Ever notice how much Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are alike? Stubborn? Check. Strong-willed? Check. Private? Check. Both are proud men who seem cut from the same cloth, driven to be the best and to beat the best, one in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, the other in the prime of something very special. Apologies up front to Paul Pierce, the other member of Boston’s reconfigured Big Three; it is the two-headed monster of KG and Rondo that makes the Celtics go, and their success this season will likely determine whether Boston wins that coveted 18th Banner.
When you look back on the season that was, our Celtics came close – damn close – to reaching the NBA Finals and in all likelihood winning another championship. And if you step back and assess how this team overachieved to get there, you have to tip your cap to Garnett and Rondo. They were the driving force behind the playoff run that reached the Eastern Conference Finals and put the Miami Heat on the ropes.
Flash forward to this season. Boston has a lot of new faces on the roster, and you would have to think that this team is going to be far superior to the previous edition. If that’s the case, and if KG and Rondo can dial it up a notch again next spring, you would also have to think that anything is indeed possible.
On paper, Miami is once again the cream of the Eastern Conference. Philly will be better with Andrew Bynum. The Knicks, at least at the moment, seem poised to take the next step in terms of realizing their potential. But the Celtics, with new additions Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, as well as NBA-ready rookie Jared Sullinger, are right there in the mix with the best in conference. All of that changes if either Garnett or Rondo go down with an injury, but if they remain healthy and play at a high level, then Boston has a shot.
It’s going to be fun to watch Rondo work with the newbies. Finding Terry in his favorite spot, whipping the ball to Lee for a corner three…Rondo has to be licking his chops at the prospect of doing damage without scoring a single point. Could he lead the league in assists this season? I wouldn’t bet against him.
As for Garnett, he has to feel better about his support cast, especially the bigs. There’s Jason Collins to bang against the bigger bigs like Bynum. There’s Sullinger, who can play the 4 and the 5. There’s Chris Wilcox, a versatile big with hops. There’s Fab Melo, who likely won’t play much but who can come in and bring size when needed. Oh, and then there’s Jeff Green, who can play the power forward position and give the Celtics another dangerous scorer. What did Garnett have last season? Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins off the bench. That was it.
So as we approach the 2012-13 regular season, you can expect both Rondo and Garnett to be reinvigorated by the influx of talent on the roster. Both should flourish with guys like Terry making things easier on them. Whether this season ends in a championship remains to be seen. But if our two-headed monster is scoring and blocking and stealing and barking, then you can bet that bottom dollar that the Celtics will be right there in the mix.