, Salem, MA


October 29, 2009

On Basketball column: Depth will be the difference for Celtics this season

On Pro Basketball

Matt Jenkins

BOSTON — Doc Rivers has to be feeling a little bit like a kid who just unwrapped all his gifts on Christmas morning.

So many toys to play with, so little time.

The last time we saw the Boston Celtics, they were only a shell of the team that brought back banner No. 17 to the Garden two seasons ago. Kevin Garnett sat out most of the second half of the season with a knee injury and missed the playoffs. The other two-thirds of the Big Three were overworked as a result.

By all accounts, it was a disappointing exit in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Now, however, there's a championship feeling back in Beantown — and last night's 92-59 wipeout of the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2009-10 home opener showed exactly why.

The early returns say KG is healthy again, while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen look re-energized.

The once-young role players — Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo — are now bona fide starters. In fact, Rondo is in the midst of contract negotiations that could lead him to cashing in as one of the highest paid point guards in the league.

The real key in the Celtics expected resurgence, though, is a bench that should be as good as any in the league.

Oh, and the best toy of all in Rivers' new collection is a 6-foot-11, 230-pound, three-point shooting, technical-foul-waiting-to-happen machine named Rasheed Wallace. He'll be the sixth man for a bench that will also feature players like Marquis Daniels and Shelden Williams.

Those three, in addition to holdovers Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen, will allow the Celtics to create mismatch nightmares every night.

And when "Big Baby" Glen Davis gets healthy, smartens up and starts playing again, you'll be looking at the Eastern Conference front-runner.

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