Time for the third annual midway Celtics review at halftime. Last year was a very prophetic review and forecast; at this time I said, “If the Celtics are on track by early March there is no reason they can not contend for the NBA title.” And they did. I also said, “Kendrick Perkins, his game has grown tremendously and his work on the boards shows. He leads the lead in field goal percentage and ranks 5th in blocks making him the best kept secret in the league.” And his loss for Game 7 only solidified his importance to the Celtics in the middle.
Again to quote last year, “the Celtics can not dominate without Kevin Garnett, they can win, but they can not do it night in and night out.” He is the key to the defense, and we are seeing the same from Rajon Rondo on the other side. Without him the offense might as well be playing pickup ball on the court because they are just moving the ball, not positioning the ball. Rondo has proved to be more valuable as a leader, then he can ever be as a scorer… sounds like their current coach. Maybe, but when have another 10 – 15 years of PG time in his skinny little legs (God-willing).
The Celtics have played two games this year, the we-are-out-to-redeem-our-title-that-we-lost, and the 2000 Celtics reunion tour. You can obviously scout out which games were where and it is easily divided by pre and post Christmas. Maybe it was post holiday blues. But they do seem to be getting back on track. Losing KG and R-Squared is a bitter pill to swallow.
Let’s give out some mid-season awards:
The Obi’s (My Twitter and XBox handles are Obi Wan Canubi)
MVP - When you have a team filled with superstar players and 4 hall-of-famers it is not so easy to just say so-an-so is the MVP because anyone of them in any season can be argued Most Valuable, but when you have such an eclectic collection of talent you really need to find what really puts this team above the rim for the season. This year it is Glen Davis. Really? Glen? No doubt. Big Baby has been a hero on every corner this year. The team is healthy, he plays without complain off the bench and earned his way to 25 minutes of reserve time. KG goes out he starts at PF, Shaq and Jermaine are hurt he takes the helm at Center. He has not peeped a complaint when he turns back to the reserve roll and he puts the same intensity into every game. Without Glen these injuries would not be just temporary bumps, these would amount to chaos. You don’t expect the Celtics to win 10 in a row with Davis starting, but you also don’t expect an automatic “L”, like you are seeing in Miami when their Heatles take a sick day. Beyond all the desire is numbers to back it up, Davis has improved in so many statistical categories it is hard not to take his numbers into account.
- His Def Reb have gone from 1.9 up to 4.1 per/g
- His PPG have gone from 6.3 to 12.5
- His FT% has gone from 69.6 to 77.2
- Also up are his 3pt%, total reb, assts, stl, and blks
How can you not give this a standing O? Glen Davis will never be in the same conversation as Bird, Russell, Paul Pierce and maybe someday Rondo. But he will no doubt be right there with those grinders that came in not with God-given gifts, but a heart the size of the Garden. The Chief did not get his numbers in the rafters because he carried the team on his shoulders, he is there because he carried the the guy carrying the team.
Toughest Pill to Swallow (Biggest Loss) – Your first thought is Perk, without Perk you don’t win a title right? True, but this is not the playoffs, this is the first half and we went into the season knowing we were without him. As much as I am eating my own words here, Delonte West is our biggest loss of the season so far. I loved DW in his first Tour de Boston but I really was relieved to know he was gone when his legal issues hit. And when he came back I thought he would be a distraction, he was anything but. During the preseason he showed his drive to thrive, and when he came back after his 10 game suspension he played like a monster in the backcourt giving that second unit a general that is so needed and very much misses right now. He is the Rondo of the Bench for sure, he knows the plays and he knows how to get the ball in the hands of people that put it in the basket.
The Goat – Last year I gave this award to Glen Davis based solely on the fact that immaturity lead him to miss a quarter of the season by breaking his hand punching a buddy. In retrospect it may have been a blessing because he hurt his team and he knew it, this year he made up for it with an offseason like no other. This year I will make it simple, we have absolutely no use for Jermaine O’Neal… and Perk is not even healthy yet. His effort is that of Rasheed Wallace and he is right now our 5th best big man behind KG, Davis, Shaq, and Erden. At least Rasheed did not wear out his welcome until spring, Jermaine did not even make it to Thanksgiving.
Biggest Surprise – Semih Erden, frankly I didn’t expect this guy to make the team and instead he has even started some games. Make no confusion with biggest surprise and future star, I am not foreshadowing greatness with the Turk, I just have watched this fringe player over-achieve and earn a few starts due to injury. Well worth the price we paid and a great option off the bench to play some Euro-style ball late in a game. In a very deep bench he has made enough of a statement to earn 14 mpg and keep a spot on the parent-club when a first rounder is being sent to Maine.
The Bostonian (Now renamed the Shaqonian) – While Shaq has been awesome in his time on the floor, giving the most he can in the minutes his body and coach will allow, Shaq has been more valuable for the City of Boston in his work off the court. Shaq’s philantropy is no secret, every city he goes to is a better place when he leaves. No one is surprised by this, but it is still greatly appreciated. His work with the Toys for Tots, community time taking photos in Harvard Sq, crashing weddings and the Boys and Girls Club are just a touch of what this guy probably does every day. Some graying granny is probably surprised when a 7 foot beast spots the $2 she is short on her grocery bill, but has absolutely no clue who this supersized-superman really is on the court.
Can the Celtics get back into the title game? Without question it is theirs to lose. They have beaten every team within contention. I would say the Magic are their toughest foe on the Road to Valhalla, and they are at a split in the season series but the Celtics beat them with their new and improved roster last week in what may be their toughest battle of the year. The West is pretty much conquered, only they have yet to play the struggling Lakers and they put away the league leading Spurs in their first of two matches. If the playoffs began today and the Celtics would find their toughest opponents in their own Conference. The Title Series will just be a cooldown effort.
42 down, 42 to go.