In case you forgot, the Celtics are pretty good.
I might even have to revise my 56-win prognostication upward.
In this post-championship afterglow they have only taken off one night thus far, that being the Indiana game, a 95-79 loss Nov. 1. This is, of course, is one more night than they took off all last season, when they became the first of the 38 Celtic teams I'd covered to put the pedal to the metal when the ball was tossed up in Game 1 against the Wizards and not take it off until the buzzer sounded in the 131-92 destruction of the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. I can promise you that no other Celtic team can make that statement. If the 1985-86 guys had done the same, they, and not the Bulls, would undoubtedly have become the first NBA team to win 70. But they mailed in four or five along the way.
It's not reasonable to expect this bunch to have that same fanatical approach. Danny Ainge has already addressed this, saying the current squad reminds him of his later Celtic teams, which knew they were good and weren't out to prove anything. Now we all know that last year the Celtics had a great deal to prove, both to themselves and the outside world. All season long there were challenges, each of which were answered. In the playoffs they had to win a pair of Game 7s against teams perceived to be substantially weaker --- the eighth-seeded Hawks, especially --- before needing to win that road game against the Pistons. The comeback from 24 down in LA was another milestone.
So what's the regular season challenge this year? Actually, it's quite obvious. With the Lakers apparently on course for a very big season, the idea is to secure the home-court advantage once again. Of course, if you're really a quality team, that should not be an all-encompassing issue. A true quality team should be able to win playoff games on the road. But you'd still like to be playing any potential Game 5s and 7s at home (don't get me started on the 2-3-2 in the Finals right now; it's too close to Christmas to put those sort of aggravating thoughts in your head).
So far, so good on the James Posey front. And you wonder what's going on in his head as you see the Hornets stumble. But he made his decision to opt for security in the form of a four-year contract, and he'll have to live with it. His greatest value did come in the playoffs, however, so there's no sense in any gloating. It would be absurd to suggest that he will not be missed.
The formula has to be different this year. We all knew that. Tony Allen will never be James Posey, but if he maxes out as Tony Allen, that would be pretty good. It always stood to reason that this would be the season in which we'd find out about him. It is now coming up to 22 months since he made that foolish excursion to the hoop after the whistle had blown. The ballpark figure for someone to recover fully from a knee injury of that magnitude is 18 months, give or take. Right now it looks as if he has regained his athleticism, and, equally important, his confidence.
And Rajon Rondo! I was a big critic when the Celtics acquired him, and you can look it up. I never remotely imagined he could be this good. You have to love it when the Pistons roll in with Allen Iverson and the quickness advantage at point guard belongs to the Celtics. Danny nailed this one, all right.
You have to love the bench. Man-for-man, they don't seem that imposing, but they have really developed a group rapport and it's really fun when they get into the game. How can you not appreciate Leon Powe? That is one inside scoring, rebounding, and hustling kid. You say, "Wow, wouldn't it be great if he were 6-foot-11?" but then you realize he might not try so hard if he were 6-11. He's just right at 6-8.
All I can say is that, if you're a basketball fan, enjoy this. We have no divine right to it. But we've got it.
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Here's my NFL overtime solution, and it does have one fairly major departure from the norm. In my format, there are no field goals. I have never understood why anyone thought it made sense for field goals to have any say in determing overtime winners. The game is about territory. The object of this game is to get the ball into the end zone. You should be forced to score a touchdown, and then you'd have to go for two.
So . . . very simple. Each team gets the ball at the 50. You play until someone scores a touchdown. But each team must get the ball. Don't you think the 50 is a fair test? So it's like college, only you go from the 50, not the 25. And no field goals.
Yes, I realize there'd be no banners in Foxboro without field goals, but too bad. Field goals are cheesy ways of deciding football games.
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This Knicks/LeBron business is a very bad thing for the NBA.
Almost two full years of speculation? It will become intolerable in Cleveland. Who doesn't know that? LeBron will have make the topic off-limits, but that won't make everything palatable in Cleveland. It's going to be horrible.
I don't know how this will play out, but somehow, some way, David Stern will be heard from.