Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a 12-part series this summer that will profile six Eastern Conference teams and six Western Conference teams that could knock off the Miami Heat. Today we profile the Boston Celtics.
Rumors of the demise of the Celtics as we have come to know them turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Boston stumbled out of the gate last season looking old, slow and generally unfocused. By the end of January, there were plenty of so-called experts calling for Danny Ainge to push the reset button. Kevin Garnett? Trade him. Ray Allen? Gone. With a deep playoff run out of the question and key players operating on lame-duck contracts, it was time to rebuild. (At least that's what most of us, myself included, thought.)
The struggles persisted through February. At the All-Star break, Boston was 15-17, had dropped five straight and was just 1½ games ahead of Cleveland for the eighth spot in the East. But you just can't count out the likes of Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and perhaps most of all, master psychologist and coach Doc Rivers. The Celtics caught fire just in time, winning five in a row after the break and eight of 10 heading into deadline day. Instead of breaking the team up, Ainge stood pat.