Bynum key to the Howard deal for Celtics

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Bynum key to the Howard deal for Celtics

With a player as talented as Dwight Howard on the move, you had to know the repercussions would be felt throughout the entire NBA landscape - Celtics Nation included.

And while Howard's move out West certainly puts the Los Angeles Lakers back in the thick of the title chase (acquiring two-time league MVP Steve Nash to run the point doesn't hurt, either), Boston can't worry about what's going down in La-La land.

They've got bigger problems closer to home.

With the major offseason additions and subtractions by most teams just about complete, the rosters you see now are pretty much what you'll see when games matter.

That said, Boston had every reason to feel that defending NBA champion Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers were their biggest Eastern Conference obstacles in getting back to the pinnacle of the sport - the NBA Finals - and making one more run at Banner 18.

You have to add Philadelphia to the list now.

One of the residual effects of the proposed Howard trade is that it will send Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and ship out Andre Iguodala to Denver.

Such a move bodes well for Philadelphia on two fronts.

It gives them a much-coveted center in Bynum, and it alleviates the logjam of wing players that developed on the Sixers roster this past season.

Now all of a sudden, Philadelphia has the versatility to hurt teams in both a half-court set with Bynum in the post or pick-and-pop action with Spencer Hawes, in addition to getting out to run in transition the way they did this past season with the likes of Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner on the wings.

Boston's run atop the Atlantic Division - five straight years and counting - may be legitimately threatened for a change.

"I still see Boston as the team to beat in the Atlantic," said one NBA executive on Friday. "Philadelphia is better now, obviously. But Miami getting Ray Allen out of Boston gives them something they didn't really have last year, and that's quality, veteran depth. They're still the team to beat. Boston and Indiana have great depth as well. And everybody seems to be writing off Chicago. Big mistake. They'll be right there, too. Like I said, Philly's going to be better. But there's a lot of teams they have to get past, and I'm not convinced they'll do it."

Indeed, the depth of the Celtics, maybe more than anything else, is why they'll likely begin the season picked to win the Atlantic Division for a sixth straight season. And as Celtics Nation bemoaned the fact that Boston was so thin in the frontcourt last season, the C's have done what teams are supposed to do when you can't acquire a dominant big man like Howard or Bynum in their prime - add depth.

Kevin Garnett will begin the season as Boston's starting center. Behind him will be veteran Chris Wilcox. In addition, Boston drafted power forward Jared Sullinger (The C's have already said he will play some center) and center Fab Melo. Boston also signed another defensive-minded big man, veteran Jason Collins for added insurance.

While there's little dispute that Bynum is at worst the second-best center in the NBA behind Howard, his success has come in part by playing with all-star caliber talent in the frontcourt (Pau Gasol) and on the perimeter (Kobe Bryant).

He won't have that kind of talent around him in Philadelphia, so there are some concerns as to how effective will he be now that he has to shoulder a greater amount of the load in order for his team to be successful.

So, with most of the talk in the coming days centering around Howard being the latest great big man acquired by the Lakers (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal, to name a few), the C's could care less.

They have their own big-man issues to worry about.

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

The Golden State Warriors are the least of Tyronn Lue's worries, Cleveland Cavaliers coach explained Tuesday.

Even though Lue and the Cavs are up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is apparently overwhelmed with the Boston Celtics to the point where he isn't even thinking about Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the 67-win Warriors.

"We're just focused on Boston," Lue said of the Warriors following the Cavs' Game 4 win, via ESPN.com. "The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing."

No, seriously.

"Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s---," Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens' schemes. "I'll be like, 'F---.' They're running all kinds of s---, man. And Brad's got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It's tough, you know, it's tough."

Without Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics finished Game 4 with four players who had 15 points or more. They also had six players who scored double digits in Boston's Game 3 win. Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Al Horford have made heavy offensive contributions. And they not just scoring. The Celtics are working hard off the ball by setting screens and cutting to the hoop to pressure the Cavaliers defense.

The Celtics may not have the Warriors' star power -- but Stevens and Boston are still managing to leave Lue in a state of clear befuddlement after a win.

LeBron James praised Stevens more directly when discussing how the Celtics "run different things" after losing Thomas to injury.

"So they had to kind of reshape, and that’s the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach," James told reporters. "You’re able to reshape what you do offensively and still be in a good rhythm. It’s been challenging for us to kind of — plays out of time-out, kind of been killing us on ATOs and keeping us off balance, but in the second half we kind of got a little bit of rhythm, and think we’ll be better in Game 5."