Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Conventional Wisdom: The Celtics are too old to compete with the best. Are your words of wisdom any different? How can they compete?
Steve Aschburner: Maybe I’m in middle-aged denial myself but I don’t see the Celtics as too old. I think their roster makes them vulnerable to size, to speed and to athleticism in ways that, even if we all could turn back the calendar by five years, would challenge them regardless. They still miss Kendrick Perkins or any viable center – it’s not Jermaine O’Neal’s age that limits so much as his aches, since he was damaged goods before he arrived. Ray Allen doesn’t play any different than he did in his late 20s. Kevin Garnett has lost lift and seemingly confidence in his shot, two by-products of age, but he still should be able to pass and defend his position (just not three or four positions anymore). Boston needs more talent, not a time machine.
Fran Blinebury: Getting Paul Pierce healthy and into shape is a good first step and I think that is starting to happen. But that is not enough to lift the Celtics back into the true contender category. They can’t stop penetrators, can’t defend the middle and in the end just can’t keep up. Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers have gone to the well one too many times with the aging Big Three and now the bucket is empty.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Words of wisdom, but no different. The Celtics’ roster is amazingly competitive. That will only take them so far, though. This team is good enough to make the playoffs, but the great run has reached the finish line.
Shaun Powell: A healthy Celtics team can compete with the best in the playoffs. They can’t beat the best, no. But compete? Sure. Their composure and smarts would allow them to bring drama to a seven-game series, in the right matchup. However, with the Big Three (plus one) era winding down, and given time to reflect on it, the Celtics will rue the day Kevin Garnett pulled up lame in 2009 and Kendrick Perkins fell hard in 2010. That was their shot at three straight titles. Now, it’s oh-va.
John Schuhmann: I’m not ready to count them out yet (Paul Pierce is just now starting to find a rhythm offensively), but I think the problem is depth as much as age. The loss of Jeff Green for the season was a huge blow, and their two centers are Jermaine O’Neal and Greg Stiemsma. And no matter who their center was last season, the Celtics were terrific when their big four was on the floor. But their bench couldn’t sustain leads. They haven’t been quite as dominant this season, but their starters are still outscoring their opponents.
Sekou Smith: It certainly appears that way right now. But I wouldn’t count the old men … er, Celtics, out just yet. They’re the team no one wants to mess with in the Eastern Conference playoffs (provided they get there) for the same reason it looks like they are fading right now. You get that experienced group in a playoff series with all the built-in rest between games and the Celtics become much more difficult to deal with. I don’t know what type of motivational tactics Doc Rivers is using this season and I’m positive his are better than anything I could say to that group. But they know all they have to do is hit a hot stretch to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix. And if they get in the playoffs, it’s a new ballgame.