Team Name: Boston Celtics
Last Year's Record: 52-30
Key Losses: Rasheed Wallace, Tom Thibodeau
Key Additions: Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal, Delonte West
With help from Shaq Quotes, here's a Celtics preview based on the wisdom of Shaquille O'Neal:
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
"I'm still the dun dada of all big men."
Are you really, Shaq? This summer, the Big Havlicek -- I swear he called himself that once -- signed a two-year deal worth about $3 million. In 2009-10, he averaged 23.4 minutes, 6.7 rebounds and 12 points. Those numbers will suffice this season. Although I'd rather see him log about 15 minutes per game. Boston needs those aging redwood legs for the playoffs.
"I don't get tired. I get beat up. You keep chopping on a tree, you need to give the tree some rest so the chlorophyll will fill back up and the tree gets its energy back."
I wonder if any amount of rest will be enough to rejuvenate Jermaine O'Neal, who signed a two-year deal worth $12 million. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 boards in 2009-10. But he's 31. He's been in the league for 14 years. Hopefully he's not a 'Sheed-dux.
"As my great friend Aristotle said, ‘If you cannot command, you must learn to listen.' I'm not the hierarchy here. I am a worker bee."
Newly signed point guard Delonte West won't be the hierarchy, either. (Not sure that statement even makes sense, but we'll go with it.) He'll be a worker bee. The best move of the offseason was signing West to a one-year deal -- for about $4.6 million -- to back up Rajon Rondo. (West is suspended for the first 10 games of the season after facing gun charges.)
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
"I'm not a young jitterbug anymore. When I was a young jitterbug, I never won. I didn't start winning until I got older. The older I get, the wiser I get. You just have to play it smart."
The Celtics are old, but they're wise. They may not win 70 regular-season games, but as 2009-10 proved, playoff seeding isn't terribly important. If Doc Rivers can manage his stars' minutes, then Boston will be in decent shape.
"Take this down. My name is Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce is the mother------- truth. Quote me on that and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth."
Quote me on this and don't take nothing out: Pierce is still the most dependable Celtic. At 32, he may not be as explosive as he once was on a daily basis, but he's still invaluable to Boston.
"I know how to turn the bad into good always."
Rondo will continue to amaze when it doesn't seem humanly possible. Driving floaters, monster rebounds, perfectly threaded passes. He's the Celtics' engine and safety valve. Good thing he's locked up long term.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
"I'm getting older. I'm getting sexier. I'm getting meaner. I can still do what I do."
I hope so. Shaq is 38. Ray Allen is 35. Kevin Garnett is 34. Pierce is 32. Jermaine O'Neal is 31. They're not playing Mahjong and taking water aerobics classes with my bubbie in Florida yet, but they're inching closer toward middle age. A major injury could be catastrophic.
"I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution."
Starting center Kendrick Perkins, who blew out his knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, is likely out until about midseason. That's a problem. Is a rotation of O'Neal and O'Neal and Glen Davis the solution? Perk hopes so. "It ain't like we signed no young Dwight Howards or anything like that. So if anything we just got older. But we still got a lot of talent," he told Slam. "So we got older but we got a lot of talent and a lot of experience, so that's gonna help us a lot. And a lot of guys with chips on their shoulder, so that's what's gonna really help."
4. What are the goals for this team?
"We're focusing on the whole pie, not a slice. A slice is good, but it's not good enough to get you fat. We're trying to get fat."
The Celtics are still hungry for pie. Garnett, Allen and Pierce are all in their 30s. The regular season isn't important to them. Boston may not win 66 games like 2007-08, but the goal is the whole pie, remember? The top seed in the playoffs is good, but it's not enough to get you fat.
5. Can the Celtics be a great defensive team without Tom Thibodeau?
"It's sort of like in the movie The Karate Kid when Daniel said he needed Mr. Miyagi. And Mr. Miyagi gave him that confidence to believe he really didn't. These guys think they really need me right now, but they don't."
For three seasons, Thibodeau was the sensei, transforming the Celtics into a great defensive team. The C's were second in the league in points allowed in 2007-08, third in 2008-09 and tied for fifth in 2009-10. I wonder if they can keep it up in 2010-11. Thibodeau left this summer to become the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Has he given the Celtics the confidence to believe they really don't need him?
Here's the full list of Atlantic Division previews:
Sixers: Liberty Ballers
Recaps: All Previews