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On the Bandwagon

We had the pleasure of chatting with Jim from fellow SBN site Green Bandwagon about the Celtics, their prospects, their GM, and their fans.  As usual you can check over there for the questions he asked me.

Blazersedge:   We all know Boston is great and the easy answer as to why is to point out Garnett, Allen, and Pierce playing on the same team. But the truth is superstar mixing doesn't always work.

A.    What is contributing to the great blend between the three?  How is it working so well?

It's important that Allen, Garnett and Pierce were all stuck in losing situations and were ecstatic to see their fortunes change so dramatically. So while a lot of guys say they want to win, all three actually meant it. Furthermore, there are not a lot of teammates better than KG. He's a great defender and an unselfish, almost to a fault, offensive player. And make no mistake...KG is the best player of the three. However, from day one Garnett made a concerted effort to make sure it was not all about him. While the rest of the country probably grew tired of their dominance of magazine covers, it was great for Celtics fans to see. Overall it works because all three are avoiding some of the trappings of NBA stardom - the quest for personal stats, the need for the ball in certain situations and other selfish behaviors. And why not? They've made more than enough money and are seriously concerned about their legacies.

  B.  What non-Big-Three factors are also contributing to Boston's success?

The Europe trip was huge as it forced the team to bond at an accelerated rate. Also the addition of Eddie House, James Posey and even Scot Pollard gave the Celtics veteran, role players. That drastically changed the culture of the team from last season. And then of course Tom Thibodeau joined the coaching staff as the resident defensive guru. The numbers don't lie. His teams are always amongst the NBA's defensive elite. Here's a quick rundown of the other players:

House - He is a lights out shooter from all angles when he is on, which has not been the case for several games. He is not really a back up point guard, regardless of what people have said. House seems like the kind of role player other guys like to have on the team. For better or worse he will talk to anyone and everyone, seemingly non-stop.

Posey - Versatile defender that has more offensive ability than it initially seems. He's a quality, veteran role player.

Pollard - Sometimes it seems like his feet are cement blocks. But he knows how to play, is generally in the right place, has playoff experience and is another positive presence on the team.

Glen Davis - Everyone who sees him in person guarantees that Big Baby is his dreams. Although the 289 pounds is probably accurate. He gets inconsistent minutes and the fans are not entirely sure why. Outside of the three stars he may have the most developed offensive game and definitely has the most diverse arsenal of low post moves. It's amazing how rarely he jumps. Davis also takes charges, hits the deck for loose balls, rebounds well and provides energy. He's a fan favorite.

Rajon Rondo - He's a little banged up right now and not performing like he did earlier in the season. When you see him in person it is striking how long his arms and big his hands are. Rondo has a ton of twisting shots around the rim and is the only Celtic that can bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense.

Kendrick Perkins - Perkins still has a penchant for foul trouble and leads the league in technical fouls. Lately he has spent a lot of time on the bench as the Celtics play small ball. Overall he has come along way since his rookie year and still has a ways to go. Perk is also a fan favorite. And if you have anything negative to say about him you will probably hear from these guys.

Tony Allen - He is a turnover waiting to happen, coming off a devastating knee injury suffered last January. Celtics fans hold out hope because when healthy he is explosive, plays great man-to-man defense and can get to the rim like few Celtics can. Seems to suffer from focus issues from time to time and allegedly can have a questionable attitude. He is one of the most polarizing players on the whole roster to the fans.  

Brian Scalabrine, Leon Powe, Gabe Pruitt - Realistically you might see Scal. If Powe is in there something is going drastically wrong for one team. I'd be surprised if Pruitt played, even with Rondo hurting.

Blazersedge:  Danny Ainge: last year he was among the worst General Managers in the history of forever. Has that perception changed now?  Is he really that good or did he happen to stumble into a couple of the greatest acquisitions in history (saving his bacon)?  What's the perception of Danny in Beantown?

I get the sense that deep down a lot of Celtics fans feel that Kevin McHale did his ex-team a favor. There is no doubting that Ainge's plan to acquire as much young talent as possible and then turn around and trade said talent for star veterans worked. And to his credit Ainge did not pull the trigger on deals for Allen Iverson and Carlos Boozer that would have improved the Celtics, but not to the extent that KG did. However, there was some luck involved. Regardless Celtics fans are happy with the moves Ainge made. Yet recent struggles are contributing to a developing "What's next?" movement. Overall Celtics fans are happy...for now.

Blazersedge:  This transformation must be causing an amazing amount of whiplash among Celtics fans.  For years you're stuck in the ditch on the side of the road, now you're on the Autobahn heading for the Promised Land.  What does it feel like?

To be honest I'm just enjoying the ride. I love the national televised games, numerous victories and sense of relevancy. But I am probably in the minority. Just check out the comments on Celtics Blog after the second loss to the Wizards. Celtics fans are demanding, impatient, a little irrational at times, passionate and currently expecting big things due in no small part to that 29-3 start. Furthermore, it raised expectations to heights that probably make it for difficult for some to enjoy the ride. I've observed the following stages of Celtics fandom already this season:
  1.    Pre Season - Mid November: They'll be better, but how much better?
  2.    Mid November - Mid December: They're awesome. But have they played anyone?
  3.    Following the loss Pistons to the Pistons in Boston: - Ahhhhhhhhh. Can they beat an elite team?
  4.    Following the victory over the Pistons in Detroit: - See you in June.
  5.    2008: - We need a point guard and another big. What's wrong with Ray Allen? Doc is a terrible coach. What will Ainge do? Hysteria.  

Blazersedge:  Can you win it all this year?  If so, what needs to happen to make that reality?

A lot of things have to go right for the Celtics. They have to stay healthy, learn how to attack a zone, continue to play tremendous defense, figure out who gets the ball in must score situations, get back to moving the ball on offense, develop their young guys, keep their vets fresh and consider using the final two roster spots. And as good as Celtics have looked at times it is not even a given that they will get out of the East. The Pistons loom as a veteran, battle tested team with an interesting influx of youth. Furthermore, there are some young, dangerous teams that could really push the Celtics if everything broke right - the Magic, Wizards and, as strange as it sound, the Hawks. On top of that LeBron James is still LeBron James. Heck if Jason Kidd cut down on his turnovers, Vince Carter occasionally attacked the rim, Josh Boone learned to hit free throws and Sean Williams continued to develop would anyone want to play the Nets? To answer your original question I do not think the Celtics will win the finals.  But that could change once I see how Boston performs against the Mavericks, Suns and Spurs.

Blazersedge:  How long is the window for this team?

I'd like to say the Celtics have two years after this season. But to be honest I think next year will be the key. We're still not sure how guys who jumped to the NBA, such as Garnett, will end up with all the wear and tear on their bodies. Ray Allen is struggling and playing at less than 100% right now. And Pierce has taken a pounding throughout his career. Factor in the tremendous amount of money invested in those guys and the reality that there is no high draft pick on the horizon, and you can see why Celtics fans are a little nervous. Having said all that I want to stress that I don't regret any of the moves Ainge made and I'm thoroughly enjoying this season.

The number of credible, intellegent blogging voices out there never ceases to amaze me.  Thanks to Jim and Green!

--Dave (