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The 2009-10 TrueHoop Network Celtics Season Preview

We wrote a book. To commemorate the start of the 2009-10 season—a season in which the Celtics will obviously win Banner 18—all the bloggers in the TrueHoop Network put together individual season previews that will be collected in book form. The book will also have some snazzy graphics, front-of-the book essays and other goodies. Henry Abbott will tell you more about it Monday on the mother site. Below is the Boston section. Enjoy.

CROWD SAYS/BLOGGER SAYS: The average win total predicted by the TrueHoop bloggers (“the crowd”) and the Celtics Hub official prediction.

Last year: 62-20

Crowd: 58-24

Celtics Hub: 59-23

YES WE CAN! Why the C’s can take the title (by Zach Lowe)

On the one hand, the Celtics appear to be the ultimate championship-or-bust team. They have a core of aging stars in their mid-30s, one of whom may not be on the team after this season (Ray Allen) and all of whom have entered into their slow decline toward retirement. But they are still stars, and they are surrounded by an unguardable waterbug with a nasty streak at point guard, a blossoming force at center and a beefed-up bench with proven back-ups at nearly every position. It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.

But such pronouncements seem reckless given the age and injury questions surrounding the team, starting with the condition of Kevin Garnett’s right knee. It really is this simple: If KG can’t be KG, the Celtics will not raise Banner 18 this season. The combination of bone spurs (recently removed) and the strained tendon that took KG out of the playoffs suggest he is developing an arthritic condition that could flare up at any time. Also consider that Rasheed Wallace is 34 and coming off his worst season ever; Ray Allen has had ankle and hamstring problems in Boston; and Paul Pierce looked gassed at the end of last season. There is simply no guarantee that this team will be ready to win a championship after 82 regular season games. They weren’t last year, and we saw their KG-less ceiling–a team still tenacious enough to take Orlando to seven games, but not good enough to win a title.

Still, this team is undeniably better than last year’s team. Marquis Daniels isn’t a star, but his presence means Doc Rivers won’t have to play Paul Pierce at 2006 minute levels, as he did last season. Wallace is a better version of Glen Davis on offense and an elite post defender, and he brings the added bonus of pushing a playoff-seasoned Davis into a back-up role which suits Baby–and the team–better. The C’s have exchanged Mikki Moore, Stephon Marbury and Leon Powe on the bench for Daniels, Wallace, Davis and Shelden Williams. Read all of those names again.

If healthy, the Celtics are as good as anyone in the league, including the hated Lakers. But that particular “if” is the biggest “if” in sports.

NO YOU WON’T: A rival blogger’s dissent (courtesy of Kurt Helin at Forum Blue & Gold)

“All their key players are frail and old enough to have voted for John Adams to be president, but the best part is their fan base willfully ignores this. They will be shocked when Paul Pierce actually needs that wheelchair to get on and off the court this season.”

ALL-A-TWITTER: A 140-word window into the soul of the Celtics

“in the heat of the battle the f bomb is gonna drop many times..i appreciate the passion of people who wanna win.” Ray Allen—September 16th 2009

Ray Allen tweets on the outbursts by Roger Federer and Serena Williams at the US Open, while also providing a sneak preview of why the Celtics are likely to lead the league in technical fouls this year.

ON THE RECORD: The single best quote concerning the Celtics during the last 12 months

“I talked to [Garnett] and he guaranteed the championship in 2010 and in 2011. He was as fired up as he’s ever been.” Owner Wyc Grousbeck —- Boston Globe June 2009.

THE ALMANAC: Three key stats from the 2008-09 season, via Basketball Reference

102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions–#2 in the NBA but up from 98.9 points/100 possessions in 2008

39.7 percent from three-point range: #1 overall and the 12th-best team mark in NBA history

• 15 percent: Percentage of possessions that ended with a turnover—#29 (i.e. second-worst) in the NBA

THE PLAY: Down a point with 9.2 seconds left in a must-win game. What’s the play? (by Brian Robb)

Paul Pierce isolating his defender at the top of the key and making a move for a midrange jumper is the default play for this sequence. Luckily the C’s have discovered a secondary option for Paul’s isolation in the form of Ray Allen, oneof the best pure shooters in the game. Therefore the play call now would still begin with Pierce isolating. The Truth occupies the defense with a move to the hoop, then dishes to Ray Allen who pops free in the corner after a back screen. Ray drills the open 3 and the C’s go home with another win.

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE: The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action (by Brendan Jackson)

Bill Walker: Fans have had such high hopes for this kid ever since his pick was bought from the Wizards.  He’s a high flyer, hard worker, and completely unafraid.  Just ask T-Mac how his pride feels.  If the Celtics have a sudden shortage of instant offense, Walker should be called on for an opportunity to provide it.

IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS: The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team (by Zach Lowe)

Extending Rajon Rondo. The attention is on Ray Allen’s expiring $19 million deal, but securing the post-Big Three future of the team means either signing Rajon Rondo to a lucrative extension or–if the team believes his asking price is too high–finding another youngish player who can be the bridge to the next era. That player can’t come from outside Boston unless the C’s work a sign-and-trade; the team is already over the anticipated 2010-11 salary cap, with $54 million earmarked for just five players–assuming Paul Pierce invokes his $21.5 million option. So Rondo is the most practical solution, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a defensive pest who tied the team record for post-season triple doubles last season. But team officials questioned his attitude and his jump shot during the offseason, and they almost certainly included Rondo in trade talks. So do they want him back? How badly? And if not, what’s Plan B?