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2012-13 Boston Celtics Preview

By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

(Sports Network) - The Boston Celtics' version of the Big Three gave it one last run.

They came up short and the band broke up.

After last season's loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics had some decisions to make. So too did Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Garnett, who enjoyed a great run a season ago when he was moved to the center position, re-upped with the Celtics for three more years.

Allen fled south to join the Heat.

The split didn't go over well.

"I don't have Ray's number anymore. I'm not trying to communicate with him," Garnett said at Celtics Media Day. "I'm just being honest with everybody in here. It's not that I wish him less than or whatever, it's just what it is."

According to several reports, the real rift on the 2011-12 Celtics occurred between Allen and Rajon Rondo. Whoever is angry at whom, Allen is gone, but the Celtics did well enough in their bid to replace the future Hall of Famer.

Jason Terry and Courtney Lee were brought in to duplicate Allen's production. Terry is one of the best bench players in the last 12 years and Lee was once an up-and-coming two guard.

They'll do fine and they weren't the only offseason acquisitions for the Celtics.

Jeff Green will be back after missing all of last season with a heart problem. Veterans Darko Milicic, Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox were either brought in or re-signed.

But the biggest reason for optimism in Boston might have come via the draft, where the Celtics landed Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Both should crack the rotation and could be steals as late first-rounders.

All in all, this was a pretty solid summer for a team a lot expected to be on the downswing.

"Danny (Ainge, President of Basketball Operations) and his staff did an amazing job," said head coach Doc Rivers. "When you are under the restrictions that we were under, if you had told me we'd end up with who we ended up with, I thought that would never happen. A lot of things had to happen for us."

2011-12 Results: 39-27, first in Atlantic; lost to Miami in East finals.

ADDITIONS: G Jason Terry, G Courtney Lee, F Jared Sullinger, C Fab Melo, C Jason Collins, C Darko Milicic

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Rajon Rondo SG- Courtney Lee SF- Paul Pierce PF- Brandon Bass C- Kevin Garnett

KEY RESERVES: G Jason Terry, G Avery Bradley, F Jeff Green, F Chris Wilcox, F Jared Sullinger, C Fab Melo, C Jason Collins, C Darko Milicic.

FRONTCOURT: Garnett is still a bully, but is the team's heart and soul, especially on the defensive end. He balked at playing center, but did wonderfully in the role. His playoff performance last season was spectacular. He averaged 19.2 points per game and 10.3 rebounds in the postseason.

Paul Pierce remains one of the best and craftiest scorers in the league. At 35, he's going to slow down, but he turned into an above-average 3-point shooter. Defensively, Pierce has always been overshadowed by Garnett and Rondo, but he's not bad.

These stalwarts are aging and kicked the tires on retirement. Well, that's according to their coach, who wasn't buying.

"Kevin told me that all year. That's a bunch of crap. I never believed it. I really didn't. I told him that all the time," said Rivers. "Paul wouldn't have retired. I saw his contract, and I don't think he was going to retire."

Brandon Bass became lethal shooting mid-range jumpers last season. He's an energy guy and you have to be when you have Garnett constantly yapping at you.

BACKCOURT: Rondo is a unique talent. Defensively, he's a gambler and a gamer. He'll defend quick guys like Russell Westbrook, or tangle with a burly LeBron James. Offensively, Rondo penetrates and kicks out better than anyone in the league. He's not a 3-point threat, but he's improved as a mid-range guy and his floater is sensational. The Celtics have become his team and he's absolutely fine with that.

Lee's been a double-figure scorer in the league. He's a consistent 40-percent shooter from the 3-point line, but not as good defensively as someone like Avery Bradley.

BENCH: Terry is a phenomenal bench player and will probably get the minutes in the fourth quarter, where he shines. Terry is intense and a perfect for the Celtics.

Forward Jeff Green has a lot to prove. He received a clean bill of health and a pretty healthy four-year contract. Green's numbers went down in his brief stint with the Celtics two seasons ago.

Bradley or Lee will contribute off the pine and so will the rookies. Sullinger had a back problem that hurt his draft position and Melo is an ideal bruiser off the bench who can block shots.

COACHING: If Rivers isn't the best coach in the league, it's because of Gregg Popovich's existence. Rivers is a master tactician and does a great job leaving his veterans, especially Rondo, Pierce and Garnett, to run the team.

He will have his first crack at a team without Allen and he has plenty of options. Rivers signed a long-term extension in 2011 and is invested in this team's future, which he can help build with Lee, Bradley and the two rookie big guys.

OUTLOOK: The Atlantic Division is much improved. The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets improved significantly in the offseason and the New York Knicks will get better with time.

The Celtics are older, but didn't lose that much with Allen's departure. Bradley took his starting job last season and Allen became more of a decoy and 3-point shooting specialist. This roster is deep and versatile. Rivers is an elite leader and Rondo has become a top point in the league. Garnett and Pierce haven't shown obvious decline.

The Celtics are still the favorite in the Atlantic Division. They have fewer question marks than the other contending teams in the division. A No. 2 seed in the East is within reach, but in the tough Atlantic, the third seed seems more realistic.

Boston can still even contend for the NBA title, but they have one goal.

"We have one target, and that's Miami," said Rivers. "Whatever happens out West, good luck. hope to see you. That's how we think about it. And Miami's improved as well. Getting Ray (Allen) made them a better team. Our division is tough. Listen, it's going to be a hard season for us and everyone else."

10/25 09:22:29 ET