We are all excited about the upcoming season, and rightfully so. Danny did a masterful job of turning our young players with potential into all stars who can compete now. The Celtics went from last in the East to contenders for the title pretty much overnight. Exciting things are happening in Boston these days. The whole team was in town 3 weeks before training camp. Everyone is excited about KG in green. Ray Allen is proving to be a leader and mentor. But, there are some questions still surrounding the team that have yet to be answered.
Coaching. One of the biggest questions is whether Doc Rivers can coach this team to a championship. Doc has been a head coach for 8 years, 5 with Orlando and 3 with Boston and he has never won more than 45 games. He also has never won a playoff series. Doc has never had 3 All Stars on his team either. Defense was a weakness for this team in his first 3 seasons, but with the arrival of Tom Thibodeau and Kevin Garnett, our team defense should improve greatly. Doc is great with the players and communication shouldn't be a problem for him, even with 3 All Stars. But, whether he can get the X's and O's down is the big question. But with 3 All Stars on the team and one of the top defensive coaches in the league as an assistant, Doc could be Coach of the Year. But if the team doesn't get off to a quick start, expect there to be a coaching change. We have a 3-5 year window with these players and Danny shouldn't waste one with a coach who can't get the job done. Until Doc proves himself, our coaching is a big question mark.
Injuries. We would have been much better the past two seasons if it wasn't for all of the injuries. Last season, we had 312 player games missed due to injuries that ranged from a staph infection that invaded the locker room to Al's appendicitis to Pierce's stress reaction in his foot to Perk's plantar fasciitis. We are starting the season with everyone healthy. Pierce said that his elbow is 100% and he doesn't expect any problems with it this season. But then, he said the same thing last season and he had problems with it for the second year in a row. His foot is completely healed. Perk's foot is 100%. Ray Allen's ankles are perfect. Tony Allen is about 75% but hopes to be back to 100% by season opening. But yet, injury concerns are still there. Tony Allen was slow to get his explosiveness back after his previous knee injury and we have to wonder how long it will take to get back to where he was before the injury or even if he will. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have all been very durable in their careers but are getting to the point in their careers where injuries may start to slow them. Pierce had never missed any major time in his career before missing 35 games this past season. Teams never know when injuries will hit. After the '86 championship, Bird hurt his back, McHale hurt his foot and injuries began to slow the original Big 3 and they were never the same. Scott Pollard and Eddie House have both missed a lot of games in the past with injuries. The Celtics have been hit by way more than their share of injuries for the past 2 seasons and a major injury to any of our starters and the team would be in trouble. Maybe our luck has finally changed and everyone will stay healthy this season. Injuries are always a concern, though, especially when there is a big gap between the talent in the starting five and the bench.
Point Guard. Rondo will be our starting PG. Most of us agree that he is the real deal and that he has what it takes to be a top PG in the league and with Ray Allen tutoring him in shooting, his one weakness should be taken care of. But, he is just entering his second season and Doc didn't give him much playing time until the end of last season. Will Rondo hit the sophomore slump? Will he remain healthy all season? Will he be able to hit his jumper with enough consistency to keep the defenses honest? And beyond Rondo, will House, Pruitt, Tony Allen and Ray Allen be enough to back him up off the bench? Danny may pick up another PG before the season but as of now, this position is a big question.
Center. Perk is going to be our starting center and in spite of some doubters, I expect Perk to do a great job this season and surprise a lot of people. He will be a very strong defensive center and I wouldn't be surprised to see him average a double double. He has lost between 20 and 30 lbs and hopefully that will prevent a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis. The big question in my mind is the back up center. We have Scott Pollard, who would be good for 15-20 minutes off the bench, but with his history of back problems, we can't depend on him staying healthy. We are in the mix for Batista, which would go a long way to shore up this position. But, beyond that, we only have Powe who could possibly play the 5 and Garnett who could slide over to the 5 sometimes. There are still a lot of questions surrounding the center position.
Chemistry. We have 3 All Stars who are used to being the #1 option on their respective teams and now they will have to mesh and put their egos in check in order to make this work. So far, it seems as though this is going to work out as they have been working together and they are all saying the right things about team and putting their egos aside. But, it remains to be seen whether they can put into practice what they know in theory. They need to be able to balance their games so that they don't try to do too much or, on the other side, defer too much to the others and do too little.
There are only 8 days till training camp opens and hopefully we will get answers to many of these questions as the preseason begins. One thing that is certain, the Celtics have the best shot that they have had in many years to make it to the finals. If everything comes together and the team can answer all these questions, we could be celebrating title #17 this coming off season.