Thanks to the amazing feats of the schedule makers, we get to face off against the Celtics for the second time in less than a week. And as much as I’d like to gloat about beating Los Angeles, San Antonio, Houston, and the Celtics themselves over the last week and a half, I also realize that this is the best team in the league. What I’m saying is, if we win this game I will go out into the streets and jump up and down until I get hit by a plane (I have mad hops). Also if we win this game, I think Chris Paul firmly becomes the front runner for MVP. So, a win-win. If you dig back into the inner recesses of your memory, you might remember I had Green Bandwagon help me preview the first Celts game. I guess those questions are still applicable, but here’s a fresh batch nonetheless:
At the Hive: Boston’s been playing far and away the league’s best D. Obviously, KG has to be an integral part of that, but nobody really thought much of Paul Pierce or Ray Allen as defenders prior to this season. What’s been making your defense tick?
Green Bandwagon: Tom Thibodeau joined the staff this season and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Also as you noted KG is a great defender. He anchors the defense, disrupts pick and rolls and keeps everyone in line. And watching the Celtics team has taught me a lot about defense in the NBA. Specifically everyone has to buy in. I used to think about defense as a player sticking his man and making it difficult for him to get to the hoop. And while the lock down perimeter defender has not gone the way of the shut down corner in the NFL, it is not as important as I thought. Defense is about having good rotations, closing out on shooters, doubling certain guys, eliminating second chance opportunities, knowing when to switch on screens, fighting through or over picks at times, contesting everything and in general working as a team. Eddie House is not a great individual defender but he works well in the system. Also having a veteran team where everyone buys in is a huge deal as well. So Pierce and Ray Allen buy in and they also don’t have to work as hard on the offensive side as they did on their respective teams last season. When the offense ran through Pierce every time down the court and he took a beating on a nightly basis he did not have as much to commit to defense. Also if the team defense is bad an individual can only do so much. Furthermore, consider what Dave from Blazers Edge told me earlier in the season when analyzing Portland’s trade of Zach Randolph, “Sometimes it only takes one guy in the right spot to submarine a team. How long can four players bust their butts rotating on defense when the fifth guy just lets the opponent score?”
At the Hive: How far do you see the Celtics going this season? Also, rank the Western Conference in order of who you’d least like to meet in the Finals.
Green Bandwagon: I believe the Celtics will make it to the Finals and then play anyone hard. I guess I haven’t thought too much about who might be on the other side. And it is hard for me to answer right now because I haven’t seen them play Chris Paul and company [Ed note: This is only accurate as of last Friday] or the new look Lakers. And Boston looked awful in its only game against Phoenix so far. Still I don’t fear Dallas, Houston and Golden State. I respect the Suns but see the Celtics handling them. San Antonio is worrisome because they have so much experience, know every trick in the book and Tim Duncan plays for them. Regardless of the seeding I believe that LA (Lakers), New Orleans and Utah are the class of the West. And deep down every Celtics fan wants a Celtics/Lakers Finals. Even if that is a tough match up we want to scream “Beat LA” and talk about 1984 all over again. We’ll ignore 1987.
At the Hive: Now, let’s go long term. What are the contracts like for the Big 3, how much longer will this stretch of Eastern dominance last, and which Boston rookies/youngsters might we be hearing a lot more about in the next few years?
Green Bandwagon: The Celtics have big money tied to Ray Allen (2 more seasons), Paul Pierce (3 more seasons) and Kevin Garnett (4 more seasons). Everything hinges on their health and all three are on the wrong side of 30. Thankfully Rajon Rondo is on his rookie contract for at least two more seasons and Kendrick Perkins has a very reasonable deal over the next three. That’s the starting five. Glen Davis, Leon Powe, Brian Scalabrine and Gabe Pruitt will be back. Outside of that I don’t know. Will James Posey and Eddie House sign for a discounted price again? Maybe, maybe not. Realistically Danny Ainge will be trying to get good veterans to sign on for less than market value for a chance to play with Kevin Garnett in the hopes of winning a championship. It will be somewhat similar to what happened in LA during Shaq and Kobe’s run. As history shows bringing in the wrong guys (Mitch Richmond, Glen Rice, Samaki Walker and even Gary Payton and Karl Malone) can be detrimental to the cause. Meanwhile, initially Boston fans saw next season as the year but now it is starting to feel like this might be the team’s best shot. Also look at what a difference a year makes. With one or two solid moves a good Orlando team could become elite. I also wonder how long the Celtics can keep this positive atmosphere going where everyone wants a ring and individual stats are not as important. Finally, assistant coach and defensive guru Tom Thibodeau could be on his way out after this season.
As far as the youth goes I’m a huge fan of Rondo. Few people agree with me but I think he makes one All Star Game before it’s all said and done, as long as Chris Paul and Deron Williams stay out West. And I really believe that Glen Davis (provided he stays at a reasonable weight), Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins will be around this league for a long time. All those guys work hard. The funny thing is that Davis might not even play against the Hornets. But he scored 20 on the road in a victory over Detroit and has a pretty advanced offensive repertoire. The jury is still out on Gabe Pruitt who never met a shot he didn’t like and is currently playing in the D League.
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