Finally. This mess of a 2011-12 regular season is behind us – the sloppy play, the dead legs, the blur of games. Now the real season begins, and we will soon have our questions answered in the most public of forums. We know what we know, for what that’s worth. Kevin Garnett’s move to center has led to a more free-flowing offense, allowing the Celtics to shoot a higher percentage and compensate for being one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. Makes sense now, but who would have thought it then? A higher percentage of makes means fewer battles on the boards, which conceals a major weakness and transforms the C’s into more dangerous foe.
Rajon Rondo has thick skin. How could he not? After being trade bait not once but twice in the same season. All Rondo did was shake off the trade talk disrespect and lead the league in assists. And if I’m not mistaken, isn’t quarterbacking the team still a point guard’s main responsibility? Sure, Rondo can’t shoot the ball consistently from the perimeter. So what? Big deal. Rondo does so much of everything else that it renders that weakness a mute point.
Avery Bradley and Greg Stiemsma, in their own ways, have been season-saving revelations for Doc Rivers and the Celtics. Bradley has been so steady in his emergence that the loss of Ray Allen as been a non-story in Boston. And Stiemsma brings a shot-blocking dynamic to the mix. He’s a role player, but he’s played that role to the hilt this season. Not bad for a guy no one knew – and everyone either game up on or never even considered – before the start of the season.
The questions, of course, are many. Is this the Big Three’s last stand? Will Ray Allen even make it back this postseason? Are KG and Ray gone when the final buzzer sounds on their 2012 playoff run? Will Mickael Pietrus prove to be the X-factor the Celtics need at some point in these playoffs? Will Doc Rivers’ decision to choose health over homecourt prove to be the correct course of action?
For me, I’m curious to know the direction of Danny Ainge’s rebuilding project, and how he plans to not only keep this team competitive, but how he plans to leap back to the NBA’s elite. There’s no question that this team has a chance of beating the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Garnett is a proud man. Through force of will he can almost singlehandedly do that on his own. But what happens in Round 2? And what happens when we finally fall?
Only time will answer those questions. For now, the Hawks stand in front of us, posing the most immediate problem to be solved. We need to figure out a way to win a road game, at least one at minimum, while doing what we do best on our home court. The first test comes Sunday. I won’t be at the game but I’ll be glued to the TV, making noise and cheering the fact that our Celtics are playing Games That Matter.
Let’s hope that we steal one of those first to games on road.