Sports news continues to make headlines despite controversy over other subjects such as capital punishment. The Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship and took the Los Lakers to a seventh game before finally succumbing in this past season's Finals. In between was the lost 2008-09 season when team leader Kevin Garnett and other key players missed significant time due to injury. Even that team was dangerous and made some noise in the playoffs before exiting. Yet with the new look Miami Heat arriving on the scene, it seems as though very few observers in the basketball community are really paying much attention to the Celtics.
This is almost laughable in its absurdity, actually; this Miami squad is fashioned in a way after Boston and the blueprint it put together to win a championship. In place of All Stars Garnett, Ray Allen, and incumbent swingman Paul Pierce, the Heat substituted two time most valuable player LeBron James and Chris Bosh to complement their all everything superstar Dwayne Wade. By all accounts this South Beach organization now has two of the top three young players in the league in Wade and James and arguably another top twenty performer in Bosh. Yet in the opening game of the season, the Celtics handled the Heat with relative ease, building almost a 20 point lead early and cruising to victory by an 88 to 80 margin that was not as close as the final score indicated.
Celtics add Shaquille O'Neal
As has been the case in the past several offseason, the best teams in the National Basketball Association added some punch through free agent acquisitions. Miami, of course, made the biggest splash in signing James and Bosh as well as retaining the services of Wade who was also a free agent. And the Lakers added Matt Barnes to further strengthen what was already a formidable rotation in addition to retaining Shannon Brown, a key role player whose minutes continue increase thanks to his great defense. But the Celtics made a few moves of their own this summer, dipping into the free agent pool to sign a pair of 7 foot centers named O'Neal. Veterans Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal add a solid inside presence as well as valuable minutes and fouls for the interior defense of the team.
Shaquille O'Neal in the early going appears to be the more significant pickup. For most of the offseason he failed to attract a whole lot of attention from NBA clubs because he was requesting more than the veteran's minimum salary. With the hundreds of millions that he has earned through playing contracts and endorsements, it is not as if the Big Shamroq needs the money to make his cheap auto insurance payments. And he apparently came to this conclusion, signing a league minimum deal to play for the Celtics and another shot at his fifth title. O'Neal says he is not interested in chasing former teammate Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, with whom he won three consecutive titles and who just won his fifth ring in June of 2010. But it is clear that Shaq's best chance at one more trophy.
2010-11 NBA Title Contenders
The Celtics have to be looked at as legitimate contenders this season for the league title. This puts the Celtics on a fairly short list with Orlando and Miami in the East and LA and (some say) Oklahoma City out West. With their free agent acquisitions, the Celtics have shown that they still believe in experience over youth as the key to winning. This year's Celtics team should be good once again, surely good enough to win the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.