Opinion: Celtics primed for return to championship

Alex Mellion
Journal Staff

celticsAfter months of anticipation, the “Big Three” are going to finally step onto an NBA court together, next Tuesday, October 26th. All the experts are naming this team as title contenders, and their three stars should help keep them in contention for the whole season.

All eyes will be on Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (what, did you think I was talking about that other “Big Three” down in Miami?) as they take the court and tip off the Celtics 2010-2011 NBA season against “The Three Kings” of South Beach (LeBron, Dwyane and Bosh).

The Celtics offseason was a busy one, and saw the departure of a couple key role players and the arrival of some new players who should make an immediate impact.  Gone are Shelden Williams (who signed with the Denver Nuggets), Tony Allen (signed with the Memphis Grizzlies), and Rasheed Wallace (retirement).  Kendrick Perkins, who is normally the starting center, is also out until at least mid-February as he recovers from a torn ACL.

On a lesser note, Brian Scalabrine got tired of warming benches in Boston, and signed with the Bulls, where he’ll play a key role in the Bulls hopes of a world championship (just kidding).  He’ll be warming the benches in Chicago too.

The Celtics biggest acquisition this offseason (both literally and figuratively) was the Big Aristotle himself, Shaquille O’Neal.  The Big Shamrock (his newest nickname), who is currently residing at the W Hotel, will try to fill the void left by Kendrick Perkins’ injury, and will look to silence the critics who say he is washed up and can’t have the same impact on a game as he used to.

O’Neal has said publically that the two-year deal he signed with the Celtics will be the last contract he signs in the NBA, and he will try to bring at least one, if not two championships to Boston during his brief stay in the city.

Another O’Neal will look to be the big man in Boston, this one being Jermaine O’Neal.  The Celtics signed the six-time all-star to a two- year deal.  While his stats have recently been on the decline, Jermaine will provide the Celtics with a big body down low and he should play a key role in the Celtics season.

The team also drafted guard Avery Bradley from the University of Texas and forward Luke Harangody from the University of Notre Dame, and both should provide some depth off of the bench. Of course the Celtics have the Big Three (Pierce, Allen and Garnett) along with Rajon Rondo returning for another championship run.  If the postseason was any indication, look for Rondo to solidify himself as one of the elite point guards in the league this season with his outstanding all-around play on both sides of the ball. He showed he is capable of all-star performances during the playoffs, recording two triple-doubles while leading the team.

Even though the days of 20-plus points per game are long gone, the Big Three will still find ways to be productive and help lead the team to another championship. With a very deep bench, they will be able to win the tough games during he regular season.

While the team’s nucleus may be getting older, the Celtics are a basketball team that you can’t count out at any point in the season.  The team will be in contention for not only the Eastern Conference title, but the NBA title as well.

The memories of the bitter Game 7 finals defeat in Los Angeles still linger, but the Garden will be rocking long into the month of June.  The Celtics should find themselves as one of the final four teams in contention for the championship, and 2011 could very well be the year that banner number 18 gets raised to the rafters.