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Tag:playoffs
Posted on: September 22, 2010 5:00 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2010 7:16 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Celtics too old?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Are the Celtics too old to win the title?


Too old for what? I suppose that's the real question here. Too old to win the East? Probably not. Too old to get homecourt advantage? Surely not. Too old to win the title?

That's a tough one. 

Let me take you back to a year ago. The Celtics began the season trying to regain their pride after a loss to the then-surprising Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And to be honest? They didn't look very convincing, even on their winning streak as they cruised to the division title. In key games, Garnett looked slow. They lost to a Kobe buzzer-beater. Even when they later got revenge for that game, it seemed to set a tone. And that was before the second half, where they looked terrible. Every Boston fan on the planet will tell you that it was just a lack of resolve, a sense of boredom, and that those games simply didn't matter to them, so their effort wasn't there. That's probably partially true. It's also partially true that even bored the Celtics should have beaten the Nets and beaten them easily in every game they played. There were problems for Boston. Tons of them. Most notably, they were swept by the Hawks, and each time it was a late run by the Hawks featuring the transition game that did them in. The Celtics simply couldn't run with them. Everyone put a plug in them, except their fans, a handful of media, and Nate Jones. 

And then the playoffs came, and all of that thought process went out the window.

The San Antonio Spurs throughout the years had drifted and coasted to second half finishes, and yet always seemed to find themselves there at the end for years. But there was no precedent for the rope-a-dope the Celtics seemingly pulled last year. Even the first few games against Miami in the first round seemed close. But then Kevin Garnett got into a fight which lead to a suspension, and from there on out, the Celtics destroyed everyone when they needed to when they came across them, all the way up until the 4th quarter of Game 7 against LA. The pitbulls had regained control of the pack, and everyone that said Boston only lost to the Magic due to Garnett's injury in 2009 was vindicated. 

That was last year. The Celtics are now a year older. Ray Allen is 35, Garnett 34, Pierce 33. They added two centers who long ago left the comfort of 30. Rajon Rondo is still young and chipper, alongside Glen Davis and Nate Robinson. But they put on a lot of miles the last two years, which will add to the fatigue factor. 

But then, Shaquille O'Neal says that old teams win titles. Which is pretty on par. Experience matters in this league, and the Celtics have a world of it. 

How old are the Celtics in comparison to other title teams? Since 2004-2005, championship team starters averaged to be 27.4 years old. The oldest were naturally the Spurs in 2007. Their starting five in the Finals that year began the season at an average age of 30.6 years old. The Celtics enter this season at 30.2 years old if we project Kendrick Perkins as the starter for a theoretical Finals and 32.8 if we go with Shaquille O'Neal, the probably opening night starter. The Celtics, in essence, are trying to be the second oldest team since 2004 to win the title. It's relatively easy to argue that the competition is greater now than it was in 2007, with the Pau-Gasol-era Lakers, the Heat, and the Magic in play, but those are the numbers. 

So what's the answer? In case you haven't been able to tell, this is simply not a quiz with a correct answer. If you are to make the case that the Celtics have finally reached the threshold where wisdom becomes physical limitation, you're probably on par. We saw signs of it last year, the Celtics just showed a remarkable amount of grit in powering through it and committing to the team concept (again). If you were to make the case that the Celtics are nowhere near done, not after last year's performance, who could argue with you?

And that's where we hit the Heat. 

Of course.

The Heat are going to be the antithesis for the Celtics this season, and in a lot of ways they are polar opposites. The Celtics rely on players that are very clearly defined in their roles (Rondo is the point guard, distributer, floor general. Garnett the defensive motivational speaker. Pierce is the go-to scorer. Allen is the perimeter marksman, etc.). The Heat have a nebulous lineup that may end up featuring a super freak small forward at point guard and their starting center is an inexperienced Canadian who is 6'9'' (Perkins is 6'10''). The Celtics are committed to a defensive philosophy of sacrifice and communication. The Heat are betting heavily on overwhelming opponents with skill and ability. The Celtics are primarily an old team. The Heat are primarily a mid-20's team. The Celtics have experience. The Heat are inexperie....wait. No they're not. Dwyane Wade's won a title and James has been in the Finals. But that's the perception. 

It's an interesting corollary that our society will define age with physically limited, but also often associate it with toughness. If you make it that long, you must have thick skin. And that's the area where most people doubt the Heat and believe in the Celtics. The Celtics are betting that you'll have an easier time drawing breath at your young age, but that they'll be the last one standing when the bell rings. 

I closed the door on the Magic's window and needless to say, team bloggers are not buying. I was ready to shut the door on the Celtics last year, and they slammed it back in my face, walked in, made themselves a sandwich and tracked mud on my carpet. I'm not willing to bury the Celtics until the heart's stopped beating. Age can be cruel, but for the Celtics, it's a beast they can live with. They remain contenders to the ring until that last breath gives out. 
Posted on: September 1, 2010 8:34 am
Edited on: September 1, 2010 9:30 pm
 

Will the Knicks make the playoffs?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question..

Will the Knicks make the playoffs?

The Knicks are brand new. Fresh out the oven, piping hot, clean waxed, new car smell, brand spankin' new. And that's certainly a good thing as all but the last remnants of the epic failboat that was built there over the last decade have been cleansed and a new team stand in its place, faster, younger, and better built to contend. The Knicks have a bonafide star in Amar'e Stoudemire, a solid point guard in Raymond Felton, a tantalizing wing in Danilo Gallinari, a workhorse in Ronny Turiaf, a floor-spreader in Kelenna Azubuike, and whatever you would call Anthony Randolph.

The questions are, first, is this team good enough to make the playoffs, and two, is there room in the playoffs for them? Let's work backwards.

If we're looking at potential playoff teams, the traditional approach is to take last year's crew, throw out anyone that isn't going to make the cut, then add the new entrants based on likelihood. Well, I think we can go ahead and toss the Cavs out of the "definite" category and into the "maybe" pack down there with the Knicks. Celtics are a lock, Magic are a lock, the Hawks are a near-lock with only a chemistry-based nuclear meltdown as the variable in question. The Bulls are a lock with their additions in place. It's hard to say that the Bucks will take a step back, we'll put them in "near-lock" with the Hawks. The Bobcats haven't lost anyone beside Felton outside of Tyson Chandler, who rarely played for them anyway due to injury. Felton's loss is significant, but counting out Larry Brown before the season gets started is something that's gone on a lot the last few years and worked out badly each time. And you know, I think Miami just might be a lock too, you know, if things go well and all.

So that leaves only one open playoff spot with a bunch of middle teams vying for the chance to be swept off the planet. Still, making the playoffs is a big deal. And there's an opportunity in play.

The second question is if the Knicks will be good enough. From that standpoint, there are positive, but liquid, signs. The Knicks won 29 games last season, leaving them 11 out of the playoffs. Think about that. A team with Chris Duhon, Al Harrington, and Wilson Chandler as the big contributors won 29 games. You can put almost any lineup on the floor in the NBA regular season and win close to 20 games. That's what made the Nets so remarkable.

Amar'e Stoudemire should make a huge difference. Surrounding a single star player with even semi-competent role players is usually enough for 20-25 wins. Don't believe me? The Clippers made the playoffs with Elton Brand, flanked by Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Or, just take a look at the Miami Heat over the past two seasons. From there, you're looking at 17-22 wins the rest of the new Knicks are going to have to generate.

This team is much better developed to run Mike D'Antoni's system, with Azubuike and Gallinari spreading the floor from the perimeter, Randolph running the floor and filling gaps, Felton running the pick and roll, and Amar'e finishing with a flourish. Throw in Chandler, who in a backup role is much more appealing, Ronny Turiaf as a capable rebounding center, and Toney Douglas as a combo guard with athleticism. That's a solid D'Antoni built team. The floor for this team is likely still a six game improvement over last season, but its ceiling is probably high enough to make the seventh seed.

There are still questions galore about this team. Can they defend, at all? Can they rebound? Will they stay healthy enough? Can Amar'e really thrive without Steve Nash? Is Felton enough of an upgrade at point to have the system function? What role will Eddy Curry play? Okay, I'm kidding on that last one. No one asks that. But there are doubts as to whether the Knicks will be anything more than the best lottery team next season. But taking a look over the East, it's hard to say they won't be right there for the playoffs if things go according to plan.
 
 
 
 
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