Wednesday, October 25, 2006

THE CELTICS ARE COMING

I hate to say it, but it is autumn: the Patriots have a strangle-hold on the AFC East, the Bruins already have a strangle-hold on last place, Theo Epstein is planning Thanksgiving at the Lugo residence, and the Celtics are, believe it or not, finishing up the exhibition season. Here are the the Starting Five (Five Pertinent Questions Regarding the Celtics):

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1. Who is running this spa?

Paul Pierce is out with an infected finger? From a paper-cut? Delonte West was out with an infected toe earlier in the pre-season. Did Paul Pierce get the infection passed to him? Is he running a pedicure business in the locker room? Red Sox manager Terry Francona has an infected foot as well, which is keeping him from managing the touring MLB team in Japan. That should teach him to go to the 3P (Paul Pierce Pedicures) Foot Shack.

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2. Is THIS the year for Big Al?

What is great about this year is that Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have dialed down the expectations for Big Al. In fact, Big Perk looks like the future star right now. Tentatively, Big Al is coming off the bench to spell Big Perk or Theo Ratliff at center when the Celtics play small-ball, or to relieve Ryan Gomes at power forward and give the Celtics two big guys down low when they need to bang some bodies. Jefferson can concentrate on his role instead of saving the franchise. Al can pull down rebounds and outlet to Rajon Rondo or Sebastian Telfair to lead the break, block some shots, and be a low-post scoring option.

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3. Do the Celtics have a real live point guard this season?

YES, but with an asterisk. As good as Telfair and Rondo have looked, both are barely old enough to buy alcohol, let alone take the burden of running an NBA team. Having two real point guards at least gives Doc the option of going with the hot hand. At times, both have looked great. At times, both have looked lost. With Delonte West coming off the bench and giving some life and energy out of the two guard spot, the Celtics depth gets a serious boost.

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4. Will Paul Pierce ever get a title?

Sure, but not in 2006-7. This team has incredible young depth. It will take time to sort through it, but let me ask you this: how good would this team be if Pitino never traded Chauncey Billops and the front court was Ron Mercer at SG, Billops at PG, and Pierce and a couple of big guys? Good enough to win 40+ games, which puts them ahead of the Celtics teams of the past few teams. My point (yes, I actually have one) is that these players need time to learn. Sorry, but polished players coming out of college is just not part of the equation anymore. A Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, etc come every couple of years, there are not seven or eight coming out every year. The patience will pay off: just be patient!

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5. How many games will this team win?

I think this is a 40 to 50 win team. If Rondo and Telfair are above average, Theo Ratliff still has some hop left, and Wally Szczerbiak stays healthy, closer to 50. Any major injuries, and closer to 40. Good enough to make the playoffs and out a scare into a top seed in the first round, that is for sure.

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SOMETIMES YOU GUESS RIGHT

Here is a random nugget of wisdom I stumbled across. Check out what I wrote in August:
When did Daunte Culpepper ever do anything without Randy Moss lining up at wide
receiver? Did the Dolphins trade for Moss and I somehow missed it? Daunte will
find it quite daunting to throw off his surgically repaired knee to the
maddeningly inconsistent pair of Chris Chambers (I know how maddening his
production is, I have been drafting him in fantasy football for years!) and
Farty Marty Booker (yikes!). I respect Nick Saban as a coach, but Culpepper and
Joey Harrington are neither THE answer the Dolphins were looking for nor are
they capable of leading a team with an aging defense and barely adequate
offensive line to the playoffs.
Miami going to the Super Bowl? Hah! That is right, read here for the best prognostications available on the web (just ignore the NFL picks from last week. I was, uhh, drunk or something. Yeah, that is it. Too much Buttershots. Yeah, that is what it was. Watching Shannon Sharpe and Sterling Sharpe rotted my brain. Yeah, that is what it was).

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Making this a theme: Check out this prescient thought from the middle of August:

For the Yankees, it is if Mussina bounces back, Johnson can be consistent, and
Cory Lidle keeps forgetting he is Cory Lidle. Watching Jared Wright is for
Yankees fans like watching Byung-Hyun Kim pitch for the Red Sox in the
not-so-distant past: game-to-game you have no ideas if he is going to give you
five solid innings (and pray they pull him before he falls apart) or if he gives
up eight runs in the first inning. Forget the Yankees fantasy line-up, the
biggest fear for the Pinstripes in August and September is if Chien-Ming Wang
falters, the season is basically over for New York. Wang is the Yankees number
one starter. As odd as that seems, he is the key down the stretch.

Sure, the Wanger held up, but I was dead-on about that crappy starting rotation holding back the Pinstriped Demons.

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Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I am an idiot. But it is nice to be right twice in my life!

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