Assessing this year's Celtics

Wednesday, February 13
I'm starting to hear it. The Boston Celtics are nearing the All-Star break with the best record in the NBA by at least four games, and people are starting to compare them with, well, other successful Celtic fives.

Let's put that on hold a bit. The best record in the NBA means only one thing: Over the course of the season, your team has been consistent enough to be successful most of the time. That's it.

My assessment of this season's edition of The Green is a favorable one. An observer cannot help but be impressed with the teams' commitment to defense. I recall reading a few weeks ago that many head coaches in the NBA are impressed with the Celtic defensive mindset, but more impressed that Paul Pierce has bought into it.

I agree. Pierce has been, for much of his career, the main focus on offense. The question was never that he slacked off on the defensive end. The question was, if he were ever part of a contending team, did he understand that it was more important to dig in on the defensive end, block out on the boards and work at playing "D" than it was scoring big numbers.

Frankly, I had my doubts. I was wrong. Pierce has been in the forefront of Boston's defensive effort. And he certainly still puts up numbers when he needs to, as we saw recently in the win over San Antonio.

Now to Kevin Garnett. MVP. Who else has turned a team around in such dramatic fashion? I saw him twice a year when Boston played the Timberwolves, maybe a couple more times on TNT during the season. He seemed a solid performer, certainly an All-Star. Did I think he would be the linchpin of such an amazing (to this point) team metamorphosis? No way. Garnett not only plays hard, he gets his teammates to play hard, leading by example. You can ask for nothing more.

But can we compare this team to the 1986 squad? The 1974 champs? The 1969 winners? Ah, I don't know. As far as the 1986 team, I ask the same question I always ask: Who guards Kevin McHale? Larry Bird? Rajon Rondo vs. Dennis Johnson would be an interesting matchup. Anyway, pushing that aside, every time Garnett is introduced before the game, I stand and bow in obeisance that Celtic fans finally have a good team.

Final thoughts on the Patriots and the Super Bowl. (They lost, if you missed it.) Overall, we have a team with three World Championships, four AFC titles and five appearances in the AFC title game since 2001. I'll take it, and I suspect every other football fan would, too. And congratulations to the New York Giants. They had to make some amazing plays to win that game, and they made them. When you make the plays, you should win.

As for the Patriots, well, they have a few holes to fill. I love Junior Seau, but there are no 40-year-old linebackers in the NFL for good reason. He should retire, and I say that with great regret. And Tedy Bruschi also needs to think about his future.

Still, this is the team to beat, in my humble opinion. I would not be surprised to see Tom Brady and Co. in the Super Bowl again next year. I hope they can win it.


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