There has been a lot of talk about the Celtics window of opportunity with this team. Much has been made of the ages of Pierce who will turn 32 in October, Ray Allen who will turn 34 on July 20, Kevin Garnett who turned 33 in May, and now Rasheed Wallace who will turn 35 in September. Do we have a brief window in which to win a championship with these guys? I've read some articles that give this team a one year window, believing that it is now or never for this team. Is that the most we can expect?
First, let's look at the condition that these three guys are in. They are all very conscientious about their conditioning and their health. When Ray came to the Celtics he was coming off a double ankle surgery but he has had 2 fairly healthy seasons, playing in 73 games in '07-08 and 79 games this past season. Pierce played in 80 games in '07-08 and 81 games last season. Kevin Garnett has missed time with injuries in both his seasons with the Celtics as he missed 9 games with the abdominal strain in the '07-08 season and then missed the entire second half of the season with the knee injury this past season. Reports are that he is ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery and is raring to get back to playing basketball. All 3 of these guys know how to take care of themselves and how to stay in the very best condition. Add a very motivated Sheed to this mix and I imagine that he is already working out and excited for this upcoming season also. I can see all four of them coming into camp in the best shape of their careers.
Last season, KG averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in just over 31 minutes per game. Pierce played 37.5 minutes per game and averaged 20.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Ray Allen played 36 minutes per game and averaged 18.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Sheed averaged 12 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 32 minutes per game. They are capable of playing this kind of minutes again this season, but with a stronger bench, their minutes should go down, which will make them fresher for the playoffs and help to extend their careers.
I would say that with this group of players we easily have a 3-4 year window of opportunity. In 4 years, Rasheed Wallace, who is the oldest will be 39. Ray Allen will be 38, KG will be 37 and Pierce, the baby of the group will be 36. There is ample evidence that a player who takes care of himself can play at a high level to the age of 40.
To back this up, I did some research on players who played very well at 37-40 years of age. First, is Robert Parish. He played until he was 44 years old. At 40 years of age, Parish was averaging 12.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 27 minutes per game. At 37, he averaged 18.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 30.3 minutes per game. Not too shabby.
Another player who took good care of himself and played very well at 40 years of age was Reggie Miller. At 40, he averaged 14.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 31.9 minutes per game. At 37, he averaged 16.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists,and 1.s steals in 36.6 minutes per game.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar played until he was 42. At 40 he played 31 minutes per game and averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.24 blocks. At 37, he averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 and 3.7 assists in 35.9 minutes per game.
Karl "the Mailman" Malone played until he was 41 years old. At 40, he averaged 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 36.2 minutes per game. At 37, Malone averaged 25.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 35.9 minutes per game.
At 37, Charles Barkley played 31 minutes per game and averaged 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.
Finally, Michael Jordan played until he was 40 and averaged 20 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 37 minutes per game. At 37, Jordan played 38.8 minutes per game and averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 steals. I am sure that there are more players who played well into their late 30s and early 40s, but these are the ones that readily came to mind.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that Pierce, Garnett and Allen won't be able to play at a high level until they are 38 or 39 years old, just as the players mentioned above did. I've seen comments about KG's injuries where people felt like KG is starting to break down because of the injury last season. But many players have had bone spurs or other injuries and then come back from them to play at a high level for many years.
Our other younger players are going to continue to get better. We have seen improvement each season from both Perk and Rondo. Big Baby made a leap in his play last season and it looks as though he will be returning next season. With a strong bench, no player will have to play too many minutes, which will lengthen the careers of the older players and will give the younger players a chance to grow. With a little luck, I see this team contending for several years to come.