Four months ago, the C's tipped off the NBA playoffs with a shortage of capable big men. They started with no Kevin Garnett; before long, they were without Leon Powe as well. The Celtics reached the point where they had no choice but to give Brian Scalabrine 20 minutes a game. Now that's scary.
This summer, things have changed for the C's.
Garnett is back — come this winter, he'll be healthy and manning the paint once again for the Celtics' elite defense. Kendrick Perkins will stand tall alongside KG as his partner in crime, and Scalabrine will continue to come off the C's bench.
Rasheed Wallace is here. The Celtics gave him the $5.8 million midlevel exception to bolster the team's corps in the paint. Shelden Williams is now aboard — GM Danny Ainge locked him up on the cheap side ,with a one-year contract for the veteran's minimum of just under $900,000. And now, as the Celtics announced today, Glen Davis is returning to the Celtics after a brief exploration of restricted free agency.
All of a sudden, the Celtics have a problem on their hands. If three's a crowd, then six is a massive throng of big men vying for minutes on Doc Rivers' squad. What to do with all this talent? There are no easy answers.
The only thing we know for sure is that Garnett will start and play every minute he can. After a turbulent 2008-09 season, his knee appears to be back to 100 percent, and he's now ready to carry the Celtics the way he did two seasons ago. Garnett will be the starting power forward and he will dominate the paint on defense while being the Celtics' heart and soul.
After that? Let's see.
Perkins makes the most sense as a starting center alongside Garnett. Of the C's six big men, he's the only one that plays the role of a true center on both ends of the floor — his 280-pound frame allows him to clash inside with opposing big men, and he defends, rebounds and scores in the low post with regularity. Every other big man the C's have brings an inside-outside game that will give the Celtics some versatility.
Wallace is long enough and athletic enough to defend anyone on the floor, but when Perkins is off the court, the Celtics will stick 'Sheed in the low post and make him work against opposing centers. With his height and his rebounding ability, he'll be an asset in that role.
No one else on the C's roster is a center. Davis, Williams and Scalabrine are all too short; Garnett thrives as a power forward because he can shoot from all over the floor.
What you're likely to see with this year's Celtics is one center — Perkins or Wallace — on the floor at all times, and Garnett playing 35 minutes a game. That doesn't leave much time for the other three guys.
The Celtics are going to have to go big. Big Baby Davis, all 290 pounds of him, will be relegated to the small forward position. Williams, a 6-foot-9 body and a versatile scorer, will also see some time at the three, backing up Paul Pierce. As for Scal? Forget about it — he's a wing guy.
The Celtics' logjam at the post positions is actually a blessing. It's going to make them into a bigger, stronger, tougher team — the Celtics are going to play a more physical brand of basketball than you usually see these days among the NBA's top teams.
And for this squad, that tactic will work. The Celtics now have the size to compete with any team in the league — and perhaps more importantly, they have the depth to withstand any injuries that may arise.
That wasn't always the case. Last year, the injury bug hit the Celtics at exactly the wrong time. This year, that shouldn't be a problem anymore.
These Celtics are prepared for whatever comes their way. Maybe even an 18th banner.