Can you guys see that picture up there? Well that’s what the team gets to look at every time they walk into their practice facility in Waltham. The 2008 championship banner is nice, but to add a 2010 banner would make it even sweeter. Everyone from Wyc, Ainge and the Big Three thinks that this team is as good, if not better, than the title team two years ago, and who would disagree? Sure we lost James Posey and PJ Brown from that team, but we’ve added Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels. Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis are another year older and only getting better. The Big Three are getting older, but hopefully the supporting cast will be able to step up and take some pressure off their shoulders.
This will be the third season with this core of players and like the two before it, health will be the biggest factor in whether or not this team is playing in June. That mainly hinges on Kevin Garnett as he is a rare mix of offensive ability and defensive passion that infuses the team with more energy than any other player in the league. All reports coming out now are that he is “all systems go” as he has been finally cleared to play. This is great news and let’s hope that he gets eased into the season without having to go and play 35-minutes a game right from the get-go. If he goes down, the Celtics become just a very good team rather than a great team, but there is one new face that would be able to ease the pain if we were to lose KG for an extended amount of time.
Rasheed Wallace, for many years our enemy in Detroit, is now most likely going to become a fan favorite here in Boston. He won an NBA title with Detroit in 2004 and played in the championship series again in 2005, so he has got all the experience we could ever ask for from our 6th man. But then the question arises, is he really a 6th man for this team? Kendrick Perkins has been the starting center for this team for years and, most notably, for the NBA title. Many believe (myself included) that it is a foregone conclusion that Perk retains his job as the starting center. Would it be better for this team if Sheed were to start? Personally, I like the defensive presence (not saying Sheed can’t play D) that Perkins brings. Sure, he doesn’t have nearly the offensive game that Wallace does, but Perk’s defense is becoming top-notch when looking at every center in the league. I think bringing Rasheed off the bench gives Doc Rivers so many options as to how he wants to set up his lineup as the game goes on.
Looking past the big name players on the squad, we have to analyze what we have towards the end of the bench. Marquis Daniels, arguably the best free agent pick-up for this team (including Rasheed Wallace), will get plenty of minutes, but what about the other wing players on the bench? JR Giddens and Bill Walker both need to show that they’ve made some tremendous strides in their respective games to carve out any sort of consistent minutes in the rotation. Then there is the human enigma: Tony Allen. Many Celtic fans are ready to say “good-bye” to Tony and I don’t blame them. Ever since that horrible knee injury, he hasn’t been the same. His decision making has always been worse than questionable and for a player who’s game was built on athleticism, he’s just not the same player.
The fourth and fifth big men on the roster are Glen Davis and Shelden Williams. Big Baby tried hard to find himself a team to overpay for his services, but that didn’t happen. Now, he’s back in Boston for probably the next two years at reasonable money for the team. We saw him grow up before our eyes when Garnett was out last season and if he can bring that same production again this season, we will most definitely have one of the most dangerous benches in all the league.
Shelden Williams, a.k.a. The Landlord, has been a huge disappointment since being drafted with the #5 overall pick in 2006 by the Atlanta Hawks. The 6’9 forward was a consensus All-American selection his senior season at Duke and was named the NABC Defensive Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006. Being a team that is predicated on defense, I don’t think there will be any argument that he is worthy of the 14th roster spot for this team. Playing behind Garnett, Wallace, Perkins, Davis and Brian Scalabrine, there aren’t many expectations for Shelden. That should make it much easier for him to just go out and play rather than having the expectations of the #5 pick on his back.
And what about that 15th roster spot? Many wanted a veteran point guard, but that can wait until later in the season when buyouts become common practice. The 15th spot seems to be between two players who both received non-guaranteed contracts this morning: rookie guard Lester Hudson and veteran forward Michael Sweetney. To me, it’s pretty obvious that there’s no room on this roster for Sweetney and he’s being brought in to have a full team for training camp while KG eases his way back in and Tony Allen is still recovering from offseason surgery. This spot is for Hudson to earn.
Lester Hudson was the leading scorer in the NCAA last season and showed flashes in the summer league this year that he could be a viable option off the bench. He brings a great scoring mentality and if Marquis Daniels is handling the ball, Hudson would be relieved of all point guard duties and could focus on doing what he does best.
There are so many questions to be asked heading into preseason. Some of which can be answered and some can not, but who cares? The season starts in about a month and this one, hopefully, will be a season to remember for a long time. With the new additions, the team should be rejuvenated, especially with the energy that Rasheed Wallace will bring. I know many of you are with me, but I just can not wait for this season to start!