Putting the Pieces Together; Have the Celtics Simply Become too Old?
Everyone wants to point fingers on why the Celtics haven't looked like a dominant team the past two and a half weeks, but maybe its just not their fault. When KG and Ray were brought in, the consensus based on the fact the Big 3 were players on the north side of thirty was that they had a three year window. But this is still the third year? True, but a major injury to the knee of the centerpiece of the Big 3 has a way of changing things. Injuries make athletes look older. KG might be two years older than he was when we got him, but he looks more like 5 years older. If you like to wear the green tinted stunner shades you'll say, "Whatever, Pierce, Ray and KG are just as good as they've always been." In my opinion, they're all still good, but take a look at their mixes in our CelticsLife video vault and then take a look at this season's highlights and they're just not the same players unfortunately. It's not their fault. it's not because of effort. it's just the reality of aging.
Is Pierce still an all-star? Most definitely. What about KG? If he's healthy, certainly. Well if we have two all-stars we have to be a contender you might say. The thing is there's a huge difference between an all-star and a superstar. Who is our superstar/MVP candidate? With the exception of the one year that the Lakers imploded with the whole Kobe rape scandal, Shaq feud, Payton and Mailman experiment, Whistling Phil contract situation and the Pistons snuck in to win a title, NBA champions always have an MVP candidate. Two years ago that was KG, but two years ago KG was more mobile and could do more. People love to say "KG's back" whenever he completes an alley-oop where the ball was put right at the rim. My opinion is that of course a 6'12" player should be able to complete those plays. What made KG who he is was a combination of intensity, basketball IQ and crazy athleticism. He was like a longer, better passing Shawn Kemp. He's just not that player anymore.
All-stars still? Certainly. Superstars/MVP Candidates???
The Celtics don't really have room to tinker with their roster. The Big 3 is getting close to 60 million this year and another player who also isn't the same athletically because of age, Rasheed Wallace, is also getting sizable coin. Perkins is a great starting center on a championship caliber team, but he's not an MVP/superstar player. The one wild card is Rajon Rondo. As good as Rondo is though, with his court vision and athleticism, defensive ability (when he puts his mind to it), and ability to get to the rim, he's not a superstar yet by any stretch. His shot might look better this year after a Summer with Mark Price, but the results have been worse. His defense is inconsistent and where as it looks like he should score 20 a game, a game like yesterday where he score only 6 seems to be more the norm. Rondo is a wonderful talent and when the C's are clicking, he's the conductor of the team, but he's not a superstar yet.
So we can root for the C's and hope this ensemble cast pulls a 2003 Pistons and wins one more title, but if they continue to not look like a dominant contender remember that a team with a core in their mid 30's is not the recipe for dominance. It's not their fault and I know they hate to hear about the age questions. It has just always been the reality in the NBA where athleticism is more key than in the other American major sports. If KG can get back to 100% and the team can remain healthy, they're still a contender no doubt. And you never know what might happen with injuries to other teams' superstars, but this is not a 72 win team challenging NBA history. Turn the Vet 4 into their late twenties again and they certainly could, but right now we are what we are. We're an older team that will struggle with quicker athletic teams and which needs more recovery time between games. The will might be there to dominate, but the legs are just not the same. There's potential (Rondo making another leap, KG getting his legs back to 100%, a trade?), but the C's are not a sure thing right now. It's still a ton of fun rooting for them and maybe they can sneak out another title using the old age underdog role. I could live with that last scenario.