The Boston Celtics are proving that it’s possible for a veteran team to make a playoff run after an inconsistent regular season.
In other words, they are what they Dallas Mavericks hoped to be.
There are, of course, some major differences between the one-and-done Mavs and Finals-bound Celtics.
Start with the fact that, while the Celtics feature three probable Hall of Famers who are in their thirties, a young buck is making a strong case that he’s their best player. Heck, 24-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo was the best player in a series headlined by the MVP of the last two seasons.
The Mavs didn’t have anybody in their rotation with Rondo’s dynamic athleticism, ability to break down a defense and youthful energy. That’s primarily because Rick Carlisle refused to give Roddy Beaubois a permanent role in the rotation, which will change next season unless Roddy B. is moved in a sign-and-trade deal for a superstar.
That isn’t to say that Beaubois will be another Rondo, although the lanky, lightning-fast Celtics guard was the first guy mentioned by Donnie Nelson when asked on draft night who this guy from Guadeloupe reminded him of. There have similar bodies and athletic ability, but Rondo is a pure point guard while Beaubois is more of a scorer with better shooting range.
Their differences aside, Beaubois represents hope that the Mavs might already have a dynamic, young star-in-the-making on their roster. The question is whether he can emerge as an All-Star-caliber player, especially as quickly as Rondo has.
The other thing the Celtics have going for them that the Mavs did not is that their core has had plenty of time to get comfortable playing together. Boston made only minor tweaks to its roster last summer, with the Rasheed Wallace signing the biggest move. The Mavs added three prominent players over the last 12 months, two of which came just before the trade deadline.
Continuity isn’t Plan A for the Mavs. Armed with sign-and-trade assets, Mark Cuban and Co. will swing for the fences in free agency this summer.
If they strike out, all hope isn’t lost. They’ll still have two veteran Hall of Famers as the core of a 55-win team returns intact, but their championship hopes depend largely on the development of a dynamic kid.