"Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks."
- Joe Paterno
Confidence - Freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities.
In one corner, we have the Boston Celtics.
The Boston Celtics are perhaps the most-storied franchise in the NBA. Legends like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale have all graced this franchise with their skill. Perhaps the greatest coach of all time, Red Auerbach, won 8 straight championships from '58-'66 as the Celtics' head coach.
These key people have brought the Celtics Organization to the elite in NBA History. The Celtics are the most storied franchise in NBA history, with an unprecedented 16 NBA Championships.
But, last season, the Celtics were a dismal 24-58. The franchise has lost its galore and was now spiraling downward very quickly. But, General Manager Danny Ainge had a few tricks up his sleeve during the off season.
With his job on the line, Ainge set out to give the Celtics a total makeover. He started by trading the 5th pick in the NBA Draft, with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to the Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen.
I believe Danny Ainge did this for two reasons:
1. The Celtics needed a sharpshooter and someone who they can look to for clutch outside shots.
2. I hate to say it, but this was bait to lure Kevin Garnett to the Celtics.
Than, came the biggest trade during that off season. Kevin Garnett was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Boston's 2009 first-round draft pick (top three protected), the return of Minnesota's conditional first-round draft pick previously obtained in the 2006 Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade and cash considerations. This was the biggest trade for 1 player in NBA History.
(Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce)
So, the Celtics came into the 2007-08 NBA season as the favorites to win it all. They had the best Big 3 in the league, could drop 100 points every night, and could hold you to 90 points every night. Naturally, they were picked to win it all. They were great on both sides of the ball, and probably the most versatile team.
They have 3 hungry stars and young players who can make great impacts. The season looked bright for this team, and, they didn't disappoint.
They had the best record in the league at 66-16, and at the All-Star break, many people believed they would flirt with a 70-win season by the regular-season's end.
The didn't quite win 70 games, but they sure turned a lot of heads. They also are the best defensive team in the league. They are in the Top 5 in the following categories, () is their rank in the NBA:
Opposition PPG - 88.4 (4th)
Opposition FG% - 42.5% (5th)
Opposition 3PT% - 31% (4th)
Steals - 8.8 (T-1)
Opposition Turnovers - 15.4 (2nd)
As one can see, the Celtics are an elite defensive squad. As I like to say, "This Baby was built on D".
But, that isn't where this team stops, they also have some offensive prowess. They rank in and near the Top 10 in almost all major statistical categories, () is their rank in NBA:
PPG: 100.5 (11th)
FG%: 47.5% (4th)
3PT%: 38% (T-2)
FT%: 77.1% (8th)
Probably the most well-rounded team in the league, how could you not pick them to go all the way?
In the other corner, we have the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks have been the home to some great players:
(above) Dominique Wilkins: Career PPG - 24.8
(above) Dikembe Mutombo: Career RPG - 10.4
(above) Bob Petit: 1956 and 1959 MVP.
(above) Spud Webb: Shortest contestant to win NBA Slam Dunk Contest
So, you can see that the Hawks have had players that have brought the organization much publicity with their stardom. But, they haven't had much success. They have only won one championship (1958) in their 60+ years of existence.
But, coming into this year, the Hawks had a good, young core. Many people thought this was the year that the Hawks would hand over the title of "The Laughing Stock of the NBA" to another team. They were right.
Although they have the worst record of all the teams that originally made the playoffs, they have pushed the Celtics to the limit. Like I said, it all starts with their core from the beginning of the season: