J.R. Giddens stating his case

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The easiest way to describe J.R. Giddens last year was that he didn't quite "get it." After being a big shot for Kansas and then at New Mexico, everything seemingly came easy for Giddens... in college. Long, strong, and athletic, with an NBA-ready body far before he was drafted into the NBA, Giddens oozed physical talent, but his game was far from refined.

And that lack of polish hurt him when he reached the NBA. Whereas in college he got by on the basis of his physical traits, Giddens could no longer outrun or outmuscle everyone else. He was still athletic, but that no longer set him apart like it used to. Players get to the NBA and they need to develop other parts of their games that weren't there. Giddens was physically dominant in college, but had never developed the basketball IQ it would take to succeed in a league where almost everyone was as tall, strong, and fast as he is.

If he'd been drafted onto a rebuilding team, maybe everything would have been different. With a rebuilding team, projects like Giddens are allowed time to blossom. But on a championship contender? Not so much.

Still, J.R. has shown flashes of brilliance. Not for the Celtics yet, but it's tough to show flashes of brilliance when you only play 8 minutes in your entire rookie season. In summer league play, though, Giddens was perhaps the most impressive Celtic of all. He showed an impressive series of jab-step moves that made him very tough to guard one-on-one. On two separate plays, Giddens jabbed right, drove left and finished with a tomahawk slam at the rim. When he did that, it made you realize why the Celtics used a first-round pick to draft him. The power, explosiveness and agility he displayed with those two moves made me sit back and say, "wow".

Now, Giddens seems like he's finally "gotten it". He knows his only way onto the floor is through his defensive abilities. He knows that he'll never make his way onto the parquet through the basis of his offensive skills because, frankly, he's not as skilled as a lot of other players. But he can rebound the basketball, and when Giddens gets after it he can be a formidable energy guy. He still can't shoot the ball very well (didn't he used to be a deadeye shooter for Kansas???), but when J.R. gets his motor running he can make plays to help his team win games. And in the last two games, Giddens has shown an energy level and a dedication to the little things that just wasn't there last year. Giddens knows what Doc wants, and is trying to give it to him.

I'm not saying Giddens will be on the active roster. Or even that he deserves to be. After all, the Celtics are deep and they are talented. All I'm saying is that he's making his case for being kept in Boston rather than being sent back to the NBDL.

And that's more than he ever did last year.

NBA Season Preview: New Orleans Hornets

Friday, October 16, 2009

Last year's record: 49-33
Head coach: Byron Scott
Projected Starters: Chris Paul, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Emeka Okafor


The Hornets took a step back last year, ending the season a disappointing 49-33 and failing to make a splash in the playoffs. Look for more disappointment this season, as the spectacular Chris Paul will prove to be unable to lift a thin Hornet's team past the first round.


Jay – Emeka Okafor's chemistry with Chris Paul. When Tyson Chandler was healthy, it was a thing of beauty to watch Chris Paul lob passes towards the rim and Chandler gobble them up with a dunk. Paul would often look as if he didn't even look, but just threw the ball at his shoulder towards the rim. If Okafor can develop that same chemistry with Paul, he could turn in a much better offensive year than people expect.

Tommy - Emeka Okafor; He already produces better stats than Tyson Chandler, who he was swapped for, and now he gets a chance to play with the best point guard in the NBA. If New Orleans decides to play more uptempo this year, (which they obviously should because, well.. they have the BEST transition point guard in the NBA!!!) Okafor could be the recipient of a lot of easy buckets.

TJ - Julian Wright has all the tools to become a good player in this league. He needs to step his game up and provide some production from the wing position for this team if they ever want to be a championship contender.

Biggest question mark:

Jay – I know this question is from last year, but it never got answered: How does a team lose by 58 points... at home... in the playoffs? Is that even possible? Did the Hornets throw out a replacement squad led by Keanu Reeves?

Tommy - Definitely the wing position. Right now, it doesn't look like they have anyone on the wing who can either score consistently or defend the athletic, wing scorer that almost every team in this league has. Keep an eye out for Julian Wright, though.

TJ - How long will Chris Paul stay in New Orleans? Will he be their point guard of the future? He is the centerpiece of this organization but if they do not get him some help soon I can see him leaving as soon as his opportunity arrives. Then New Orleans wouldn't be seeing any more of this...

Most compelling storyline:

Jay – David West's continuing run at getting no love from fans or the media despite not being underrated. You can't call him underrated when he's been named an all-star each of the last two years. But does anybody outside of New Orleans quite appreciate this guy?

Tommy - It's early yet in his career, but Chris Paul continues making his case for Greatest PG of all-time. I expect an even better year personally for him, as he sadly waits to be surrounded with championship-caliber players.

TJ – Great acquisition getting the likes of a Emeka Okafor in exchange for Tyson Chandler. Okafor is a walking double-double and has been extremely durable over the past few seasons. It will be interesting to see how a team can be successful starting a 6’8 power forward and a 6’10 center.

Player to watch:

Jay – It'd be easy to say Chris Paul, but I'm going to go with James Posey. Posey might be on suicide watch this season; he'll be splitting minutes with Julian Wright while watching his team struggle to make the playoffs. Despite 25 million green reasons to enjoy being in New Orleans, I'm willing to bet Posey misses Boston and those pregame hugs with Kevin Garnett. He's one hell of a competitor.

Tommy - Marcus Thornton. The local college star will have the chance to prove himself because of the wing void; I like his game - he reminds me of Courtney Lee- but I'm not sure he'll be big enough to guard Kobe, Roy, T-Mac, and the like out West.

TJ - At times it seems extremely difficult to watch Chris Paul because of his speed. (Hornets fans might need to invest in DVR or you could miss something) This year he will be back to business as usual proving that he is the best point guard in the NBA. And maybe making more shots like this one...

Projected Record:

Jay – 46-36

Tommy – 48-34

TJ – 48-34

The curious case of Michael Sweetney

The skills that made him a lottery pick are still there. The soft hands, the great touch, and the impressive post footwork. But in just one glance you can see why Michael Sweetney has never fulfilled his promise; at 6'8", Sweetney is listed at 270 pounds but looks to be well north of 300.

It's sad, really. Sweetney is obviously still a talented player. Even playing at such an unhealthy weight, Sweetney has impressed many Celtics fans. On message boards and forums, live chats and even blog posts, Celtics fans have clamored for Sweetney to make the team. Never mind that every other player has a guaranteed contract (according to Chris Sheridan of espn.com, Lester Hudson's is guaranteed too), or that Sweetney can barely get up and down the court without instantly needing an oxygen machine; he's flashed enough offensive talent in limited minutes that everyone can see Sweetney's potential.

Unfortunately, Sweetney's number sixteen on a roster of fifteen. The only way the Celtics could keep him is if they decide to cut a player with a guaranteed contract (which would mean paying for the full contract of a cut player), or if they execute a trade in which they give away more players than they receive. Beyond the obvious barriers to signing Sweetney, there's the question of where he would fit into such a deep Celtics' frontcourt. At best, he'd be the fifth big man on the depth chart. One could argue Sweetney is better than Shelden Williams, but not even the mostly (entirely?) insane Skip Bayless could make an argument that Sweetney is better than Big Baby, Rasheed, KG, or Perk. So even if he somehow found his way onto the regular season roster, Sweetney would probably never find his way onto the court.

But for Sweetney to even make it this far without getting cut, he's impressed a lot of people within the Celtics' organization. He was invited to summer league without a guarantee of being invited to training camp. He was then invited to training camp without a guarantee of being on the preseason roster. Now, he's made it through five preseason games and counting. For a guy who took the last two years off, tackling a "family issue" and battling weight problems, its good to see he's still got skills. In fact, as big as Sweetney looks now, he says he has lost 40 pounds trying to get back into playing shape. If he can keep losing weight, and finally get into good shape, Sweetney will undoubtedly make a name for himself in the NBA; he is too talented not to. But it's a big if, for a guy who has never been able to keep weight off, and I don't think the Celtics will keep him around long enough to find out.

Still, Sweetney's game is intriguing. Even 40 or 50 pounds over his ideal playing weight, the man can score the basketball. I'd imagine he'd be able to score even if he was in a wheelchair and blind; that's how skilled this guy is offensively. But if he never gets his weight under control, he'll never be able to stay on the court because his defensive mobility will not be good enough and his stamina won't be what it needs to be.

Regardless of the shape Sweetney's in, he has such rare offensive skills. There are some guys that were born with certain talents: John Stockton was born to pass, Ray Allen was born to shoot, and Will Hunting was born to do math. Thirty years from now, Stockton will still have his great court vision, Allen will still have his perfect stroke, and Will Hunting will still have his unrivaled brain. And thirty years from now, I imagine Mike Sweetney will still be able to score the basketball. Just like Stockton was born to pass and Allen was born to shoot, Sweetney was born with innate scoring ability. You can't teach his soft hands, and you can't teach his touch. I'm not saying he's nearly as good as Stockton or Allen; nobody would ever make that claim. But just like those guys, Sweetney has talent visible to everybody who watches him play.

When I see Sweetney play, I wonder how good he could be if he was in good shape. I wonder how devastating he could be offensively with 40 more pounds cut off his frame and newfound explosiveness complimenting his already-refined post game. I could imagine him becoming an All-Star, a more skilled version of Paul Millsap. Then again, I can imagine him being cut by the Celtics before the regular season and I can imagine him being out of the NBA, maybe for good.

With Sweetney, it all comes down to his weight. If he dedicates himself to getting in shape, there will be a place in the NBA for Sweetney. But if he doesn't lose that weight, Sweetney will always be a basketball vagabond. He'll always fall short of reaching his potential, and he'll always leave people wondering, "What if?"

I still don't think Sweetney will make the Boston Celtics. It just doesn't seem plausible. But if he ever does cut some weight, the Celtics will probably regret getting rid of him.

Running Diary: Boston Celtics run by Toronto Raptors, 106-90

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A night after leading Boston to a come-from-behind win against the New Jersey Nets, Rajon Rondo was at it again. This time, though, he was joined by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in leading the Celtics to a 106-90 victory over the Toronto Raptors. He was also joined by Ray Allen, but Ray would have hit just about as many shots while sitting on the bench in a suit as he did in 26 minutes of play in this one. Still, the first unit looked great and Rondo – despite a modest line of only 6 points, 8 assists and 4 steals – was the catalyst. Getting into the lane time after time, Rondo kept pressure on the defense all night long and created opportunities for his teammates.
But Celtics fans will probably be less excited about Rondo’s performance than they’ll be by his three alley-oop passes to Garnett. Only two of them were dunks but Garnett looked like he has “his wings” back. I think the focus can now get off Garnett’s knee and move onto other things; Garnett is progressing just fine and he’s going to be a force for the C’s this season (if you’re religious, or even if you just love the Celtics, please pray that that sentence does not jinx him… please).

Other standouts included Paul Pierce (ultra-efficient 17 points), Kendrick Perkins (a quiet but tough 11 points and 7 rebounds), Glen Davis (another solid performance, with 13 points in 19 minutes), and Lester Hudson (12 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers and great hustle). And without further ado, let’s get on to the running diary…

First Quarter

I’ll be watching this game on a computer in my school’s library. I should be doing 12 pages of papers due by tomorrow, but I’d rather watch a meaningless Celtics preseason game. Obsessed, you say? Thanks, but I prefer dedicated.

I can’t even hear the commercial advertising Sunday’s game, also against the Raptors, but the montage of KG slamming it home, Big Baby hitting the Orlando game-winner and Pierce scoring buckets still gave me goosebumps.

Garnett is one-of-a-kind. The intensity he brings, even in a meaningless preseason game, would make Ric Flair jealous. He just fired up the half-full house at the Hartford Civic Center with his normal pregame routine.

Perkins manhandles Bargnani down low for his first rebound. Toronto is talented, but very thin on the inside. And by thin, I don’t mean they don’t have good players. I mean they’re skinny.

Garnett with a jumper from the corner on the first possession, then Pierce with his patented up-fake… wait for defender to jump sky-high… lean in… draw foul move on the second possession. I like the way this is starting.

Pierce stepback fadeaway, then a pretty 3-on-1 fast break started by a steal that ends with Ray-Ray dumping one off to a cutting Pierce for an easy two.

The Celtics are running and gunning and making the game look easy. Whenever the C’s get out in transition and go they look like a different team. Then again, I guess any team looks good on fast breaks. But not every team has a Rondo-led fast break with KG and Pierce running the wings and Ray Allen trailing for a jumpshot.

Celtics up 14-5 and making the game look so easy. Ball movement is easy and effortless, Rondo is slicing and dicing, and everybody is making plays.

It all starts on defense though. Celtics stop getting stops and all of a sudden their offense is a little stagnant. And right as I’m saying that, the patented KG-from-Rondo alley-oop connects for the first time this year! 16-13 C’s.

Emailing my teacher for an extension on my paper. I could really, really, really use one.

My, how quickly things change. One minute, the C’s are winning and looking like a well-oiled machine. The next, the Raptors are running and gunning down their throats and KG is getting trucked while setting a screen. 19-16 Raptors.

When I said the Raptors frontcourt is thin, I obviously forgot about Reggie Evans. He’s a beast. And he also once squeezed Chris Kaman’s, ummm… genitals.

Sweetney in there early, with a couple minutes left in the first. And he looks hungry… to score buckets, that is.

Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell Sweetney fouls weren’t double cheeseburgers. He’s racked up three fouls in only four minutes of play.

Quarter ends, 25-all.

Second Quarter

Missed the first three minutes, then came back to the sight of J.R. Giddens on the floor and Sonny Weems flying through the air for a dunk. I don’t know which one’s better for the Raptors. 31-31.

Shelden Williams with a running hook through the lane? Haven’t seen that one since the Duke days. Come to think of it, we might never have seen a running hook from Shelden. At least one that actually went in. And he follows it up with a jumper on the next play. I want a clear out for Shelden Williams!

Giddens seems less spastic this year. He hasn’t done anything good, but he doesn’t look completely lost on the court either. Small steps.

Shelden Williams with another jumper! Williams is taking over this game! 37-36 C’s. If this keeps up, I’m going to get my vision checked. I don’t believe it’s actually #13 making these plays.

By the way, I’m skipping a group meeting right now to watch this game. And I’m in the library where my group is meeting. One of my group members just walked right by me, with a very quizzical look on her face. She kind of looked like how I do when Tony Allen makes a nice pass. Good thing she didn’t see what I was doing on my computer; it’s tough to defend missing a meeting for watching a preseason C’s game.

Pierce with a pretty and-one over Turkoglu. He uses his body so well.

A technical foul has been assessed to somebody but, because I have the sound off, I have no idea who it was. House hit the technical free throw though.

Garnett looks the best he has so far, snatching a rebound well over the rim. Every game, he looks a little bit stronger. I think Doc made a good decision sitting the Big Three out yesterday. Right after I say that, he bumps his knee in a collision with Pierce and then the floor. But he comes back fine. Very good sign.

Chris Bosh is tough to guard. He’s a little like Garnett in that he loves the midrange game. But he’s a far worse defender than Garnett, which is why he’s only an All-Star and not the superstar Garnett is.

Rondo just had a very nice hesitation dribble on a hedging Bosh. Illustrating both Rondo’s speed and why Bosh is not as good as KG. KG would have contended that a whole lot better than a little wave at a passing Rondo.

Halftime. 51-46, good guys. Garnett looked really good, and Rondo was his usual penetrating self. Pierce leads the C’s with 12 points, Rondo has 4 assists and 4 steals, KG has 8 points and 5 rebounds, and Big Baby has 10 points. Ray, despite going 0-5, contributed 4 rebounds and 3 assists. On the other end, Bosh is killing with 20 points and Hedo is doing what he does… making plays.

Third Quarter

Rondo gets in the lane and kicks out for a Ray Allen three. Normally automatic, but Ray-Ray continues his 0-fer. Either way, it was a nice play and Rondo is really making the defense work with his aggressive drives to the hoop.

The Celtics come out strong for the second straight half. 60-52 now, good guys, and Rondo is spurning (UPDATE: Rondo is not spurning the offensive success, he is spurring it) the offensive success. If he could only get a hand up on Calderon shooting threes, the Celtics would be up a bit more.

And another Rondo assist, this time a lob pass to a sprinting KG on the fastbreak. Garnett and Rondo are really looking very good. Two possessions later, they do it again! Rondo and KG connect on their second alley-oop and everything is right in the world. Watch out ladies and gentlemen, the Big Ticket is baccckkk…

Rondo is getting whatever he wants against the Raptors D. He hasn’t scored much, but he’s getting into the lane and finding open Celtics time after time. When he’s energetic, the Celtics are so tough to stop.

Is it just me or does Chris Bosh kind of look like a crackhead? And not in a racist way at all… Chris Anderson is white, and he looks like far more than a crack head.

This is the Rajon Rondo show. He just hit a jumpshot in Calderon’s mug and has had a hand in more or less everything the C’s have done in the third quarter. He has only 6 points, but he’s completely contolled the game; especially the third quarter.

78-65 when Rondo goes out with about 3:30 left in the third. Keep that in mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle with him on the bench. He’s done so much for the C’s tonight.

During the commercial, a McDonald’s commercial was played. I couldn’t hear what the commercial said, but I can imagine it went something like this, “The deliciousness of our Chicken McNuggets is why Michael Sweetney does not have a guaranteed contract in the NBA. If he likes them so much that he’ll ruin his career for them, then you’ll like them, too. McDonalds: Sweetney’s loving it.”

Hudson and Williams in with just over a minute to go in the third. Shelden gets his first shot blocked. Somehow, I figured he wouldn’t play as well as he did in the first half.

With Rondo (and every other starter, to be fair) out of the game, the C’s don’t look nearly as smooth.

One thing didn’t change over the offseason: Eddie House can still shoot.

83-71 C’s to end the third. Red would be smoking his victory stogie but… the lineup right now is Hudson, House, Daniels, Big Baby and Williams. Not exactly awe-inspiring.

Fourth Quarter

The play has slowed almost to a halt as the second units do battle. I’d love to say my prediction of the team looking worse without Rondo has come true, but everyone else in the starting lineup got subbed out too. It might not be just the Rondo Effect, but I guess I'll take credit for my prediction; after all, it did come true.

House is doing a lot of the ball-handling when Hudson is in the lineup. Looks like Doc envisions Hudson playing a House-like role as a small shooting guard.

The Boston Globe now has a blog post saying that, get this, Rajon Rondo is wearing lowtops tonight. I know he’s had a few ankle problems, but I don’t quite find this earth-shattering news. Kobe seems to play okay in lowtops.

Hudson is looking very good. Aggressive shooting the ball, aggressive taking it to the hoop, and aggressive defensively. He has limitations with his PG skills, but Hudson certainly doesn’t lack when it comes to confidence.

Every time I watch Sweetney play, I wonder how good he could be if he kept his weight down... and then I thank God for my fast metabolism.

Scal is the last one off the bench. I’m wondering why. Tweet fiend and Celtics fanatic @MrTripleDouble10 thinks it might be because Rondo stole Scal’s lowtops.

I officially really like Hudson’s game. He’s fearless, tough, and he hustles. And Giddens is hustling right along with him. Giddens doesn’t have nearly the same line he had yesterday, but has a few rebounds and has kept a few more balls alive. I like Giddens’ attitude this year; he’s really fighting to keep from being demoted to Maine, and you can tell.

And my feed to the game just went out with about 2:30 left in the game. I suppose it’s for the better; there’s only so many times I can praise Lester Hudson before it starts to get a wee bit annoying. I guess that’s all for the running diary.

P.S., I just had to check the box score to see if Daniels did ANYTHING at all. And the verdict was no: 0 points, 0-6 shooting, and 2 assists in 17 minutes. But if you’re a super-optimist, he didn’t have a single turnover.

Boston Celtics continue preseason tonight against Toronto Raptors

So much for Boston's (brief and tiny) fears about Rajon Rondo. I guess he just needed to get those competitive juices flowing before regaining "Playoff Rondo" form. Last night, he begged Doc Rivers to keep him on the floor so he could lead the undermanned Celtics (playing without the Big Three, Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace) to a victory. It didn't matter to Rondo that it was only preseason basketball; his team was knocked down in the first half, trailing by thirteen points at halftime and getting embarrassed. So Rondo got up off the mat and came back throwing haymakers, finishing with 18 points, 13 assists, 9 assists and a win despite playing with such a depleted roster.

Tonight, Rondo will lead the Celtics into Hartord, CT., where they will play the Toronto Raptors at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Rasheed Wallace will likely miss the game with a "tweaked ankle", but the Big Three should all be back from their one-day hiatus. Thankfully, Rasheed's injury isn't too bad; he looked great yesterday night when he got the time. He spread the floor beautifully with some long bombs, was aggressive every time he got the ball and even showed off the little youth he still has left in those 35-year old legs, rising up and dunking after a gorgeous feed from a driving Rondo.

With Rasheed out, look for Big Baby Glen Davis to earn more extended minutes. Davis has looked very good this year, seemingly becoming more efficient and taking advantage of his minutes off the bench. It seems as if his great run filling in for Kevin Garnett has given Davis a lot of confidence and he has taken that confidence into this year. I went to a preseason game last year and Davis was the worst player on the floor. He did little (if anything) productive, and even passed it directly to the 76ers on more than one occasion. The difference between Davis last preseason and Davis now is night and day. He's ready now to play a big role, whereas he wasn't at the beginning of last year.

The Celtics' depth had been evident throughout the first three preseason games, but was never more obvious than last night. With five (Five!) key players out, the C's still had enough to mount a comeback against the Nets. One of the heroes was J.R. Giddens, more or less the last man off their bench, who provided boundless energy and helped turn the tide of the game. Giddens came into the game in the first half like a man possessed, going after every loose ball and bringing a level of play he doesn't normally show. Thirteen rebounds later, Giddens could sit at his locker after the game happy, knowing he took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him when so many players ahead of him on the depth chart ended up on the sidelines for the night.

It's only preseason, but a great comeback still gets the juices flowing. Hell, I had the juices flowing even in a poorly-played first half that ended up with the C's down 13 points. Four more games and 13 more days until the Quickens Loan Arena hosts the Big Three and Lebron in the season's opening game. But for tonight the Raptors are the opponent, and the Big Three will be back to face them.

'Sheed says the Celtics could challenge Bulls' record... could they?

Monday, October 12, 2009

In a recent interview with Tom Halzack of the CT News, Rasheed Wallace claimed the Celtics could make a run at the Chicago Bulls' hallowed record of 72 regular-season wins.

"Oh definitely. Definitely, playing with those three other guys, also combining that with the guys we have on the bench, I think we can definitely can. Me personally, I think we can get that Bulls record. You know we have the talent for it. We have the will for it and…I think we have the defense for it."

[Halzack:] Do you want me to use that?

"You can. Because honestly, I really do feel that. That was a good team. They had some HOFs on there, but we have a few on this team, too."

On the surface, comparing any team to the 1995-1996 Bulls squad would be sacreligious. They had Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a recent Hall-of-Fame inductee who wore the number 23 (and 45, briefly). They had role players galore, the best player ever and possibly the best coach ever. They didn't only beat teams; they annihilated them. The Bulls won games by an average of 12.3 points, scoring 105.2 points per game while only giving up 92.9.

To say they were dominant is an understatement; the Bulls started the season with 41 wins in their first 44 games and ended it with a 15-3 record in the playoffs. They won their first 37 home games and became the only team in NBA history to win over 70 games. Their point differential was the second greatest in NBA history (behind only the 1972 Lakers), but if you adjust the differential for the pace of play the Bulls' point differential becomes the best in NBA history.

The Bulls nearly swept every major award. They had the MVP, Finals MVP and All-Star game MVP (Jordan), the Executive of the Year (Jerry Krause), the Coach of the Year (Jackson), and the Sixth Man of the Year (Toni Kukoc). The only major award the Bulls didn't win was the Defensive Player of the Year (Gary Payton won it, in case you were wondering), but they made up for it by becoming the only NBA team with three (that's right, three) players named to the All-Defensive First Team (Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman).

Could this year's Celtics possibly contend with that record, with such a storied team? They've gotten off to incredible starts the past two years, only to see stretches of poor play and injuries derail their quest of challenging the Bulls' mark. Now possessing a lot more depth than last year, could the Celtics rewrite the record books?

Why they probably won't

There are too many things that have to go right for a team to win that many games. For a team to reach 72 wins, it takes far more than outstanding talent. There has to be a bill of clean health. In '95-'96, Jordan didn't miss a single game. Neither did Steve Kerr. Pippen only missed five, Ron Harper two and Kukoc only one. Rodman was the only key player to miss significant time, with 18 games missed.

The Celtics had big injury issues last season and, with an aging roster, could face another injury-plagued season. Garnett missed a lot of time last season, and still isn't 100% heading into the season. Ray Allen has a history of ankle issues. Paul Pierce has been durable throughout his career, but he's getting older and seemed to visibly wear down by the end of last year. Kendrick Perkins has a long trail of shoulder difficulties, and Rajon Rondo's ankles have given him some problems in the past. The whole starting five is injury-prone, and an injury to any one of them could mean an end to the C's chances at cracking the Bull's record.

But even if they are healthy, the Celtics will face many other barriers to 72 wins. They aren't even necessarily the NBA's best team; the Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic could all stake a claim to being better than the Celtics, at least at this point. The cream of the crop in the NBA might be as good as it's ever been, with the top teams heaped together closely, head and shoulders above every other team. The Celtics play those teams a combined 12 times, and all those games will be losable. Not to mention that the second tier of teams, headlined by Denver, Portland and maybe Dallas, will be tough to beat too.

But let's say the Celtics will be the best team in the league, like Rasheed seems to think, and let's say everyone on their roster remains healthy for all 82 games. Even then, 72 wins is incredibly difficult to attain. With an 82-game schedule, lulls are far too easy to come by. Teams don't always lose because the other team is better. Sometimes a team loses because they're tired on the second night of a back-to-back, or because they simply don't bring their "A" game. The Bulls had Michael Jordan and his unrivaled will to win to keep them in check and make sure they brought intensity every night. The Bulls lost back-to-back games only once the entire year, and were able to bring effort basically every night out. Even a team that's far more talented than its opponent can lose on any given night; for a team to win 72 games it has to be able to severely limit the amount of times it doesn't "bring it".

Why they could do it

Intensity shouldn't be a problem for the Celtics. Their own leader, Kevin Garnett, approaches every play with fury, desire and competitiveness. The C's are a veteran-laden team that knows their window of opportunity won't be open much longer. They know they need to bring effort every night, and have been known for their great defense and high effort level. The biggest criticism of Doc Rivers over the past two years has been that he has valued regular season wins too highly and played his starters too many minutes. The C's want to win, and they work to win every game they play.

Health, on the other hand, could be a problem. But Kevin Garnett doesn't have a past filled with injury issues. His injury last year was the biggest of his career, but he has been, for the most part, a healthy player. Paul Pierce, as noted earlier, has been durable his entire career. And Ray Allen has a history of ankle issues, but he only missed one game last year and reportedly returned to camp in the best shape of his life. Kendrick Perkins has repeatedly hurt his shoulder in the past, but returned to camp lighter, more limber and entirely healthy. And Rajon Rondo, despite small ankle problems from time to time, has only missed 11 games in his three years in the NBA.

Their improved depth should help them limit the starters' minutes and, in the case of an injury, provide insurance behind the starters. Rasheed Wallace has been a starter every other year he's been in the league and, despite reports of his demise last year, his numbers were almost identical to his previous two years (seriously, check it out). And he's 6'11" tall with the ability to guard any power forward or center in the league, spread the floor offensively and play selfless team basketball. Marquis Daniels was a starter last year and averaged over 13 points per game. He also has the versatility to play any perimeter position. Big Baby filled in admirably for the Celtics when KG and Leon Powe were hurt, and now he'll likely be the second big man off the bench. And Eddie House set the Celtics' single-season record for three-point shooting. Their second unit could compete with most teams in the league, and will be a huge factor in limiting the starters minutes and keeping them healthy or filling in for injured starters.

The Celtics won 66 games two years ago and 62 games last year, and now they have a team that, on paper, is better than either of those teams. It probably won't ever happen, but if everything falls right the Celtics could theoretically threaten the Bulls' record. Rasheed has "guaran-Sheed" a lot of things over his career and his latest prediction, while not exactly a guarantee, is likely the most far-fetched one yet. It could happen, and the Celtics have a chance to do it. But only if everything works out perfectly and the stars align for the C's.

Me? I just hope the Celtics win another championship. If they happen to win 72 games on the way, terrific. But anything other than a Larry O'Brien Trophy is just gravy.