Ball Don't Lie - NBA

As preseason games tip-off around the world, Ball Don't Lie looks at all 30 teams, outlining off-season transactions, projecting win totals, asking bogus questions, spinning tracks, and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Up first, your NBA defending champions Boston Celtics.

Last Season: 66-16; NBA champions

Key Players Added: Rookie J.R. Giddens, Darius Miles (and his 10-game suspension for violating the anti-drug program), sous-chef Patrick O'Bryant, second Celtic beast Bill Walker

Key Players Lost: James Posey (to the Hornets), P.J. Brown (old, retired), zany Scot Pollard and his two crates of delicious clam chowder

KD's Endless Grey Ribbon: Boston's return to the top of the NBA heap in 2007-08 was sudden, and somewhat shocking considering the speed of the ascension, but it was no joke. It wasn't fluke-y, they weren't lucky, and the team didn't benefit from circumstances beyond their control. Boston earned it. Boy, did they earn it.

So you'll have to pardon me, and know that I'm not denigrating the team's championship turn when I assume that they'll come down to earth a bit in 2008-09. And it's not because of some ham-fisted bit of "malaise" or that I think the team is going to be fat and sassy with its accomplishments. No team with Kevin Garnett on it will ever fall victim to that.

No, Boston will falter a bit because the core is a year older, the bench doesn't have many new faces, and the improvement of the team's young core (Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis; three great-to-solid young players who are going to make another jump this season) won't be enough to offset the expected drop off from Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and KG.

And that's going to be enough to do terrible things to this team. Like, keep it around the 60-win mark if healthy and merely expect them to be the favorites to win the 2009 title, instead of the overwhelming favorites. As much as I love Detroit's roster, they've lost our benefit of the doubt when May swings around. Boston doesn't have that history of falling short. They're one-for-one, and that's enough for me. Something about the difference between Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace.

There will be issues. We haven't seen a whole lot of repeat champions of late in this league, and didn't see a single one for a 20-year span in the NBA, mainly because injuries to teams that play just five guys at a time can cripple an outfit's chances. Squads that have it together from October until June can still look like a 40-win also-ran late in the playoffs should a significant cog go down with any number of unexpected ailments.

It's a sad reality, but it's worth paying attention to; especially if some of those ailments hit in December and January, and keep this team from having home court advantage past the first round of the postseason.

Otherwise, at full bore and with nothing going wrong, this is the team to beat. Astonishing defense, good-enough offense, Kevin Garnett. Boston just might be the greybeard exception to the creaky rule.

Expected record: 56-26


Five Questions With ... Kevin Garnett:

Q: Can you sneeze with your eyes open?
Garnett: Anything is possible!

Q: Can you kill a polar bear with your bare hands?
Garnett: Anything is possible!

Q: Can you create a stick of dynamite out of nothing more than table salt, some sugar and a small amount of chemically enhanced weed killer?
Garnett: Anything is possible!

Q: Can you walk on water?
Garnett: Anything is possible!

Q: Can you teach me to drive a diesel locomotive?
Garnett: I'm certified!

Real Talk, Blog Talk: "What are the goals for this team? Dynasty. If they need motivation, all they have to do is look up. The 17 Championship banners are both a salute to the storied history and a call to arms for the current generation. The energy and emotion driving this team to win the first rings for KG, Pierce, and Ray now has to be rechanneled into adding this team to the list of all-time greats. In a way, the age of the veterans once again becomes a bit of an asset. They know that time is precious and every year is a cherished opportunity to add to their legacy in green."

Green Bandwagon: "Can Doc Rivers establish himself as one of the NBA's elite coaches? Even after a 66-win regular season and an NBA Finals where he bested Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers' critics only begrudgingly praised his efforts. The most frequent backhanded compliments gave credit to his assistant coaches or pointed to the ideal roster. Those approaches don't give Rivers enough credit for getting his stars to play team ball, pulling off Ubuntu, and winning a championship. In fact, just by asking this question I'm starting the process anew. However, given the personnel question marks as camp opens, Rivers can cement himself as one of today's best with another strong performance this season."

Red's Army: "Tony Allen will be looked upon to 'replace' Posey ... but he won't do that because they're different players.  But Allen, if his mind is right, can provide an intense defensive spark ... and an explosive scoring punch for that second unit. Other players will get thrown into the mix to make up for the loss of James Posey ... but Tony will be the guy we're all looking to pick up most of the slack."

Associated Wax:

Michael Bay's Twitter Season Projection:

michael_bay: The Celtics defensive tenacity reminds me of an epic Michael Bay movie. Bold. Unrelenting. Gripping. Ubuntu and eight-car pile-ups, baby.
11:34 AM October 08, 2008 from web 

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