I am a bit giddy right now. I signed up to submit a season preview for the Celtics to Hoopsblogging. They were running a contest for the best preview and the prize was a gift certificate to the NBA store. I have never been really confident in my writing since I have been a mathematician all my life and writing is fairly new to me so I wasn't expecting to win but wanted the Celtics to be represented. I found out today that my review won first prize, so excuse me if I am a tad bit excited right now. I have to say that only the Mavs and Suns predicted more wins for their team this season. I have been wanting a particular shirt from the NBA Store and now I am going to be able to get it. This shirt is so cool! Don't you agree?
Anyway, without further ado, here is my preview from Hoopsblogging:
Season Preview: Boston Celtics
Last Year’s Record: 24-58, last in the East Players Lost: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff Players Added: Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, James Posey, Eddie House, Scott Pollard, Brandon Wallace, Jackie Manuel, Dahntay Jones Drafted: Gabe Pruitt, Glen “Big Baby” Davis
Last season the Celtics played under Murphy’s Law. If it could go wrong, it did. The team lost 312 player games to injury. Paul Pierce went down with the stress reaction and missed the first real time to injury in his career, Perk had plantar fasciitis, Al Jefferson had appendicitis, Tony Allen tore his ACL, Wally had one ankle injury after another, Theo Ratliff had a bulging disc, Michael Olowokandi had an abdominal tear, and on and on. The team suffered through an 18 game losing streak. And, to top it all off, they were suspected of tanking at the end of the season to better their draft position.
Boston ended up worst in the East and with the second worst record over all, behind only Memphis. The Celtics needed a top two pick, and on lottery night, Celtics fans were crushed when the 5th envelope was opened and the Celtics logo appeared. It was deja vu all over again. Just as in 1995 when the Celtics had the worst record and lost out on Duncan, getting the 3rd pick instead, the Celtics once again had been shafted by the lottery system.
It seemed as though the curse that began with the death of Len Bias in 1986 was still in effect. It wasn’t only the injuries and the losing streak, or even the lack of lottery luck. Players that Danny was targeting in trades were coming out and saying that they wouldn’t go to Boston. It was pretty depressing. It seemed as though the once very proud Celtics had sunk to a new low. Then, on draft night, it all started to turn around when Danny Ainge traded Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and the 5th pick in the draft for Ray Allen and the 35th pick. At first, Celtics fandom was a bit skeptical. Yes, this was THE Jesus Shuttlesworth and yes, he was one of the best scorers in the league and a 7 time All Star, but he also was 32 years old and coming off double ankle surgery. The 35th pick became Big Baby Davis who was a fan favorite immediately with his big body and even bigger personality.
On July 31, everything changed for this franchise when Danny finally was able to pull the trigger on a trade for Kevin Garnett. He had to give up Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and 2 first round picks to get him and immediately there was concern that we gave up too much in the trade and would have no bench. Al Jefferson was a very popular player and was just on the verge of breaking out as an All Star himself. So at first, the reaction to the trade was mixed. But when Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett appeared together at the press conference, most doubts were gone.
Danny continued to work on rebuilding the bench by signing Jackie Manuel, Eddie House, Scot Pollard and Brandon Wallace as free agents. He then signed James Posey, which was a big signing because it not only strengthened our bench and our defense, but it weakened Miami, New Jersey and Cleveland, all of whom were trying very hard to sign Posey also. Danny then signed Dahntay Jones and Esteban Batista just before trading camp. With the two draft picks, Gabe Pruitt and Big Baby Davis, that makes 9 new players on the team this season and 11 new faces for training camp.
Returning from last year are Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Brian Scalabrine. Of these players, Paul Pierce is the 3rd part of our trio of super stars. Perk will be our starting center and should benefit from the double teams on KG and I expect a big year from him. Rondo who is just 21 years old is in his second season will be expected to run the team of veterans and seems quite capable of doing so. Tony Allen is coming off of surgery for a torn ACL and may take awhile to get back to his former playing level. Leon Powe is another enforcer and will give the team a boost of energy and some toughness off the bench. Brian Scalabrine has been showing some promise off the bench so far in the preseason in spite of being ranked by Hollinger as the 3rd worst player in the league.
Danny Ainge has been a master of finding gems in the second round of the draft. Two years ago, it was Ryan Gomes at #50. Ryan was a key piece in the Garnett trade and looks to have won a starting spot there. Last year it was Leon Powe at #49. Leon will be a big part of the rotation this season and has been the first big off the bench at back up center in the preseason. This year, Danny drafted both Gabe Pruitt and Big Baby Davis, both of whom had been projected to go in the first round. Both players have shown promise in Summer League and the preseason and may see some time in the D League because of the number of vets on the team, but both show promise and could crack the rotation by the end of the season.
Esteban Batista has already been cut and with 16 players right now it looks like Dahntay Jones, Brandon Wallace and Jackie Manuel are playing for the final 2 spots on the team. Doc has said that he prefers to keep 14 players to make room for a future signing if the right player is available so there may still be 2 cuts. Wallace has the biggest upside and I predict he will be the one who sticks with the team.
The biggest area of improvement for this team is going to be on the defensive end. Last season, the Celtics were ranked near the bottom in every defensive category. We couldn’t get stops when needed and that was often the difference in games.
I project the record to be 60-22 this season which will be the biggest turn around since Red Auerbach drafted one Larry Joe Bird. Celtic Pride is back in Boston.