Last week we looked into the many many ways the Boston Celtics can blow it come Saturday, when the playoffs kick into full swing. This week we’ll look at the slightly shorter list of reasons the Celts can win. New England takes great pride in its pessimism. This optimistic stuff is hard.
• The Ascension of Rondo — Rajon Rondo has gone from manageable hardwood quarterback to arguably the second-best point guard in the NBA. Chris Paul is #1, there’s no question there. After that, arguments can be made. Deron Williams is thought to be second-best by many, but with all that talent around him and the loudest fans in the league, he can still only manage to get that team as high as a seven-seed. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have seen much better days. Tony Parker and Devin Harris are more shoot-first/defend-later PGs. And unlike everybody I just listed above (besides Tony), Rondo’s got a ring on his resume. Oh, and that behind-the-back fake he does? Nuts.
• Baby, Powe, and Perk — The development of Boston’s young bigs over the past year has been incredible. Kendrick Perkins has developed into one of the best young centers in a center-hungry league; and Glen Davis and Leon Powe are forces off the bench. There’s no question Kevin Garnett’s tutelage has been the main reason behind these kids’ fantastic production.
• The acquisitions of Mikki and Steph — With the losses of PJ, Sam, and Posey, the Celtics needed some new old blood. Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury aren’t necessarily AARP members but they have received their fair share of battle scars over the years. Moore jumps around the floor like a cracked-out kangaroo, providing some much-needed bench enthusiasm (I call it benchthusiasm!). Starbury has come in and quietly (emphasis on quietly) filled the Sam Cassell veteran point guard role and given Rondo some crucial rest minutes.
• Kobe — The next three reasons were listed in the “Why We Can’t” section, but they can also be listed here as well. Boston shut Kobe down in last year’s Finals. The Black Mamba was not nearly as foreboding as he had been throughout the regular season. Posey and Pierce clamped down and Kobe bricked his way through an embarrassing Game Six loss. Now granted, we don’t have Posey the Kobe-Killer this year; but this year he’s got a hundred-game season, a summer facing the world’s best, and (by the time the Finals roll around) another hundred-game season. By June, he’s still gonna be Kobe. But he’s gonna be one tired Kobe. Of course, in order to face Tired Kobe, we’re gonna have to go through…
…• LeBron — He’s “The Greatest Player in the World.” (Sorry, Dino Radja) You can make all the same arguments I just made for Kobe. Long season, long summer, long season. Unfortunately, I’m not even sure LeBron James ever gets tired. The LeBron we saw last spring is nothing like the LeBron we’re seeing now. The skill, the attitude, the confidence; everything’s been cranked up to 11. Nigel Tufnel approves.
• KG’s health — Maybe it’s all been overblown. Maybe Doc’s just being overly-careful. Maybe it’s all just one big red herring. I know that’s what I’ve been repeating to myself over and over again while curled up in the fetal position in the corner rocking back and forth for the past month.
• We’ve been there before — This may be the most important point of all. Kobe and LeBron have been there, while most of their teammates haven’t. Nearly every single Celtic on the entire roster has been there and won the damn thing. Even Brian Scalabrine! The Patriots and the Red Sox had that coolness needed to do it again. That coolness you only get from having done it already. If the Celtics have absolutely nothing else going for them and their backs are against the wall; at least they know that they were there before and got out unscathed. And knowing is half the battle.
By Wednesday we’ll know whether we’re playing the Bulls, Sixers or Pistons. Maybe this year we’ll win a road game or two..