How long can the Celtics stay together without falling apart?
There has been a great deal of roster turnover in recent years and, heck, one third of the Big Three, Ray Allen, has even left. But most of the makeover has been restricted to the supporting cast. The Celtics head into the 2012-13 season with the same starting lineup that finished last season. Kevin Garnett, 36, and Paul Pierce, 35 by the time the season starts, are back, still the faces of the team with Rajon Rondo.
One could also look at the Knicks' recent body of work, and recent roster transformation, and also ask when, if ever, will the Knicks take a real step toward becoming players in the Eastern Conference. When, if ever, will Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire be on the same page and help New York keep pace with the Miamis, Bostons and Chicagos?
Tonight's preseason game between the Celtics and Knicks at the XL Center will not shed much light on either team's potential. The Celtics are the home team, returning to the building where they used to play games that actually counted.
The Celtics played four or five regular season games at the then-Civic Center in 1975-1978, then three a season until 1995, when they left the old Boston Garden for the new arena, now known as TD Garden, and discontinued the relationship with Hartford.
In the post-Larry Bird era, the Celts struggled through the Chris Ford and Rick Pitino days. Jim O'Brien coached the team as Paul Pierce began to mature into a star, and then Doc Rivers took over in 2004. The Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2008 season, saw Rajon Rondo emerge as one of the league's most exciting playmakers and won their 17th championship.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are still looking for their first championship since 1973. In this era of stars aligning - the Big Three in Boston, the James-Wade-Bosh trio in Miami, now the Bryant-Howard-Nash get-together in L.A. - the Knicks have tried to make themselves a player behind Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
Last season saw Linsanity, but the team decided not to gamble on its staying power, and Jeremy Lin signed with the Rockets. Back are Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler and coach Mike Woodson, who was 18-6 down the stretch last season after Mike D'Antoni resigned. The Knicks' front office added more veterans to the mix this offseason, bringing in Jason Kidd, 39, Marcus Camby, 38, and Rasheed Wallace, 38, who sat out last season and was believed to be retired. Point guard Raymond Felton was also acquired from the Trailblazers.
The Knicks have made the playoffs the past two seasons, losing in the first round to the Heat in 2012, but it might be a reach to assume this collection of aging big names will actually lead to significant improvement.
The Celtics, having moved Garnett to center, are expected to have a starting lineup of Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley, who pushed Allen to the bench last season. The new key reserves are guards Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, with frontcourt depth presumably coming from rookie Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic, the second pick in the 2003 draft and, thus far, a complete bust. Also, Jeff Green, acquired in the 2011 Kendrick Perkins trade, will return after missing last season with a heart condition.
The Celtics have held things together since 2008, when they finished 66-16. They were 62-20 in 2009, 50-32 in 2010, 56-26 in 2011 and 39-27 last season, when they started 15-17 before going 24-10 down the stretch.