Written by: Matthew Blunk
The Boston Celtics will have to forget about that. They must rid their minds of the fact that they were just one win away from eliminating their arch-nemesis, the Miami Heat, in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
The depleted Celtics had stumbled in their prior series against the Philadelphia 76ers, before ultimately winning that one in seven games. But that ugly series was swiftly forgotten once Boston won Games 3, 4, and 5 against the Heat. The Celtics were winning at their own pace. It was a familiar feeling and sight - Doc Rivers' boys were playing as a superior team unit than LeBron James'.
Then James evened the odds in Game 6 with an immortal performance in Boston, and a tight Game 7 in Miami went to the Heat. The C's had them where they wanted 'em, but just couldn't close it out.
Much has taken place this summer in Boston. Not only has Rajon Rondo essentially taken Ray Allen's place in the Celtic "Big Three," he's also become the team's undisputed best player (even GM Danny Ainge said so). Allen turned "heel" in the minds of the Celtic faithful and signed for less money with the hated Heat. Boston signed former Dallas Mavericks sixth-man extraordinaire Jason Terry, versatile swingman (now with a clean bill of health) Jeff Green, and acquired guard Courtney Lee in a trade with the Houston Rockets. The Celtics clearly targeted some size in June, drafting Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger and Syracuse center Fab Melo. Sullinger is the more refined, pro-ready player, while Melo is raw and somewhat stiff.
The ol' gang's all coming back (save for Allen, of course) for another run or three at the Larry O'Brien Trophy - Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and a couple new faces. The health of Avery Bradley will be essential to the Celtics perimeter defense. They will need him if and when they run into LeBron and D-Wade again.
Boston will be in the mix of championship contenders. They made a few excellent moves in the offseason to improve depth and defense. And Rondo will be entering the prime of his career with the savvy Pierce, Garnett, and Terry at his disposal.
PREDICTION: 2nd in the East
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With the NBA playoffs just under way it is time to take a quick look back at the regular season and evaluate which individual players and coach made the greatest contributions to their respective franchises success this year.
We will start our in-depth analysis with Most Valuable Player, Candidates: LeBron James
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