In 2004-05 the Celtics won the 25th division title in franchise history -- but it was their first crown since Larry Bird's final season (1991-92).
Record: 45-37 (4th in East) Points scored: 101.3 (5th in NBA) Points allowed: 100.4 (22nd) Coach: Doc Rivers (second season with the Celtics)
They're counting on their forward of the future to deliver right away
For Al Jefferson, at least, it was a special delivery. During a summer-league game in Las Vegas last July, the 20-year-old power forward drove across the paint and effortlessly dropped in a jump hook -- with his left hand. "The joke last year was that Al should cut off his left hand because he never uses it," says Boston coach Doc Rivers. "He's a fast learner who has a chance to be a big-time player."
The Celtics are asking a lot of the No. 15 pick in the 2004 draft, who was attending Prentiss (Miss.) High just 16 months ago. Not only must Jefferson develop into their star of the future, but he must also immediately fill in for the departed Antoine Walker. To pull all that off, the 6'10", 265-pound Jefferson will first have to stay on the floor longer than the 14.8 minutes he averaged as a rookie. "I could have played more, but I wasn't in good enough shape," says Jefferson, who believes he has improved his conditioning enough to average at least 30 minutes. "Coming into last year, I knew I could play. It was just a matter of me learning the game, and Doc and all the coaches were hard on me because they knew I could do it."
Jefferson's ability as an old-school low-post player will complement Boston's wealth of transition and perimeter scorers, especially in the fourth quarter when the young Celtics are learning how to win close games. "My bread and butter is in the paint. I love to be inside," says Jefferson, who was a second-team All-Rookie selection after averaging 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. "Doc also asked me to work on my face-up jumper, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with it. It's going to be really exciting to watch me this year." -- Ian Thomsen