With apologies to LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh, you’re just the latest not the greatest “Big Three”. The Boston Celtics beat you to it.
The Boston Celtics, at
least to this current generation of basketball fans, are known as the first
franchise to align three stars and have it result in an NBA title. It was
during the 2007 off-season when General Manager Danny Ainge teamed long time
Boston great Paul Pierce with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Ainge pulled off two
one-sided trades with Minnesota and Seattle/Oklahoma City to obtain the two
pieces needed to get the Celtics back on top in the NBA.
Boston won the 2008
NBA title in six games over the Los Angeles Lakers but lost the 2010 series in seven games
to LA. Even in the years in which they didn’t reach the championship round, the
Celtics were still considered one of the elite teams in the league.
However Boston is hearing
the whispers and the questions like; “When
does a veteran-team become too old”? As it stands the 1997-1998 Chicago
Bulls, average age of 34 years and 260 days are the oldest team to win an NBA
title. Using the Bulls for comparison sakes, if the Celtics were to win the
2011-2012 title they would be older but just by a few days. Another title is certainly
possible, but is it likely given the emergence and success of “Big Three” in
Allen will be 36,
Garnett 35 and Pierce will match his uniform number at 34 when next season
begins. There have been older teams to make it to the finals like the Lakers of
2003-2004 but their two best players, Shaq and Kobe (Kobe and Shaq) were also
among the younger players on that team.
Boston is putting a lot of faith in
three players who have logged more minutes than many of their peers and have
shown signs of wearing down over the past three years. In 2009, Garnett sat out
the playoffs with a knee injury. This year Pierce was slowed by an Achilles
strain while Allen suffered a bruised chest with both injuries coming in the
physical series against the Miami Heat.
Then there’s Rajon Rondo who is the
straw that stirs the drinks for the “Big Three”. He suffered with elbow and
back injuries in the Miami series and there’s still a large section of the NBA
fan base that believe if Rondo had been healthy, the Heat series may have had a
different ending. Then there’s issue of the Boston bench. Shaq is gone,
Jermaine O’Neal can’t stay healthy. Nenad Kristic has bolted to play in Russia
and the Celtics won’t draft until 25th in the first round.
Still a Force
Even with the aches
and pains and the encroachment of Father Time, the Celtics are a Top 5 team
heading into the 2011-2012 season. However the road to the NBA title is much
more difficult than ever before especially Miami’s “Big Three” and the young
and improved Chicago Bulls. If Orlando finds a supporting cast for Dwight
Howard, they too could be a factor.
There’s the belief
that it’s better to trade sooner than later. But Ainge is of the belief that
his guys can still win. They had the third best record in the NBA East last
season (56-26) and were the best defensive team in the league allowing just
91.1 points per game. They were third in field-goal defense and fifth in
guarding the shot from downtown.
A futures bargain?
There are six
‘single-digit’ futures favorites for the 2012 NBA season. NBA odds start with Miami at 2/1 followed by Chicago as a 6/1 choice. Then it’s the Thunder, Lakers and
Mavericks all at 7/1 rounding out the Top 5. The Celtics are lined at 8/1 while
another perceived ‘old’ team, the San Antonio Spurs are 15/1.