Does blockbuster trade impact Celtics?
Yes, Boston's primary rival is getting one of the game's most dominant centers. But the Lakers account for a mere 2.4 percent of the Celtics' 82-game regular-season schedule, so outside of a little additional intrigue to the team's two February meetings, there's not much to get overly worked up about (unless the two sides meet again in the NBA Finals and Los Angeles' chances undoubtedly improved as they prepare to put Howard alongside an All-Star core that already included Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and fellow offseason acquisition Steve Nash).
For Boston, the more noteworthy part of the four-team swap (full details HERE) is the fact that the Philadelphia 76ers landed a dominant big man of their own in bringing back Andrew Bynum. A spunky Philadelphia squad took the Celtics to seven games before bowing in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season. The 76ers had to part with Andre Iguodala as part of the deal, which will allow Paul Pierce to breath a little sigh of relief, but the addition of Bynum solidifies Philadelphia's frontcourt and adds some intrigue about their ability to contend in the East.
The potential frontcourt pairing of Bynum and Lavoy Allen is somewhat worrisome for Boston, at least considering the success the 76ers had with Allen on the floor in the postseason. He was one of the rare big men that gave Kevin Garnett headaches. If Philadelphia can balance those two with Brown and Spencer Hawes, there's a formidable frontline for a Boston team thin on pure size.
You'll hear plenty of pundits noting that the Atlantic Division will be more intriguing this season as everyone but Toronto figures to be in the playoff mix. But since when do the Celtics worry about hanging division title banners? Boston was ready to cede the Atlantic to Philly last year before the wheels came off down the stretch for the 76ers and the Celtics surged to the crown. Let's remember that Boston won the division and still opened the playoffs on the road -- overall record is far more important than winning the Atlantic.
The Celtics should only be worried about whether the East as a whole gets better because of this deal as that directly impacts their primary goal of getting back to the NBA Finals.
The jury is out on Philadelphia, while the Magic have clearly taken a step back towards rebuilding mode. Howard is gone from the East and Bynum takes his place as one of the few legitimate elite big men in the conference. The Celtics were going to have to play Howard and Bynum a combined five times before the trade, that number simply jumps to six with Bynum entering the division (Boston was only scheduled to play Orlando three times this season).
Here's the bottom line: Celtics coach Doc Rivers often goes out of his way to stress that the Celtics don't worry too much about the opposition. There's not enough time in the regular season to worry much about game-planning on a night-to-night basis, so the focus has to be on your own team. Boston can't sit around worrying about how Bynum will mesh in Philly; the Celtics have to figure out how the likes of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee fit in their own lineup, and worry about reintegrating the likes of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox after all the time they missed last season.
No part of Friday's blockbuster should force Boston to alter its overall strategy and its ultimate goal remains unchanged.
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