The Celtics Get a Look at the Future
In last year's playoffs, we got our first hint at a post-Big Three Celts. Tonight, time grinds on, and we might be get our first real look at the rest of Boston's life.
That should not be cause for sadness. There's no question that, despite having traded away its young core to nab Garnett in 2007, the Celtics have dudes in the chamber. Rajon Rondo is already an All-Star, but Kedrick Perkins is among the league's toughest, nastiest centers. Tony Allen, finally, is emerging as an ace defender and capable slasher. Glen Davis is always better than you think -- though at what, it's not entirely clear. And Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson still have much to offer the world, even if it remains unclear exactly what that is. Whatever, Daniels as a Mavericks rookie remains one of my favorite players ever.
Is that the look of a contender? No. For one, it needs a scorer, which is why Paul Pierce remains integral. But Pierce is on a slow boat to Michael Finley -- the question is whether he, or the franchise, will actually take notice of this. The same goes for Garnett's decline. Allen is gone this summer; Pierce might be, too, if he decides to chase that last decent-sized contract. That leaves KG and the kids. Unfortunately, the C's won't have cap room to sign up anyone new, but at some point, they need to start changing their team's identity.
Rajon Rondo is cornerstone, the prized diamond, and the wild card. His ability at both ends of the floor, and tooth-gnashing determination, are rare things indeed. I've called him "the KG of point guards." Rondo was exactly that in last year's playoffs. At the same time, this year Rondo couldn't replicate his success when KG went down. Maybe it's the structure of the team, which persists even when KG is out; maybe its respect for his elders. Or, to extend the Garnett analogy, perhaps he's also a codependent All-Star, requiring certain accessories for his gifts to really matter. Maybe Rondo needs the team retooled to really take advantage of his skills.
Boston should be able to beat the Heat even without coming face-to-face with its future. Still, as with 2009, these playoffs give that team a chance to see what's ahead for the Celtics when the Big Three recede into history. If the organization is smart, that's a process they'll want to get going sooner rather than later.