After watching the preseason, I no longer am worried about the Celtics' mindset and their motivation. The starters appear to be just as motivated as they were last season but are way ahead in that they have their chemistry already in place. They have been playing with surgical precision. We have gotten reports from practice that they are going hard at each other and there have even been a couple of skirmishes in practice because they are so competitive. Before the preseason, I was concerned that perhaps they wouldn't have the same fire as they did last season and might be a bit complacent. But, after watching them play, there is no doubt that this team is motivated to repeat.
I also have no concerns about replacing James Posey. Yes, we are weak in the back up forward spot where Posey spent most of his minutes. But, I think we will be ok there as I have been encouraged by the play of Bill Walker, who I see as surprising a lot of people who will wish they had taken a chance on him. Walker has shown the ability to play very good defense and stay in front of his man (along with behind, on top of and in the face of) his man. Also, although undersized, I see Tony Allen spending some time at that position. Tony has the ability to be a lock down defender when healthy. His decision making has been better this season and even though smaller than most small forwards, I think he can be effective at this spot. Leon Powe can also play some at the 3 as well as the 4 and 5. Big Baby is surprisingly agile for his size and could also see some time at the 3 if Leon continues to impress at the 4 and 5. Finally, there is always Brian Scalabrine, that $3 million dollar albatross who was rather unimpressive in the preseason, but could fill in here if necessary and he does play decent defense from time to time.
As for replacing Posey's offense, that is the easy part. Eddie House has shown that he is deadly from the outside and with Tony's ability to drive to the hoop and draw the defenders to him, it leaves Eddie on the perimeter to shoot away. I love the unit with Gabe Pruitt at the point (who also has a nice shot), Eddie at the 2 guard and Tony at the 3. This lineup really looked good together in the preseason. With Bill Walker at the 4 and Patrick O'Bryant or Leon Powe at the 5, we have plenty of fire power on that second unit. With each player upping their games this season, we shouldn't lack for offense on the second unit.
As for the concerns about the center position, I think Perk proved last season that he is more than capable of holding down the middle on a championship team and he looks even better this season, in spite of still getting into game shape after his off season surgery. There has been a lot of concern about the back up center spot with the loss of PJ Brown. But, Leon Powe has proved over and over that he is very capable of playing center, even against bigger players. He has long arms and good leaping ability and most importantly knows just how to position himself for rebounds and put backs. Patrick O'Bryant has shown some flashes of talent in the preseason and could also be a factor by playoff time. He is definitely not the bust he was made out to be by the Warriors. Leon is effective against most centers, but we have O'Bryant when we need more length.
No, I think these things will all work themselves out and the Celtics will be fine. The biggest obstacle to repeating is going to be staying healthy. We saw that even in the preseason, teams are going to come at the Celtics hard. Games are going to be more physical and with more contact and teams playing more physical, there are more chances for injuries. We have already seen Pierce have to leave the game because of a hard hit in the neck area. Rondo has had to miss games for a sprained ankle.
We have already seen some injuries on other teams that have been serious. Larry Hughes injured his shoulder and will be out until at least December. Marcus Camby injured his heel and could miss considerable time this season. James Jones and Jamaal Magloire both will be out at least until December with wrist and hand injuries. Jason Collins injured his elbow and will be out until December. Jason Smith in Philly is expected to miss the entire season because of a knee injury. Martell Webster is out until December with a foot injury. Manu Ginobili is out until at least mid December with an ankle injury. Antawn Jamison could miss much of the season with a knee injury. Gilbert Arenas is out until at least mid December with a knee injury. And Brendan Haywood is out until at least April with a wrist injury.
You get the picture. We have just had a handful of preseason games and there is already a considerable list of players out with serious injuries. The Celtics starters are a year older and the older they get, the more susceptible to injury they will be. They had a short offseason and may not be in top condition because of less time to prepare for the new season. We also have several players who have had serious injuries in the past and another injury is always possible. Tony Allen, Bill Walker, and Leon Powe all have a history of knee issues. Perk has had 3 shoulder surgeries in his 5 year pro career. A major injury to any of the Celtics' key players would very quickly derail their championship aspirations.
Before their championship last season, the last Celtics team to win it all was the 1986 Celtics team that was considered one of the greatest of all time. Bird was 30, McHale was 29, Parish was 33, and DJ was 32. They were getting up there in age, but not ancient by any means. This team was so dominant they finished the season with 67 wins and lost only one game all season on the parquet. They returned basically the same team for the 1987-88 season but failed to repeat. Why didn't they repeat? One word... injuries. The Celtics were plagued in the 1987-88 season by a series of injuries that ended their bid for back to back titles.
The Celtics are a stronger team this year and in spite of many of the teams improving, the Celtics should be favorites to repeat. The one thing that could derail them though, is a major injury to a key player. If the Celtics can manage to stay healthy this season, Bryan Doo, the Celtics' strength and conditioning coach, will be due for a raise. And, if they can manage to stay healthy this season, we can expect to be anticipating another ring ceremony to begin next season.
I like your optimism. The veteran presence and leadership of Ze Pose will surely be missed but I really believe in the Celtics' system. I'm sure someone is going to man-up and take that role in this team.
On a lighter note, I really find it funny and spot-on your depiction of Scal as an albatross to the Celtics.
--the word albatross is sometimes used to mean an encumbrance, or a wearisome burden.