On Friday, the Boston Celtics kicked off their 2012-13 season by engaging in their annual media day. The activities represent the first official glimpse of the newly configured roster; one that many fans hope is of championship quality.
The media day proceedings also represent the end of a active offseason where the Celtics made significant roster changes. In total, there are as many as 10 new faces representing the Boston Celtics at the start of training camp, among the new acquisitions include draft picks Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph along with former NBA champion Jason Terry and young swingman Courtney Lee. One player whose absence is most notable from this season's Celtics' media guide is former Big Three member Ray Allen, who departed to the defending champion Miami Heat over the summer.
The moves made during the offseason were designed to offset lingering issues which has hampered this team since their championship season of 2008. Since winning their 17 th NBA title, the team has struggled to build a deep and talented roster; one with positional versatility to counter the newcomers to the NBA elite in Miami and Oklahoma City.
At first glance the transactions over this summer appear to have accomplished the depth and versatility issues, with players like Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley among those who are capable of playing multiple positions off the bench. This versatility gives head coach Doc Rivers nearly unlimited player rotation options at his disposal.
The defection of Ray Allen over the summer coupled with the continued aging of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett signals a needed changing of the guard. Fortunately for Celtics' fans, the heir apparent leader is currently in place and ready to take full control of the team's reigns. Rajon Rondo has teased fans with his court generalship over the past several seasons and now is poised to take over a more prominent role of team leader. There has been a growing need over the past two seasons that not only the offense but the focal point of the Celtics' future direction be placed in the capable hands of the all Star point guard. This past season Rondo became a true floor leader, becoming more of a vocal player on the floor and in the huddle.
With a dizzying array of skills, Rondo should have no problem assuming a more prominent role on the floor; becoming more of a complete player capable of scoring at will. This evolution will be a welcomed addition to a team whose corps has been aging and at times whose offense can become stagnant. The addition of many of the players this offseason are designed to provide Rondo with more active floor runners to play alongside Rondo for this season and for years to come. In recent weeks, both team president Danny Ainge and head coach Doc rivers have been very vocal about this season's team being Rondo's to lead; and for a team that has been perceived as becoming too old to contend, this revelation should come as a welcome sign of things to come.
Wanted: Healthy Bodies
As the team is currently constituted, if healthy I find this roster to be as deep as any during the recent five-year span. With all the optimism surrounding the depth and versatility that is present on the roster, the success of this season rests solely on the team's ability to remain healthy. While the subject of health has been a prevailing issue since the summer of 2007, this season may represent the most challenging for the Boston Celtics training and medical staff. The variance of health concerns range from offseason shoulder surgeries (Avery Bradley had surgery on both shoulders) to more pressing and unorthodox medical matters.
From a more traditional injury sense, the "routine" shoulder surgeries conducted on Avery Bradley significantly stunts the development of the former first round draft choice. Prior to being shut down late in the 2011 season, Bradley had emerged into a prominent rotation player, one who thrived after being inserted into the starting rotation. As training camp begins, Bradley continues his rehabilitation with hopes of being back by December. Bradley's absence will clearly be lessened by the acquisition of Terry and Lee who can slide right into the backcourt rotation.
On the roster are two recent heart surgery recipients in Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox. The roles of Wilcox and Green are expected to be prominent for the Celtics in 2012, with both players missing most of last season with their respective heart ailments; costing the Celtics the roster depth they sorely needed as the season progressed. Their return in 2012 will be of even greater importance to the Celtics as the two remaining holdovers from the Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett) enter their 15th and 17th seasons respectively. With more mileage on these future hall-of-famers' legs, having a former starter in Green available to play both forward position as well as Wilcox to play power forward and center will give Rivers the opportunity to incorporate a more regimented minutes program in place for both players from day one.
In total, there are potentially nine players who may end up playing more than one position throughout the 2012 season. The versatility offered by this season's team is unprecedented for a Celtics team and offers Doc Rivers the ability to match up on a nightly basis against any opponent. Not only is there versatility, but also an infusion of size. Added to the training camp roster include journeymen centers Jason Collins and Darko Milicic, who will likely see limited minutes but whose presence will be important now that Andrew Bynum is a division foe in Philadelphia. Of course, if the Celtics season rests solely on the production of these two big men, then there will clearly be bigger issues with the many players on the roster. The addition of Collins will be a benefit to rookie center Fab Melo, who can learn from the seasoned experience of the 11-year center.
In a July article, I had reviewed the 2012-13 Celtics' schedule and projected a 55-win season for the Celtics; which will likely result in a second seed in the Eastern Conference. With the defending Miami Heat expected to roll through the season due in part to a young core of talent (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh). The Celtics ability to contend this season for an 18 th NBA title will not come from the accumulation of regular season wins but rather the team's ability to navigate the season and enter the playoffs healthy.
I have been of the mindset that the Celtics are as talented a team that there is in the league and that they are still capable of winning a championship if the core talent on this team remains healthy. How the optimism generated from media day carries forward through the peaks and valleys of the regular season is yet to be seen. Like over the past five seasons, I enter the 2012 season still holding the belief that in June there may still be basketball played by the Celtics in the TD Garden; and that a title is still within reach.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; weathering the highs and lows of past seasons and witnessing five of Boston's 17 championships; with more to come.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
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