By Matt Noonan
The NBA Lockout has officially ended, and now it’s time to play some basketball.
However, if you’re a Boston Celtics fan, you might be a tad bit concerned, especially about the upcoming season.
There are numerous questions that have been swirling around the Waltham practice facility, such as, how will the Big-3, (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett) fare this year? Also, do they have what it takes to win another championship?
Will Rajon Rondo finally become the leader that the Green and White need him to be, and lastly, what should Boston fans expect from their bench?
OK… take a deep breath because I know that’s a lot of information to digest, but let’s face it, the Celtics aren’t exactly the number one team entering the season, right? They’ll be competitive, but most likely not the top dog.
Squads like Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, Oklahoma, as well as both Los Angles units will challenge the Celtics, but wins against any group listed above will certainly be a confidence booster. However, while it’s indeed important to earn wins against the best of NBA, it’s also vital for the Green and White to remain consistent for the condenced 66-game schedule too.
So, while we anxiously await the inaugural tip-off for the ’11-’12 season, here are some thoughts, updates and predictions pertaining toward the men who sport the word, “Boston” across their chest.
Biggest Concern: If the Celtics wish to remain atop the Eastern Conference, then they’ll need to stay healthy. Fending off the injury bug will be one of the biggest tasks for a team that features a variety of veterans on their roster. Indeed, the season will be short and quick, but if the Celtics are going to be successful, they’ll need to make sure each player receives the proper amount of rest and treatment.
Pierce Doubtful for Sunday: It’s unlikely that he’ll suit up against New York on Sunday, but according to his personal Twitter account on Saturday, he wrote the following: “Captain Paul Pierce is on the plane and will travel to NY, but no further word on his availability for tomorrow vs. the Knicks.” Without Pierce, and Jeff Green in the line-up, expect players like Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox to step-up at the wing/forward position.
Celtics Acquire Pietrus: Boston received an early Christmas present on Saturday, as veteran swingman Mickael Pietrus cleared waivers, and signed his name on a minimum contract. Pietrus won’t be sporting a Celtics uniform until possibly Tuesday, Dec. 27, when the team travels to Miami because he’s expected to undergo a physical on Monday.
Biggest Obstacle: Entering the month of March, the Celtics will be forced to take their “show on the road,” as they’ll play eight consecutive games away from the TD Garden. This particular stretch will be critical for the Green and White, especially if they’d like to earn a spot in the playoffs. Wins against Atlanta, Los Angles and Denver could certainly boost the squads’ morale for the remainder of the season.
Overall Prediction: The Celtics didn’t exactly make a marquee splash during the offseason, and certainly failed to lure Chris Paul to Boston. However, with literally the same roster intact from last season, I am expecting the Green and White to win 30 games this season. Although, once the playoffs arrive, expect the Heat, Bulls, Magic or Knicks to dash their chances toward an 18th NBA championship.