caused quite a furor on the blogs across the internet and are reported to have David Stern asking to meet with him. How low this once proud franchise has sunk.
And finally, just when we thought this season was over and we could look toward next season, Telfair hits the news with an arrest for carrying a loaded gun under the seat of his car, driving without a valid driver's license, and going 77 in a 45 mph zone. Telfair is most likely done in Boston and may be done in the league, which is a shame.