"We are the Eastern Conference champs and we think we're going to be better," Ainge said before James' announcement. "I have a great deal of respect for [James, Wade and Bosh], they are all top-notch free agents. We know that whatever happens, the East is going to be a challenge; the East is going to be stronger."
Pride aside, the Celtics can't help but acknowledge that the path back to the NBA Finals got a bit more difficult with James joining his buddies in Miami. But, in a strange way, maybe the unification of free-agent talent this offseason actually benefits Boston. Instead of each contender in the East landing one superstar, thereby improving the talent of the East across the board, the Heat cornered the market by bringing them all to Miami.
On the surface, Miami's moves simply add some intrigue to Boston's two visits to South Beach during the regular season. Only then, as Rivers suggested, will we find out if the Heat are worthy of being crowned champs.
If fate plays its cards right, we're looking at the obvious possibility of having Miami take the #1 seed and a mad scramble between the 2nd to 5th seed by the Celtics, Magic, Bulls and Knicks (or the Hawks). Granted all teams play injury-free.
Off the topic, but if that's the case, I'll be rooting for Cleveland to get the 8th spot as a Heat-Cavs first round opener would definitely be an interesting and highly emotional series.
Boston needs to do all it can to avoid landing on the 4th or 5th spot, just to avoid a second-round match-up with the South Beach Boys. I'd rather go with a semifinal series with the Knicks or Bulls and test their strengths than face the risk of our forwards and centers getting decapitated by Dwight Howard's elbows again. And admittedly Superman's going to get better and more motivated now that he's got tough competition from his neighbors in Miami.
While we don't necessarily need homecourt advantage to win a series (as health will still be the #1 priority of Doc Rivers), it undoubtedly has its benefits and there's still no place (to play) like home.
Whatever happens, we can expect another deep playoff run by the Green and White - only expect this season to be harder than the previous (which closely resembled hell).