There has never been a more anticipated opening game to an NBA season. Never. You think so? Name it.
Expect a supernova explosion in Boston on Tuesday night. Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh will face off against Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Estimates are that 200-300 different media types will be there.
The highly hyped and (surprisingly) highly disliked new Miami Heat will unveil their new all star line-up against the Celtics Tuesday night on national TV at 7:30 pm.
Unless you were vacationing on another planet, you know that LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwayne Wade in Miami for a powerhouse threesome this past summer. Make no mistake, they will be unbelievably hard to guard and harder to stop as a unit. Each of the three individually command double teams…almost all of the time.
That will leave shooters like Eddie House, James Jones, Jerry Stackhouse open, gives Carlos Arroyo room to operate, and bigs like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Udonis Haslem will be free to shoot mid range jumpers and to work around the basket. The attention of 5 defenders will always be on the three stars. How well a team adjusts and gets out to the complimentary players will be the challenge. Those are the players you want beating you, not Wade, James, or Bosh.
I’m not sure when, if ever, this kind of talent shifted to one team through free agency in an off season. All three stars have been coming up short as the sole leaders of their previous teams. Now they have each other to count on. That is an understatement, if there ever was one.
The Celtics are the prototype for the Heat, and they won it all in a similar situation in their very first year. The difference is that these Heat stars are all in their prime. James is 25. Bosh is 26. Wade is the old man at 28. The Celtic stars were already 30-ish. Pierce was 30, Garnett was 31, and Ray Allen was 32 when they started together. Those years will make a big difference in the longevity of this Heat core.
But the NBA couldn’t pick a better team to start them against. The Boston Celtics knocked both the Wade and James out of the playoffs last season and went on to almost dethrone the Lakers in 7 games in the Finals.
Celtics – Big, Bad, and Hungry
The Boston Celtics and the Heat are on a collision course in search of the 2010-11 NBA Title. Both teams will accept nothing less as a successful season. They play in the same conference and will have to get by each other to move into a Finals appearance.
The Celtics lost their center Kendrick Perkins in game 6 of the Finals and he will be out at least until February. They needed more height before he went down.
The biggest surprise signing, after the Heat summer signings, was the signing of 38 year old Shaquille O’Neal by the Celtics for the league minimum ($1.3 mil for a veteran with Shaq’s years of service). O’Neal could have gone elsewhere for more. The only thing that matters to Shaq now “is winning” or so he says. And so far he has been good to word.
The Celtics also signed Jermaine O’Neal, Semih Erden, Delonte West, and Von Wafer. Before that, they re-signed Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels, making them as deep as they have been since Garnett came to Boston. Rajon Rondo is ever on a quest to be the best point guard in the league. Glen ‘Big Baby” Davis has looked better than ever in preseason. To a man, this team is locked onto getting another title since the season ended. They regrouped together after Doc Rivers decided to come back for another run.
The Celtics earned the respect of fans, and players around the league after going just 27-27 after Christmas Day and then mowing down the Heat, Magic and Cavaliers before going the distance with the Lakers. They lead by 13 and were ahead with 6 minutes left in game 7 before it all fell apart, losing by 5 points.
Paul Pierce now reveals he played much of the year with injuries previous unknown to the public (turf toe, which continued to bother him in the playoffs and a knee that need regular draining) and multiple known injuries that disrupted his ability to play his game last season. He says he is now healthy and ready to go.
Kevin Garnett is a year removed from his surgery and looking far better this off season, mobility-wise . Ray Allen continues to be in great shape. Rondo is sharp, and Davis has kept his weight down and his game is up. Pierce said Davis had the best pre-season on the team.
Rookie Semih Erden, a 7 footer from Turkey, taken with the 60th pick of the draft 2 years ago has shown promise in solid minutes in pre-season. Delonte West will be serving a 10 game suspension to start the season, but was an important pick-up by the Celtics as an all-purpose guard.
West has shown great chemistry as a back court tandem with Nate Robinson, who has shown growth and maturity on the court. Even 15th man Von Wafer can light it up from downtown.
Marquis Daniels has quietly had a very productive preseason and is a key defender, especially in games like these. He will have to guard LeBron James when Pierce rests.
Story lines? We’ve got stories.
Eddie House was stung by the midseason trade from Boston, the team he helped win title 17. He was approached by the Celtics to return but decided on signing with Miami instead. He started his career and played 3 years there.
Shaq brings a boatload of revenge vibes with Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant particularly. He also called Bosh the RuPaul of the NBA.
Jermaine O’Neal played with the Heat last season. He says that he could have gone back to them, but chose the Celtics instead. So, each team has a defector of sorts.
The vaunted Celtic defense will be tested in a big way against the Heat. They must keep their composure on highlight reel plays and fast breaks and not let it rattle them – similar to the NBA Finals.
The Celtics want to get title 18 and stop the Lakers from getting title 17 at the same time, which would tie the Celtics for most titles ever.
Shaq wants a title to tie Kobe with 5 each. Kobe would love to beat Shaq while gaining a three peat.
Another title for Pierce, Allen, Garnett, and Rondo would add to their legacy.
This will be an exciting year for the NBA. This is as good of a statement game as you could have for an opening night game.
Will Boston’s experience, chemistry, depth and defense carry the day? Or will the unbridled energy of a potent threesome from Miami carry them to victory in their very first game together?
I’ll be at the game to let you know. I am pretty jaded about these things now, but this is one exciting match up.
Let the game(s) begin. It’s All About 18