The Philadelphia 76ers were minutes away from knocking off the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. Yet Sixers fans like myself were comforted with the perceived notion that the Celtics would break up soon and lose their aging stars. But so far in NBA free agency, Boston has not only kept its stars together, it is even adding pieces as well.
Boston is now ready to bring Jason Terry over from the Dallas Mavericks, as it reportedly reached a three-year deal with him on July 3. Terry is immediately being thought of as a replacement for Ray Allen if he leaves the Celtics - but if Allen stays with the team, both he and Terry will make it even scarier.
Terry helped the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA title just 13 months ago, which means the Celtics now have yet another champion on their side. What's more, since he is 34 years old, he qualifies as a young star compared to the original Big Three. And although there may not be room for him in the starting lineup if Allen and Paul Pierce return, coming off the bench wasn't a problem for him with the Mavericks.
Either Terry will help fill the gap for a departed star, or give the Celtics some much needed depth behind Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Boston didn't often get a lot of help from its bench, whereas the Miami Heat won the championship in part because of their role players emerging. If the Big Four are all still together and Terry joins Brandon Bass as a role player, the Celtics may become more dangerous instead of less.
Boston needs to make these moves more than ever, given what the Brooklyn Nets have done lately. With Deron Williams about to resign with the Nets, Joe Johnson about to join him and with Dwight Howard not off the table yet, Brooklyn will become the trendy pick in the Atlantic all of a sudden. At the least, the division is now looking like a two-team race between the Celtics and Nets, with the Sixers and New York Knicks trying to keep up.
Of course, the Celtics have a lot more experience in actually winning, which the Nets do not have. Yet they will be even older going into next season - although age didn't stop them from almost reaching the NBA Finals weeks ago.
Their age was supposed to make the 2012 postseason their last ride, but if the Celtics actually stay together after all - with new support to go with it - the younger Heat, Nets and Sixers could still have a lot to worry about.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan - who has become quite familar with the Celtics in that time.
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