Have you ever felt this little buzz of anticipation for a season to start, especially for a World Champion?
Did you forget?
Are you still in a Tom Brady hangover?
Boston Red Sox getting knocked out in the ALCS got you down?
You didn't forget that the Boston Celtics begin defending their 2007-08 NBA title Tuesday night against Lebron's Cleveland Cavaliers, did you?
C'mon now: Kevin Garnett...Paul Pierce...Ray Allen...Rajon Rondo...remember those guys?
Nearly all of their major players are back and there is a slew of young talent looking to get to the next level to bring an 18th title to Boston.
But even with all of the positives and reasons to believe in back-to-back championships, there are still questions going into the 2008-'09 season. Here are five that immediately come to mind.
1) Can the "big three" keep it up?
Perhaps it's because we're so used to negativity being associated with the fallout from superstars winning championships that it seems unusual that the Celtics' offseason has been so quiet.
We haven't heard much from the big three since they got off the duck boats, other than some Pierce chatter about being the best player in the world and that strange run-in with the law in Vegas. No sniping, no contract holdouts, no issues. Imagine that!
If you can start out the season with a healthy Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, you're already well on your way to a playoff run.
Now, with a year under their championship belts to build on what they learned about each other last season, the potential to improve is sitting right in front of them. However, whether that potential translates on the court is a separate issue.
Based on the intensity of Garnett and the professionalism of Pierce and Allen, we can assume that their desire will still be there. But assumptions and the hangover effect on three guys having just won their first title can make for dangerous partners.
2) Can Rajon Rondo pick his game up again?
Coming off a sophomore year where Rondo scored 10.6 points a game and dished out 5.1 assists, a lot will be expected of the guy that reminded Boston of what a true point guard looks like.
Broadcaster and Hall-of-Famer Tommy Heinsohn said last season that Rondo is a 'potential Hall-of-Famer' and the expectations for this season will again be raised, especially with a former point guard in Doc Rivers at the helm.
This season could be the jump year where we hear Rondo consistently compared with Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash as among the league's best. Whether he can live up to to the expectations of Boston's 'What have you done for me lately?' attitude will be answered this year.
3) What can we expect from the big men?
In watching games and listening to chatter, I heard a lot of complaining about Kendrick Perkins from people who tended to forget he was a) in his fourth full professional season out of high school and b) he didn't need to be the primary scoring option.
Perk's rebounds, points, and blocks per game were up from the season before, so let's be realistic here. You're looking for steady improvement, not for him to take over KG's scoring punch or to be Shaquille O'Neal circa the Orlando Magic days.
I'm excited to see what Leon Powe brings to the table (7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year) likely as the first option off the bench.
I'm intrigued by the progress the excitable Glen 'Big Baby' Davis has made. There were games last year when he looked tremendous and other times when he didn't get in to a game.
Can free agent acquisition Patrick O'Bryant (1.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg career) contribute anything? The blueprint is set: keep the big three's minutes in check and get ready for the playoffs. Perkins, Powe, Davis and O'Bryant will have a major say in whether that blueprint results in another successful project.
4) Will J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker continue the trend of great drafts?
Before last season, the knock on General Manager Danny Ainge was that his free agent acquisitions sucked and that his real strength was in drafting.
With talent like Rondo, Powe, Perkins, and Davis providing a nice balance to the big three, it's hard to disagree with that.
It'll be intriguing to see how this year's crop of J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker respond to the challenges of fitting in with a championship roster. The 6'6" Walker has some buzz around him thanks to some dazzling dunks in the preseason, while first-round pick Giddens has been quiet thus far.
This is a deep club, so I wouldn't expect much but how guys like Rondo and Perkins help bring these two along will speak a lot to the character of this team and their future.
5) Who will replace James Posey?
I think "$%@&!!!" was the first thing that came to mind when myself and other Celtics fans heard that James Posey had signed with the New Orleans Hornets.
Never mind that we had only got to know Posey for one season, but we fell in love with him. His role player status was something New England fans could understand and appreciate, given the success of the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox.
He made clutch shots and was regarded as a must-have player for a championship team...and then we didn't have him anymore. Now a lot of the aforementioned talent will need to step up to take his place with Tony Allen (6.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg last season) being the most vocal in saying he wants to do so.
Tony Allen was the team's second-leading scorer in the preseason, scoring 11.8 ppg along with three assists and a steal per game. After last year when Allen looked tentative at times in recovering from major knee surgery, he'll have every opportunity this year to become what Posey was: reliable, fearless, and money in the bank.
Last winter, the Celtics made a thriving sports region take notice and care about basketball again. The TD Banknorth Garden was sold out almost every night and rocking with a legion of new fans joining a revitalized fan base who finally had something to cheer about. It worked better than anyone could have imagined last season, but what about this year?
We won't need to wait long to find out. The mission for banner no. 18 begins Tuesday in Boston.
Josh Nason started Small White Ball in 2007 and is the main contributor of content for the site. A long-time writer, his work can also be read at sites like RopesRingandCage.com, EmailMarketingGuy.com and others. He also does radio appearances and was on TV once, albeit for a lame public television game show. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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