Defense wins championships, so they say. Well, it's only won one so far for the Celtics, and it's unlikely to win them another — even if the C's are on top of the basketball world next June, holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
No, defense isn't king in Boston anymore. Not after the season the Celtics just endured and the offseason retooling they've undertaken this summer. The Celtics have a new-look roster and a new identity.
It's about time, too. Considering how last season ended — with the Celtics falling short against the Lakers in the Finals, unable to establish an offensive rhythm when it mattered most — there's never been a better time for a realigning summer than right now. The C's aren't rebuilding — their core group of guys from the last three years is still intact and hungry for more. But they are starting to rethink the way they function and the way they game-plan to beat good teams.
Tom Thibodeau, the man universally hailed as the Celtics' defensive mastermind, is gone.
Kendrick Perkins, the C's enforcer in the low post, tore his ACL in the Finals and is out for a good chunk of the season.
Tony Allen, their key defensive stopper, is gone. He's a Memphis Grizzlie.
Kevin Garnett's still around, and he's still the defensive captain. But he filled that role much better at 31, when he first arrived in Boston three summers ago, than he will now at 34. He's lost a step and is fighting the battle of his life to keep up.
Put it all together, and it indicates that defense won't be the main point of emphasis for the Celtics next season. It can't be — Doc Rivers just doesn't have the right personnel in his locker room anymore.
But that's OK. Good coaches win with the talent they've got; truly great ones are able to make adjustments on the fly and keep winning. Doc is a great coach, and he's now got the right roster to lead a great team. An offensive-minded, running, gunning, scoring team. And for the Celtics, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Last year, the Celtics scored 8,136 points, or 99.2 per game. They were one of only 12 teams in the NBA averaging under 100. Their pace was also one of the league's slowest — when you rely on methodical ball movement, using every second on the shot clock as a valuable resource, that's bound to happen.
Next year, things might change. Of course, it all starts with Rajon Rondo. His speed, athleticism and playmaking ability are what make the Boston offense run, and without him, the C's would be lost. But it's more than just Rondo and the veteran Big Three that will make things click.
Danny Ainge went out and signed Shaquille O'Neal this summer, giving the Celtics a valuable low-post scorer and an offensive rebounder. He re-signed Nate Robinson, showing that energy and dynamic scoring ability are worth much more than just a two-month rental. He brought back Ray Allen, one of the best pure shooters in the game. He added Von Wafer, another aggressor on the offensive end.
These are all good developments for the Celtics, who were overdue for a few tweaks to keep them among the NBA's elite.
The Celtics had a few frustrating finishes in games last season, sputtering in the fourth quarter, failing to get open looks, settling for jumpers, losing the battle on the offensive glass when they missed. Next year, with some new blood and maybe a new outlook on their basketball lives, they'll have a chance to turn things around.
Defense has won championships countless times before. But next spring, the Celtics will hope offense can bring a banner back to Boston