Celtics Waiting for Jermaine O’Neal’s Return to Add Frontcourt Depth and Six Other Celtics Thoughts


Dec 7, 2010

Celtics Waiting for Jermaine O'Neal's Return to Add Frontcourt Depth and Six Other Celtics Thoughts It's only early December, but the Celtics are already rolling over the competition in midseason. With seven straight wins in the last two weeks, the C's now stand atop the Eastern Conference all alone at 16-4, just one game back of San Antonio for the NBA's best record.

It's a good time to be a Celtics fan. The C's are defying the injury bug and dominating the East despite all the obstacles that have come their way. As long as their core group remains relatively healthy and stays in rhythm, there's no reason to think the winning ways can't continue.

Here are seven thoughts on the rip-roaring Celtics, one for each of their consecutive victories:

1. In the immortal words of Will Ferrell, "We're going streaking!" The C's have indeed won seven straight games, but that's not impressing anyone just yet. They've still got work to do. Not only is seven not the longest winning streak in the NBA this season (Dallas is currently on a nine-game run, and San Antonio won its first 12 games in November), but it's nowhere near the best streak for Doc Rivers' Celtics. The C's had four double-digit win streaks in their first three seasons with the new Big Three, including a 19-gamer in early 2008. (The Lakers snapped that streak on Christmas Day.)

2. Glen Davis averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds over the Celtics' four wins last week, which only bolsters the campaign for Sixth Man of the Year that's been slowly building among Boston media members. Big Baby has gotten a lot of attention this season for his role as a crunch-time post scorer on the new-look Celtics, but the competition will still be stiff for the Sixth Man honor. To name a few: Jason Terry is always a threat, Shannon Brown has emerged as a big-time baller off the bench for the Lakers, and O.J. Mayo is a force to be reckoned with now that he's a backup in Memphis. Baby is big, but the competition might be bigger.

3. Nate Robinson's point totals in the four games he's started: 22, 16, 7, 21. Rivers commented after Sunday's win in New Jersey that the offense comes easier for Nate when he starts — he's an afterthought when surrounded by four All-Star teammates, and he can score in bunches when there's no one there to stop him. The numbers back that up — Robinson is averaging 16.5 points per game when he starts and 5.5 when he doesn't. Part of that is just the increased minutes, but it's still a huge difference.

4. Robinson might have to get used to being the Celtics' spot starter. Rajon Rondo admitted at practice last week that his plantar fasciitis would be a nagging problem all season. Whenever he's too sore, Robinson will have to go. Rondo also said last week that once his adrenaline starts flowing, he doesn't feel the pain, but apparently there are exceptions to that. Rondo's absence Sunday in New Jersey was very telling. His foot soreness was clearly more than just a one-time thing.

5. In a surprisingly candid moment on Friday night, Kevin Garnett said that he wasn't too sure about the future of the NBA and what it meant for his career. "With a lockout coming up, who knows if this is my last year?" he said. "I’m trying to enjoy the guys now." Word around NBA circles for a while now has been that a work stoppage is very likely. Garnett is signed with the Celtics through 2012, but he sounds legitimately worried that there won't be a 2011-12 season. It'll be interesting to see if this kind of talk gathers steam as next summer draws closer.

6. Jermaine O'Neal is expected to rejoin the Celtics in practice within two weeks. It's a good thing, too, because the Celtics are really hurting (no pun intended) for big man depth. No one on their front line is totally healthy except KG — Semih Erden will likely need shoulder surgery next summer, Shaquille O'Neal sat out part of Sunday's game with calf pain, Kendrick Perkins is obviously still out, and even Glen Davis got whacked in the head Sunday with a medicine ball. The C's really need a healthy big. Maybe by Christmas, J.O. can be that guy.

7. It won't have the same appeal of last month's Brian Scalabrine homecoming, but Wednesday night is the return of another former Celtic to the TD Garden — Shelden Williams. The 27-year-old former lottery pick signed an $850,000 contract this summer to play one year with the Nuggets, and he's made the most of it. Williams has started all 19 games for the Nuggets this season, averaging 5.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. He paid his dues on the Celtics' bench, but now he's in the big leagues, playing impact minutes for a legit playoff team. He might not get a video tribute on the Jumbotron like Scal, but a warm ovation at the TD Garden on Wednesday would be a nice gesture.

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