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Sports

October 25, 2009

Celtics preview: Last year already forgotten

And it was a forgettable season, but Celts have reloaded and should challenge

Moments after Boston's early exit from the NBA playoffs last season — ousted by Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals — Celtics captain Paul Pierce made his feelings clear.

"I honestly believe we are the best team in the NBA when we are healthy," he said after the loss.

Four months later, Pierce was not backing down.

"I was just saying what I felt," he said. "People are going to say what they want to say about my comments, but I have total confidence in this ballclub."

The Celtics are no longer the defending NBA champions. That title is now held by the Green's archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Boston now returns to the renamed TD Garden as a team with unlimited potential, but plenty of questions.

Can Kevin Garnett stay healthy? Will age and miles catch up to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce? Do the C's have depth off the bench? Can they incorporate volatile Rasheed Wallace?

Positive answers, and look for "Beat LA" to be the call around Boston when the NBA Finals arrive.

Forward

Coming off a year in which he won Defensive Player of the Year, 2008-09 was a lost season for Kevin Garnett following a Feb. 19 knee injury. After a brief and unsuccessful four-game return, Garnett was shut down for the season and underwent surgery for bone spur in his knee.

But now, reportedly with a clean bill of health, the Big Ticket is back with a new partner in Rasheed Wallace.

Known as much for his propensity for technical fouls as he is for being a four-time All-Star, Wallace allows (in theory) Garnett to rest more during the regular season.

With all the questions around power forward, Celtics fans know old No. 34 will again be taking the court at the other forward.

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