With apologies to LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh, you’re just the latest not the greatest “Big Three”. The Boston Celtics beat you to it.

Boston Celtics Rajon RondoThe Boston Celtics, at least to this current generation of basketball fans, are known as the first franchise to align three stars and have it result in an NBA title. It was during the 2007 off-season when General Manager Danny Ainge teamed long time Boston great Paul Pierce with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Ainge pulled off two one-sided trades with Minnesota and Seattle/Oklahoma City to obtain the two pieces needed to get the Celtics back on top in the NBA.

Boston won the 2008 NBA title in six games over the Los Angeles Lakers but lost the 2010 series in seven games to LA. Even in the years in which they didn’t reach the championship round, the Celtics were still considered one of the elite teams in the league.

Age Issue

However Boston is hearing the whispers and the questions like; “When does a veteran-team become too old”? As it stands the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls, average age of 34 years and 260 days are the oldest team to win an NBA title. Using the Bulls for comparison sakes, if the Celtics were to win the 2011-2012 title they would be older but just by a few days. Another title is certainly possible, but is it likely given the emergence and success of “Big Three” in Miami?

Allen will be 36, Garnett 35 and Pierce will match his uniform number at 34 when next season begins. There have been older teams to make it to the finals like the Lakers of 2003-2004 but their two best players, Shaq and Kobe (Kobe and Shaq) were also among the younger players on that team.

Kevin GarnettBoston is putting a lot of faith in three players who have logged more minutes than many of their peers and have shown signs of wearing down over the past three years. In 2009, Garnett sat out the playoffs with a knee injury. This year Pierce was slowed by an Achilles strain while Allen suffered a bruised chest with both injuries coming in the physical series against the Miami Heat.

Then there’s Rajon Rondo who is the straw that stirs the drinks for the “Big Three”. He suffered with elbow and back injuries in the Miami series and there’s still a large section of the NBA fan base that believe if Rondo had been healthy, the Heat series may have had a different ending. Then there’s issue of the Boston bench. Shaq is gone, Jermaine O’Neal can’t stay healthy. Nenad Kristic has bolted to play in Russia and the Celtics won’t draft until 25th in the first round.

Still a Force

Even with the aches and pains and the encroachment of Father Time, the Celtics are a Top 5 team heading into the 2011-2012 season. However the road to the NBA title is much more difficult than ever before especially Miami’s “Big Three” and the young and improved Chicago Bulls. If Orlando finds a supporting cast for Dwight Howard, they too could be a factor.

There’s the belief that it’s better to trade sooner than later. But Ainge is of the belief that his guys can still win. They had the third best record in the NBA East last season (56-26) and were the best defensive team in the league allowing just 91.1 points per game. They were third in field-goal defense and fifth in guarding the shot from downtown.

A futures bargain?

There are six ‘single-digit’ futures favorites for the 2012 NBA season. NBA odds start with Miami  at 2/1 followed by Chicago as a 6/1 choice. Then it’s the Thunder, Lakers and Mavericks all at 7/1 rounding out the Top 5. The Celtics are lined at 8/1 while another perceived ‘old’ team, the San Antonio Spurs are 15/1.