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.
The Spurs were too old. The Celtics were too old. Have you seen these guys play lately? Is it time to reassess the chances for these “too old” teams?
Steve Aschburner: My concerns with both these teams never was age – it was health. If Boston managed to keep Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen healthy, if San Antonio did likewise with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker – or get to the postseason with all of them reasonably intact – then I figured they would be fine for a “tournament” run. It was up to their wily head coaches to navigate the uniquely grueling regular season with stars who never had been older, and to a great extent, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich have done that. Each team remains, to me, what it was when the season started; I’ve got the Spurs as the West’s second-biggest title threat and the Celtics as the East’s third- or fourth-best.
Fran Blinebury: Age with the Spurs was only an issue to those who didn’t bother to look past Tim, Tony and Manu. San Antonio has gotten consistent contributions all season long from Gary Neal, Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter and rookie Kawhi Leonard. Now DeJuan Blair is picking up his game. The plan was to infuse to with youth around the Big Three. Duncan’s minutes have been kept to a career low, so that he can perform when needed. Parker has forced his way into the MVP conversation. This is the same team that was the No. 1 seed last spring and got better and younger. While I admire the efforts of Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in keeping the Celtics going even with Ray Allen ailing, I still think the years and the miles catch up to them in the playoffs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Nothing to reassess. Maybe the Spurs a bit, because I thought they would be good, just not this good. But the Celtics were always going to find their way out of the fog. I’ll stick with what I said months ago: Boston would still be heard from in the regular season and good enough to win a series. They’re just not good enough to be a serious contender to win the East.
Shaun Powell: The Spurs didn’t deserve to be grouped with the Celtics. Tony Parker isn’t old, Manu Ginobili isn’t old, Tim Duncan … well, OK, he’s old. But Duncan is looking fairly fresh (scoring and rebounding are up from last season) and, as usual, the role players are solid, much more than their counterparts in Boston. So, with the exception of a late-January swoon, the Spurs have been solid. The Celtics, however, are definitely feeling rejuvenated, although I wonder how much of that is due to playing in the East. They do have pride, which will continue to serve them well. Until their legs and lungs finally give out.
John Schuhmann: I never thought they were too old (really). The Celtics’ issue has always been their bench, which has been more depleted than ever this season. The reserves still aren’t giving them great offensive production, but they’ve been able to maintain the level of defense that the starters have established. The Celtics rank 26th in offensive efficiency since the break, but have been ridiculously stifling defensively, especially in the last couple of weeks. The Spurs were a great team last year and only got knocked off early because they shot 29 percent from 3-point range against the Grizzlies after shooting the league’s highest percentage in the regular season. Memphis, who defends on the perimeter as well as anyone, was a bad matchup.
Sekou Smith: There is no need. The Celtics look like the team we all knew they would be, a group of veterans hardened by the past four seasons and capable, when their energy provides, of taking apart any team they face. It just so happens they’ve done a lot more of it since the All-Star break. They’re also playing some of their younger pieces (Avery Bradley being the poster child for the future of their role players) and getting the very best out of whatever the Big 3 have left. It also helps when Rajon Rondo is at his best. The Spurs have been knocking teeth out all season, doing it without much fanfare as always. But again, there is no need to evaluate them all over again. They’re deeper and more talented than they were before all of their recent personnel additions. But they were a legitimate contender then, as they are now.