|Posted by paul on August 18, 2012 at 10:25 AM|
According to John Salley, interviewed at ESPN (audio), Kobe is a shoo-in to pick up his sixth ring if Dwight Howard stays healthy. I think that's an interesting claim for a legendary Detroit Piston to make, considering the transformation the Celtics have undergone this summer; I think the historic team most comparable to what the Celtics have become is Salley's own Pistons.
For the last several years we've heard that the summer of 2012 was going to be the summer of blockbuster free agent moves by Danny Ainge. But when summer 2012 rolled around, it turned out that the best available free agent was our own Kevin Garnett! Danny changed his Big Plans on the run, re-signed KG (thankyou KG!!!), and then worked his way through a series of smart moves that have left fans breathless with excitement for the coming season. Danny won over even his harshest critics this summer. As his harshest critic, apart from Ray Allen, I think I can say that with authority!
I think Celtics Fans deserve some kudos too. A lot of fandoms might be in an uproar over the dearth of moves geared to make people feel tingly at ESPN. But Celtics Fans know their basketball. I suspect that most Celtics Fans are perfectly content to be flying into the next season under the radar. As much as we loved Ray Allen, his departure improved us by subtraction. He should do well in Miami, but he was clogging up the offense, while hampering the defense, and he was very hostile about coming off the bench as a sixth man, even though he could have been tremendous for us in that role. We'll miss Allen, but unfortunately, he needed to go.
Meanwhile Ainge has brought on board a cast of characters that give us enhanced depth at every position, along with more youth and increased athleticism. To me, that is the first comparison to be made between this Celtics team and the Detroit teams of the late 80s and early 90s. This team is deep. We have what looks to be a more than solid backup at every position. It's quite an amazing turnaround from last year. We look to be a team that can bring high quality at you ten players deep! Keyon Dooling may not be our 11th player off the bench this year, and last year he was our second guy off the bench in the playoffs!
We are also eerily similar to Salley's own Pistons in that we don't have one dominant Big Man. Of course, KG can outplay any big man in the league on any given night, but as brilliant as he has been since he moved to the five, he's still a power forward masquerading as a center. Like Detroit, we have a gang of high quality bigs that can come at the opposition in waves, and they aren't just there to collect fouls. Wilcox was coming on strong last year, before he ran into medical problems, rebounding well and running the court. Sully should push Bass hard, and if Bass doesn't play his head off, Sullinger may overtake him. Collins gives us an experienced power center who is content coming off the bench, while Green has enough size and athleticism to play either three or four, giving us flexibility.
Celtics: KG, Bass, Wilcox, Sullinger, Collins, Green.
Pistons: Laimbeer, Mahorn, Salley, Rodman.
At the three, the Pistons had Adrian Dantley, and later, Mark Aguirre. Both these guys were brilliant scorers who were late in their careers, but still very dangerous. Ha, Pierce is what you would get if you could combine Adrian Dantley with Mark Aguirre! Behind Pierce you have Green, who reminds me of Rodman (less defense, more offense).
Celtics: Pierce, Green.
Pistons: Dantley/Aguirre, Rodman.
Now we get to the guards. Guards were the heart of the Pistons, and I think they are the heart of the Celtics. At shooting guard the Pistons had Joe Dumars, a great defender and scorer. The Celtics have Avery Bradley, as good a defender, and potentially a strong scorer, and Courtney Lee, a role player who is strong on both offense and defense. For instant offense off the bench, the Pistons had Vinnie Johnson, and we have Jason Terry.
Celtics: Bradley, Lee, Terry.
Pistons: Dumars, Johnson.
Salley, having played with the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, said that the best player he ever played with was Isiah Thomas. Well, he never played with Rajon Rondo! Thomas may be the most underrated player in the history of the game, and Rondo may be the most underrated player in the game today. Thomas may be the historical point guard that Rondo compares with the best, only I think Rondo is better. Thomas was a great scorer and passer, but like Rondo, he seemed to be able to do anything on the court, whatever the team needed, and he had more ability to amaze than perhaps any player I've seen until Rondo came along.
I'm pretty sure that Ainge has thought about the Pistons as he has crafted this Celtics team this summer. You could do worse than take the team built around Isiah Thomas as your model for building a team around Rondo.