The Philadelphia 76ers were counting on the Boston Celtics to break up, as was the rest of the Atlantic Division. Sixers fans like myself were encouraged that they took the Celtics and their three aging superstars to seven games in this year's second round. As such, once one or two of them retired or left for free agency this offseason, the expectation was that the Sixers would leap ahead in the Atlantic pecking order.
But Kevin Garnett put a huge monkey wrench in that plan on June 30, according to Yahoo Sports. Instead of retiring, Garnett appears poised to sign a new three-year, $34 million contract, keeping the biggest of the Celtics' Big Three in Boston. And now that both Garnett and Rajon Rondo will be sticking around a little while longer, perhaps Ray Allen and Paul Pierce will hang around as well.
When Allen was first rumored to have interest in the Miami Heat days earlier, it looked like the official beginning of the end for the Celtics. Yet now that Boston has Garnett and Rondo ready to come back, it may balance out the loss of Allen - even if he makes the Heat that much harder to dethrone.
The Celtics certainly look harder to dethrone in the Atlantic Division, at the very least. Philadelphia was certainly hoping to do the job once Boston started losing superstars. However, Garnett was the biggest superstar the Celtics had to lose - but now that they won't lose him, everything looks a lot better for them. Everyone else in the Atlantic is another matter, though.
The future certainly looks a lot tougher for the Sixers after this weekend. Not only are the Celtics poised to hang around with Garnett, the Brooklyn Nets may soon get their dream combo of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams after all.
Hours after the Garnett deal was reported, Howard was also rumored to have demanded a trade to the Nets. If this long and drawn out soap opera gets its predictable ending, the Nets may soon indeed be a force to be reckoned with - and give both the Celtics and Sixers a harder time in the Atlantic Division.
A Brooklyn franchise that lands superstars, as well as a Boston team that gets to keep its own, is an ugly double-whammy for Philadelphia. But while the Sixers may still be ill-equipped to battle that much star power, the Celtics are stubbornly staying equipped for just a little while longer.
It may be harder if Allen goes to the Heat and if Pierce leaves as well, but a Boston squad led by Garnett and Rondo can't be declared dead yet. Everyone declared them dead at some point during this past regular season and postseason, and they still almost reached the NBA Finals. Now in an offseason where the Celtics were truly expected to break up and die, that same old resiliency has reemerged one more time.
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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