The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics went into the off-season this summer; as teams in transition, no longer quite strong enough to compete for the Association’s Larry O’Brien Trophy, as they had just a couple of years earlier. The teams both had similar choices ahead of them; should they rebuild or retool? Was it time for the two franchises to blow things up, or could they keep their core together; while complimenting those players with some key additions? Mitch Kupchak in Los Angeles and Danny Ainge in Boston, both decided to take the latter route and they have made enough improvements, that they could once again match up in the 2013 NBA Finals, next June.
The Lakers, of course rocked the Association in August, when they acquired All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in a four team transaction; they also signed veteran Free Agent Steve Nash to a contract, to team up with All-Star Kobe Bryant in the back-court. Nash, is no longer the player who won back to back NBA MVP Awards, a few seasons ago; however he is still in the top third of point guards playing in the Association.His new teammate in Los Angeles; Metta World Peace, has become Nash’s biggest fan, calling him a magician on the court.
The team added more depth to their back-court with the additions of former Orlando Magic guard Chris Duhon, as well as Jodie Meeks, who showed potential with the Sixers in his three seasons in the Association. They also signed veteran big man Antawn Jamison, a still productive veteran; who has to be excited to be with a winning team; after spending the last two-seasons with the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers.
Howard, still recovering from surgery this spring, has yet to get on the hardwood in a preseason game as of yet; and they have started the preseason with an 0-3 mark. He is expected to most likely get some court time however, before the Lakers kick off the regular season on October 30. His addition to the club, carries on the tradition, of the franchise; a dominant man in the middle on the roster. He joins the ranks of George Mikan, who played when the team was still based in Minnesota; as well as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.
Boston, almost made it to the Finals last June, however lost the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games, to the eventual NBA Champions, the Miami Heat. Although, the Celtics lost a team leader in shooting guard Ray Allen, after he signed a deal with the Heat; the team is far stronger than they were heading into last season. They replaced Allen, with former Dallas Mavericks sixth man, Jason Terry; who just may be a better fit as well as a stronger asset for the “Green Team” at this point of both player’s careers.
Boston brought back forward Jeff Green and center Chris Wilcox into then fold, as both missed last season after undergoing heart surgery. Both players seem to be fully recovered and should be strong off the bench for squad; lack of depth on the pine was an Achilles Heal for the Celtics last season. They might have gotten the steal of the 2012 NBA Draft, if Jared Sullinger stays healthy. The former Ohio State University big man fell to the 21st pick in the first round, due to reports that he had back issues. They have yet to show up so far in the preseason, as he scored 14 points against the Knicks recently; Boston is 1-2 in exhibition games as of Sunday night.
The Celtics now have a few options with their front-court starters; as they could head into games as they did down the stretch last season; with Kevin Garnett in the middle, joined by Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass in the forward slots. They could also replace Bass with Sullinger, giving Bass a prominent role on the reserve unit. Another option; would be to put Garnett back at power forward and start the new member of the club Darko Milicic. The center has never come close to reaching the potential that many NBA observers believed he had when the Detroit Pistons took him with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. If anyone is capable of helping the native of Eastern Europe, regain his confidence; it will be Garnett and Celtics bench boss Doc Rivers. Darko is unlikely ever to become a dominant player in the Association, but he still has the skills to make him a better than average NBA center in the current era.
With the improvements that both teams have made this off-season, could they possibly meet for a third time since 2008, in the upcoming NBA Finals? Both teams will have plenty of competition to win their respective conferences, however they just might each have the right mix on their rosters to meet once again this June.