- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Training camp doesn't start for another month, and the 2010-11 NBA season doesn't officially tip off for 65 days. The regular season won't end until eight months from now, and there will be two months of playoffs before a champion is crowned.
Fortunately for the impatient type, in the next three weeks we're going to tell you everything that's about to happen to the Boston Celtics this season.
With a nod to ESPN.com's national Summer Forecast, we've assembled a panel of 15 writers from six of our favorite Celtics blogs -- CelticsHub, Red's Army, CelticsBlog, Celtics Town, North Station Sports, and Gino's Jungle -- to lend their thoughts on how Boston's season will unfold.
Each weekday for the next three weeks, our panel of experts will tackle one question about the 2010-11 Celtics, combining their crystal balls to provide the clearest possible glimpse into the future of Boston's basketball team.
We tip off the series today by asking our panel to predict the Celtics' win-loss record for the upcoming season. The panel's average prediction: 54-28. That's a four-win upgrade from last season, when Boston finished 50-32 overall.
Responses from our local panel ranged from a low of 47 wins (North Station Sports' Lee Herman noted, "[The Celtics'] win total has declined in the past two seasons and, though it only dropped sharply this year (mostly due to injuries), I don't see this squad leveling off this season.") up to 58 wins (Red's Army's Jason Ouellette wrote, "I think it's inevitable that the C's will experience a few nagging injuries, as well as a few nights of boredom, but playing in the weakest division in the NBA will allow them plenty of opportunities for 'easy' wins.")
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston (56 wins)
The Celtics were so frustratingly inconsistent in the final four months of the 2009-10 season that it seems impossible for their win total not to climb this season. Let's remember that Boston played .500 ball over the final 54 games of the season (going 27-27 after a 23-5 start) and, admittedly, went into "get healthy" mode while stumbling to the finish line (and all but ceding the third seed in the Eastern Conference along the way). It's impossible to think the Celtics will be worse at home, where they dropped a staggering 17 games at the TD Garden. This after losing 12 home games combined over the first two seasons that the Big Three were united. That said, it's also unlikely the Celtics can be as dominant on the road, where they put together a 26-15 mark, tying Cleveland for the second-best road record in the league behind only Dallas (27-14). Playing in a cupcake Atlantic Division in which second-place Toronto lost its best players and three sub-30-win teams (New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey) are likely to improve only marginally, Boston could easily challenge for 60 wins if it stays healthy. Let's remember this team had won 66 and 62 games the previous two seasons. Health will dictate exactly how this team fares, but a six-win upgrade seems reasonable (and necessary for the playoff seedings we'll examine tomorrow).
Brian Robb, CelticsHub (55 wins)
The Celtics' regular-season total this year will be bolstered by an improved and more offensively reliable bench that will allow coach Doc Rivers to rest his starting five more while staying competitive in most games. When they get hot, Von Wafer and Nate Robinson can put up points with the best of league's reserves, and Glen Davis and Shaquille O'Neal compose arguably the most formidable backup front line in the league. Many will point to an improved Eastern Conference and last year's success despite a subpar regular season as a sign for another lackluster win total. It's important to keep in mind, though, that this 2010-11 season could very easily be the team's last and best shot at another title. Combine that with the fact that many new-look teams will be working to find chemistry with each other. Boston's strong continuity and sense of urgency will lead to an improved performance throughout the regular season while other squads struggle to figure out how to play with one another.
John Karalis, Red's Army (55 wins)
The Celtics will have some added depth, which will turn some of those second-half collapses into wins. But this is still an old team that learned last year that it can coast at times and it won't matter one bit in the postseason. Coach Doc Rivers came up with a formula that worked last season, so there's no reason to change that with everyone a year older. So, although the bench will probably turn some of last season's losses into wins next season, it will be nothing dramatic.
Jimmy Toscano, CelticsBlog (57 wins)
I'm going to try my hardest to not "Sheed" this prediction by shooting for a 72-10 season, but I do predict the C's will finish with a better record than their 50-32 mark last season. I'll say they finish with a 57-25 record for a couple reasons. First, health is the most important factor, and last season the C's clearly caught the injury bug. Kendrick Perkins' injury obviously doesn't help the issue this year, but the acquisitions of Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal should cover it. If KG can hold up, the Celtics will have a formidable frontcourt. Second, I'd like to think the sour taste of a Finals loss to the Lakers will fuel the C's and give them that little extra something to put them over opponents. We saw the C's sleepwalk through most of last season and still put together 50 wins. I don't expect that to be the case this season after coming so close to their goal and falling just short. They proved in the playoffs that, when healthy and driven, they can beat any team. Somebody just needs to tell them that the regular season does actually mean something.
Nick Gelso, North Station Sports (56 wins)
I am looking for a 56-win season from the Celtics. I feel that with the expanded depth of the front line, Kevin Garnett's (expected) full recovery, and the drama of the "Rondo-Leader" and "Sheed Laziness" now over, it seems the locker room divides are now a thing of the past. That is, if Shaquille O'Neal can keep his mouth shut and accept his role (I believe he will). I blame the divided locker room for more losses than the injury list last season. Add to this the Miami circus hype, and the "last go-round" with this unit will further help to unify this team.
Jay King, CelticsTown (52 wins)
The Celtics could challenge for 60-plus wins if they cared. But they don't. To them, the regular season is nothing more than an 82-game training camp. If they can enter the playoffs healthy, I truly doubt they care whether they're the eighth seed or the first seed.
Brandon Paul, Gino's Jungle (52 wins)
Last season, the team struggled for multiple stretches and still came away with 50 wins. With a better bench, the C's should improve on last year's mark. At some point during the year, they will also have to work Kendrick Perkins back into the lineup, so don't be surprised if they struggle a little bit during that time. Instead, just hope they can put everything together in time for another run at Banner 18.
What's your take? Leave your Celtics' win total forecast in the comments section. Coming Tuesday: What seed will the Celtics earn for the 2010-11 postseason?
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