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A Boston Celtics preview

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A Boston Celtics preview J Pat Carter (AP)
Thoughts on the upcoming season

The 2012-2013 NBA season is upon us. After last year's lockout-shortened tilt, basketball fans can look forward to a full 82-game slate this time around. While the reigning champion Miami Heat is looking stronger than ever, there are a few teams out there that look poised to mount a challenge to wrest that title away.

The Boston Celtics are one of those teams.

This is a Celtics team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals last year against that same Heat squad; there's no reason to think that they can't make another deep run into the postseason.

Many of the franchise cornerstones are still in place. Power forward Kevin Garnett is still around; he might be a year older, but other than the usual wear-and-tear of aging, he is showing no real signs of slowing down. He might not be the powerhouse force on both ends of the floor that he was in his younger days, but he's still a productive player who can get it done on offense and put together some game-changing defense. The value of his veteran leadership cannot be overstated.

Paul Pierce continues his climb up the ranks of all-time Celtics greats. While his most dominant seasons might be behind him, he can still fill up the stat sheet, finishing just shy of 20 points scored per game last year. He is one of the most prolific scorers in Boston's history and warrants being part of the conversation with legends such as Russell, Cousy and Bird.

Point guard Rajon Rondo might be one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NBA. His breathtaking speed and remarkable court vision make him one of the most valuable and versatile weapons in the NBA today. He put up nearly 12 assists per game a year ago; it wouldn't be shocking to see 15 a game from him this time around. If he manages to come up with a half-decent jumper, he'll be close to unstoppable.

The departure of shooting guard Ray Allen from Boston was less than amicable, but Jason Terry should prove to be a more than adequate replacement. While Terry isn't quite the shooter that Allen is (who is?), he's younger and stronger than Allen. He brings a lot more to the table. Guys like Brandon Bass and Jeff Green also have the potential to be valuable cogs in the Celtics machine.

In addition, youngsters like Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger have the potential to be stars in the league; we can expect a certain degree of growing pains from the two rookies, but if they develop quickly, the Celtics could be looking at a formidable eight- or nine-man rotation.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has become one of the most respected in the game in his six seasons at the helm in Boston. He has the confidence of his players; they have definitely bought into his ideas. His leadership has been a key part of the team's success over the past few years; there's no reason to think that won't continue.

Are the Celtics good enough to overcome the dominant talent of the Miami Heat? Hard to say; Miami has some serious talent on their roster. However, there's no doubt that the Celtics will give them all that they can handle both during the regular season and if/when their paths cross come playoff time.

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