Aging Celtics Ready to Make One More Championship Push

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Aging Celtics Ready to Make One More Championship Push Michael Jordan
could have been a free agent, and all the buzz still would have been about LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

It didn't seem to matter what other teams did this offseason, because it would not even make a dent in the armor of the all-powerful trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach. 

NBA clubs did make noise, however, signing top-performing free agents to massive contracts.

ESPN.com released its future power rankings (Insider account required) at the beginning of the week, and despite a solid offseason, the Boston Celtics find themselves scraping the bottom of the top 15 teams. The future rankings are ESPN.com's projections of the success of a franchise over the next three years, starting in the 2011-2012 season. They are based on a team’s current roster, management, salary cap situation, marketability and draft potential. 

The C's were ranked 13th out of the 30 NBA franchises. They moved up two spots after starting the week at number 15, probably in large part because of the signing of Shaquille O'Neal.

Out of a possible 1,000 points for the categories, Boston was given a 517, with its highest ranking category being management (seventh-best in the league). 

The Celtics kept a busy summer going on Wednesday when they officially inked Shaq for two years at the veteran's minimum salary. Prior to that, the original Big Three were kept intact when Paul Pierce signed a team-friendly four-year deal worth $61 million, and Ray Allen agreed to wear Celtics green for two more years at $10 million a year. Jermaine O'Neal also was brought in to provide minutes at the center position, minutes that will likely be shared with Shaq as Kendrick Perkins continues to recover from a knee injury. 

Shrek and Donkey, also known as Glen Davis and Nate Robinson, along with Marquis Daniels, are back and will be joined by Avery Bradley (first-round pick) and Luke Harangody (second round), who tore up the Orlando Summer League in July.  

Kevin Garnett is on for two more years, as well, while Rajon Rondo will carry Boston into the post-Big Three era. 

With all the signings, however, the biggest reason Boston was not higher up in the future power rankings was because of the collective age of the team. Garnett is 34, Pierce will be 33 in October, Allen is 35, Shaq is 38, and his O'Neal counterpart will be 32 in October. The age became apparent last season, as the C's were only a .500 team after the All-Star break before making a push to the NBA Finals.

In the aftermath of the summer, the Miami Heat are slotted as the top team. The Insiders — Chad Ford and John Hollinger — consider the Heat to have the best players and the best market in South Beach. Having three superstar talents on your roster will help that.

"They have the best market — a tax-free, warm-weather city with a vibrant nightlife and three superstars," the insiders say. "They have the best players, with James, Wade and Bosh. And for the three seasons that run from 2011 to 2014, they have the best outlook."

The Los Angeles Lakers maintain the two slot, while Oklahoma City, Chicago and Houston round out the top five.

Overcoming the Heat in the East will be a daunting challenge, but with the retooling of so many teams this offseason, there is definite uncertainty with how things will pan out.

One thing is clear: The Celtics’ revamping shows they are ready to make at least one more push at a title with the core of players that got them there in 2008.  

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