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.
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.
Paul Pierce continued to add to his (now we can say it) Hall of Fame resume last season. He played in 81 games — the eighth time in 11 seasons he has played in at least 79 games — averaging a team-high 20.5 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Pierce carried the C's at times in the playoffs, leading the team with 21 points a game.
Providing depth will again by fan-favorite Brian Scalabrine. After not playing a minute in their NBA title run in 2008, Scal played in all 12 playoff games last season for the injury-depleted C's, logging 5.1 points and 20.5 minutes per game.
Former Duke star Shelden Williams, with his fourth NBA team in just his fifth year in the league, will look to find the promise that made him the No. 5 pick in the 2006 draft.
Remember when many said Ray Allen was finished? Two years later the future Hall of Fame marksman has proven the critics wrong.
In his second season with the C's, Allen averaged 18.2 points a game and hit a team-best 199 3-pointers while playing a whopping 36.4 points a game. He now enters the final year of his contract.
The early offseason was dominated by rumors that point guard Rajon Rondo would not be back. There are still whispers that he could be traded, most notably for two-time MVP Steve Nash.
After averaging 11.9 points and 8.2 assists during the regular season, he upped it to 16.9 points and 9.7 assists during the postseason. More impressively, he notched 9.8 rebounds a game in the playoffs (up from 5.2 during the regular season), second on the team.
Eddie House remains Boston's top shooter off the bench. Last season, E. House tallied 8.5 points a game, hitting 151 of 340 3-pointers (.444, seventh best in the league).
Other than Wallace, the C's biggest offseason addition was Marquis Daniels. The swingman averaged a career best 13.6 points a game last year with the Pacers.
Rounding out the bench are oft-injured Tony Allen, second-year men Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens, and rookie second-round pick Lester Hudson.
Kendrick Perkins rarely provides a highlight-reel play, but the big man continues to provide a strong presence in the paint. Heading into his seventh NBA season, Perk averaged career-highs in points (8.5) and rebounds (8.1). But he is once again coming off a shoulder injury.
After exploring free agency, Glen Davis signed a two-year deal with Boston this offseason. After a decent regular season (7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds), Big Baby erupted in the playoffs (15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds) when asked to fill in at power forward for the injured KG. He will also see time at forward.
Wallace will also play some center, along with reserves Scalabrine and Williams.