My weekly media column can be found here. It includes items on a couple of new hires at NESN, Greg Dickerson's status, and various other notes, but leads with a conversation with Steve Kerr, who will call the Celtics opener Tuesday at Miami along with Marv Albert on TNT.
Kerr, the former dead-eye 3-point shooter for the Bulls and Spurs among other teams and later a successful general manager with the Suns, is an excellent analyst, and he's always fun to talk to whatever happens to going on in NBA.
Here are few of his other thoughts about the Celtics and various other story lines that didn't make the column:
1. I saw one projection that had the Celtics finishing third in the Atlantic Division, behind New York and New Jersey. Do you see that a possibility? They have much better depth than a year ago, but being in peak condition and good health when it's playoff time will be Doc and Danny's priority over all else, right?
Kerr: "Well, it's about time Boston had a challenge in their division. They've had it easy the last five years. Last year was obviously a little different with the shortened season and everything, but four years in a row, they blew everybody out of the water. It's gotten a lot tougher for the Celtics now. Philly New York, New Jersey should all be good teams. Maybe not great teams, but good, competitive teams that could possibly win 45-50 games. Boston, with Pierce and Garnett at the age they are, they're not going to run away and hide in their division anymore. As you said, the job is to be ready and peaking for the playoffs. Giving guys rest, particularly having the older two guys take time off during the regular season, Boston has to do that. I think that makes their division reign that much more vulnerable."
2. The consensus seemed to be that the Celtics would move on from this New Big Three group by now, yet Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are still essential entering their sixth year together, and the team they have this year is deeper than the one they had a season ago, when Marquis Daniels and Ryan Hollins ended up playing meaningful minutes. Did it surprise that Danny Ainge was able to bolster the roster to the degree that he did when there was a perception that he might blow it up?
Kerr: "It's really difficult to do what Danny did, but that's why he's so good. He doesn't miss a thing. They used the mid-level on [Jason] Terry, which is a home run in replacing Ray [Allen]. They were very clever getting Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade. They benefited from having Jeff Green's Bird Rights and were able to re-sign him. I think outside of the Lakers, Danny and the Lakers had the best offseason of anybody in terms of retooling. I've always been impressed with Danny and the job he does and the aggressiveness with which he tries to make his team better. He did a great job."
3. Now that LeBron has overcome the stigma of not winning the big one, is he going to go on a run like Michael Jordan and the Bulls did, winning three in row and taking no prisoners along the way after finally getting past the Pistons? Is it possible that LeBron's silly "not one, not two, not three" championships routine when he signed with the Heat might actually come true?
Kerr: "If I remember correctly, it wasn't two or three it was seven or eight, wasn't it? [Laughs.] But who's counting? I do think this year will be much easier for LeBron and Miami. Some teams struggle to repeat because they get fat and happy. But I think with this team, there was such a burden on their shoulders to win and they broke through, they're going to be able to relax and enjoy the journey at lot more now. I think repeating … there's an excellent chance it will happen. Whether they win another title this year, they have an excellent chance to have a run where they win 3-4 titles over the next 6-7 years. You know it and I know it, if you follow this league long enough, you know it's just not that easy. I think they're primed to have an extended run. But who knows, maybe he leaves in a few years as a free agent."
Back to Cleveland?
Kerr: Or LA. That city seems to be the destination of choice.
4. Speaking of LA, the Lakers have done the super-team thing before when they brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone in 2003-04 to join Kobe and Shaq. This is a little different because you're getting a guy in Dwight Howard who is a dominant big man in his prime, but is there any way this will fall short of the hype like the team nine years ago did?
Kerr: "I expect this to take some time. I really do. Howard missed all that time with the back, so in theory he's going to be a little rusty coming in. The Lakers were at the bottom in 3-point shooting last year, and all of a sudden Steve Nash is playing for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, without a great outside shooting team. And he’s got two dominant post men, and he's always played in Phoenix with no dominant post man save for a year and a half with Shaq. Steve’s had the ball and he's had four shooters around him and he's had a wide-open court. So now you look at it, he has two dominant low post men and very little outside shooting. It's a huge adjustment for Steve and for Kobe, and then Howard and Gasol have to learn to play together on that block. So I think there are a lot of questions for LA. But I think by the end of the season they will have figured a lot of that out and they will be very formidable come playoff time. I'm delicately picking the Lakers to be in the Finals. But I do think it will take them a long time to figure it out."
5. So you've got the Lakers in the West and the Heat in the East. Something tells me David Stern would be all right with that matchup.
Kerr: [Laughs] "Yeah, a ratings bonanza for sure and the matchup would be fascinating because Miami really thrived last year playing [Chris] Bosh at center and going small, putting LeBron at the 4. It absolutely killed Oklahoma City in the Finals. Oklahoma City doesn't have any bigs that can hurt you down low. You put Miami against the Lakers and you get the ball consistently inside to [Pau] Gasol and Howard. If you’re Miami, you can't play that small lineup the whole game. That changes everything, and I think that's probably the most intriguing matchup from a basketball standpoint that we could have as NBA fans for the Finals, though folks up there in Boston may not see it that way."
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.