The Celtics begin their season Wednesday night with no shortage of excitement for the season. This is without question the best team the Celtics will put on the floor since the end of the big three era. It's not a matter of 'if' for the Celtics, it's "how?" As in "How good can the Celtics be?" We know they were the #5 seed in the eastern conference last year (tied for the 3rd best record), and we know that they added the 2nd best player in free agency in Al Horford, so calling them the 2nd or 3rd best team definitively isn't overstating it.
With a team that has 2 All-Stars and multiple players who received a number of All-Defensive team votes last season, you should expect a lot. The Celtics should be very good. Unfortunately, most of the NBA views the east as somewhat of a paradox: No matter how good you get, as long as LeBron James is around, the best you can be is 2nd best.
LeBron being around certainly does present quite the climb between good teams and the logical next step. As true as that may seem at this point, you would certainly hope a team like the Celtics doesn't think that way. You would hope the Celtics think they can and will beat LeBron James when given the chance. Otherwise, why are they even trying?
After you start believing you can beat LeBron James, it doesn't get any easier. There's a reason LeBron has made it to 6 straight finals, he's really good. Celtics fans know this all too well. That game 6 in Boston in 2012 was widely believed to be the best playoff game in LeBron James' career until last season's NBA finals, and can still be viewed as the point in LeBron's career where he went from great... to legendary.
Just for the sake of argument, lets jump way ahead of ourselves. Lets say the Celtics make it to the conference finals and are staring LeBron James right in the face in game 1. Then what? What do you really expect from this Celtics team when put in that situation. It's okay to say you don't know (after all, you haven't even seen them play yet). But I know one thing, if you're a Celtics fan, you'll want them to actually win it.
Now if you consider yourself a realistic Celtics fan, you may be thinking they have no chance against the king, but there is a case, no matter how far fetched, for the Celtics to actually win this series, and here's how:
1. Full Health
Last season, Jae Crowder's lingering ankle injury and Avery Bradley's absence led to the Celtics falling short in the playoffs. No one can stop LeBron, but maybe a fully healthy Jae Crowder can frustrate him a little. If they're going to beat this Cavaliers team, they need everyone at full strength.
2. Al Horford
Al Horford was a big acquisition period. But the reason he helps them against the Cavs is an interesting one. Horford is a quiet guy, and I think Horford is keeping something inside that motivated his departure to the Celtics. Al Horford has played LeBron James 3 times in the playoffs. In those 3 match-ups, he's 0-12. That's a winning percentage of .000. It would appear clear by Horford's actions, he's tired of losing to LeBron. He came to Boston to finally beat the man that has put him down all these years. He may be 0-12, but this is a different team and a different situation. Horford has the experience. He knows what LeBron is in the playoffs. Now he just has to turn that experience into a win or 4.
3. The Law of Averages
First off, I have to inform you that unfortunately, the law of averages doesn't really exist. It's just a way of portraying wishful thinking. There's no real mathematical law that says things have to average out. However, there is one number that could help the Celtics. 46,643. That's the number of minutes LeBron James has played through his age 31 season. Magic Johnson is 2nd, and Larry Bird is 9th. The difference between Magic and Larry in 2nd and 9th place is about 6,000 minutes, the difference between 1st and 2nd, is 7,000, just to illustrate how far LeBron is ahead of the pack. No matter how much of a freak of nature he is, that many minutes has to have its effect at some point. Remember, those Celtics teams that won all those titles in a row were playing in a league with far less teams, hence far less minutes. Going to 7 straight NBA finals seems absurd. He has to miss one at some point, right?
Believe in what you want, but fate and destiny are a big theme in the sports world. Look at all the ways the Celtics have factored into LeBron's career. They were the team that he couldn't get over the hump against, and the team that forced him to build the super team in Miami. Then they were the team he had the turning point game of his career against. They're the last team to have players that reached 6 straight NBA Finals. Now, there perhaps the Eastern Conference's best chance to take him down yet again. Believe in what you want, but the sports destiny says the Celtics are going to be the team that stops LeBron's streak when it finally does end. The hope is... it ends this May.