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In his NBA preview (in which he predicts the Celtics to have a 62-20 record and lose to the Spurs in the NBA Finals), Bill Simmons runs down his 33 Most Intriguing People of the 2009-10 NBA season (Part 1 | Part 2). Included in that list are three players on the Celtics. Below are the Sports Guy's ranking and thoughts on each of them:
How will he handle Danny Ainge shopping him while publicly dragging him through the mud last June? Will it bother him that the Celtics didn't care about signing him to an extension? Why are they so afraid to commit to him? Why does he keep getting so much "loner" and "enigma" buzz? Why is everyone so willing to forget how unbelievably he played against Chicago last spring? Why doesn't it matter that he spent the summer playing with Mark Price and getting into sick shape? Why risk pushing away someone this good? What am I missing? I remain confused.
(Even stranger, he's absolutely jacked this year. Not since Joe Piscopo has someone's suddenly ripped body been this disorienting. Check him out. He looks like Calvin Johnson. You will be shocked. If this were baseball, we'd be making HGH jokes about him.)
Am I excited about Sheed turning Boston into the biggest ref-baiting, trash-talking, fan-unfriendly, swaggeracious (I just made up that word) NBA team since the 1992 Knicks? Actually, not really. If you are not a Celtics fan, instinctively, you will dislike the 2009-10 Celtics. Sheed is going to exacerbate every already-annoying quality they had. There will not be a more unpopular opponent in the league. You will see a steady stream of violent chest bumps, screams to the ceiling, angry nodding, eye bulging, intimidating looks, hard fouls, low-scoring games and everything else you'd ever hate about a basketball team. They will feed off your negative energy, live for it, seek it, thrive on it. That's how the season will go.
Is this a good thing? Yes and no. If it's a 67-win team, then, yes. I will put up with it. (And probably enjoy it. It's always fun to root for an Eff You team that's pulling off the Eff You. Don't let anyone tell you differently.) But if it's a 54-win team that looks old on back-to-backs, seems like more sizzle than steak, can't figure out its roles, and spends too much time in petty little battles with opponents and refs (and by the way, Doc Rivers was the No. 1 ref-baiting coach in the league last year), then no, it's probably not a good thing. So we will see.
(Just because you asked: Does it feel strange to root for someone who once uttered the words, "As long as somebody CTC, at the end of the day I'm with them. For all you that don't know what CTC means, that's "Cut the Check." Yes. Yes it does. Especially since he might be washed up. And we DID cut the check. For three freaking years.)
(It's too early to worry about this. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.)
Remember in Shawshank, when Red was describing how Andy burrowed through the walls thanks to "pressure over time." The same goes for NBA players and knees. Pressure over time. You pressure your knees over time, and eventually, they don't work as well. For big guys, they lose three things once their knees start going: explosiveness (self-explanatory), quick hops (the ability to quickly jump up for a rebound or a block without setting their legs and bending their knees first) and auto-start (the ability to quickly start moving from a standing position).
Now, this isn't a career-ender. You can plod along for years afterwards at 70-75 percent effectiveness. Kareem did it. Ewing did it. Shaq just did it the last four years. Hell, C-Webb limped around for two quality Kings teams in 2003 and 2004. It can be done. Just know that, once someone battles a severe knee issue with 1,100-1,200 games on the odometer, those three things (mentioned above) never really come back. It's almost like plastic surgery. Mess with your face once & maybe it looks the same. Go back again ... now you're pushing it. Go a third time ... now you're going to look like Cat Woman. And there's no going back. So if you're expecting KG to slap 24/13s and dominate games defensively, think again. I see him more like an aging middle linebacker -- think Ray Lewis -- who can still make big plays and knows where to be at all times, and yet, you're not crazy about seeing him drop into coverage to cover Knowshon Moreno one on one. Either way, it will be fascinating.
One silver lining for Celts fans: They can make the Finals with Garnett at 65-70 efficiency. Why? Because it's the deepest of the three Garnett/Celtics teams, and because the rest of the conference is that weak. Anything he gives them beyond a 14/7 and good defense is a bonus. A little frightening to say about someone in Year 1 of a 3-year, $53 million extension. But true.