This year, we came into the season with a lot of questions, but also a lot of hope. The last 20 years have been pretty rough for the Celtics and for Celtics fans also. The past few seasons we knew that even with a 20 point lead, we could somehow find a way to lose. This season, we know that even if we are down 20, we still could find a way to win.
We came into the season with big hopes and big questions. Would Rondo be able to handle the starting PG spot? Would the team be able to mesh and build chemistry? Would it take until the All Star break to get it going? Would Perk be able to handle the center spot? Would the bench be strong enough? Could they compete with the Western teams? Are the three stars too old?
As the season has gone along, the Celtics has answered these questions very convincingly. Rajon Rondo has been a revelation. He has struggled at times but has always come back strong against the teams he has struggled against. He has been a leader on the court and hasn't backed down from any challenge. I loved the way he stood up to Rafer Alston when he started to shove him before the Houston game. The knock on him was that he couldn't shoot, but his shot has been falling with regularity. He also has proved to be fearless taking the ball to the hoop and if you doubt that, take a look a this great dunk on Maxiel. He took a very hard hit but bounced right back up and went back to work. What a tough kid.
Would the Celtics be able to mesh and build chemistry? That question was answered very quickly as the Celtics got off to a 29-3 start and were playing like a team that had been together for years. Each of the three stars checked their egos at the door and if anything, were being too unselfish. Every player on the team was willing to play a role and that helped the team to mesh right from the start. By the All Star break, they had best record in the league and had definitely answered the chemistry question.
Perk has been very strong in the middle especially on defense. KG loves the big guy and credits Perk with his being able play as well as he has this season. Perk has cut down on his fouls and has proved that he is more than capable of being the starting center on a championship team. When Perk goes to the bench, Leon Powe, Big Baby or PJ Brown, depending on the matchups, do a very good job of filling in.
The Celtics had to give up a lot of players to get KG and Ray Allen and that left the bench rather thin, but Danny did a great job of signing free agents and Big Baby was a great pick in the second round of the draft. Both Powe and Big Baby have played very well are are capable of a double double on any given night. Tony Allen is close to his pre-injury form and has been playing great defense and gaining explosiveness taking the ball to the hoop. Eddie House and James Posey have both played very well and even Scal has contributed off the bench. Two of the knocks was that the Celtics lacked size off the bench in the front court and that they needed a veteran point guard to back up Rondo. With the signings of PJ Brown and Sam Cassell, those questions have more than been answered. The Celtics now have a very deep bench that can compete with anyone in the league.
There are still questions as to whether the Celtics can compete with the Western teams should they get to the finals. The Celtics have answered that question as well with a 23-4 record. They are 6-0 against the vaunted Texas teams, completing the sweep for the first time since the Kings did it in 2001. They have done it on the road and they have done it at home.
Another question was whether the Celtics would play defense. The last 3 seasons, Doc hasn't done much to make us believe that defense would be a priority for this team. But with the addition of Tom Thibodeau, the Celtics now lead the league in every defensive category. Tracy McGrady said that he had never faced defense like the Celtics threw at them in his entire career. There is no question now that the Celtics are committed on the defensive end of the court. This is the best defensive team I have seen in all my years of watching the Celtics and that goes back to the Russell years.
Then there was the question as to what would happen if one of the 3 stars was injured. The answer to that was a 7-2 record when KG was out and a 6-1 record when Ray Allen was out. The other players simply stepped up their games and tightened up the defense while they were out. A little luck is included also as the Celtics have been relatively injury free with just KG's abdominal strain and assorted other minor injuries as blips on the radar. Scot Pollard has been out all season pretty much but the signing of PJ Brown has made up for that.
Doc was also a question mark coming into the season. Celtics fans have been calling for his head for the past 3 seasons. His teams didn't win. His teams didn't play defense. His rotations were very suspect. All were the knocks on Doc the past few years. But, this season, Doc has done a great job of managing the egos and the talent on this team. With the addition of Tom Thibodeau, this team is playing great defense. Other than a few times when you had to stop and wonder what Doc was thinking, he has done a very good job of managing rotations and minutes and making in game decisions. As much as I really didn't like Doc last season, I have to say that he is the perfect coach for this team, just as KC Jones was the perfect coach for our last championship team.
And the Celtics are not just winning, they are winning by an average of over 10 points a game. The Celtics have answered every question and challenge as they have come at them. They have played methodically, carving up the opposition like a skilled surgeon. The only stetch where you can say that they struggled was in the 3 games after the All Star game when KG was just coming back from the injury. Other than that, they have just gotten better and better. They are peaking at the right moment as they go down the stretch to the playoffs. It certainly has been a fun season for Celtics fans as this team has gone far and above all that we had hoped for when Danny announced the trade for Kevin Garnett. And, I have a feeling that it is just going to get better.