My good friend Tung and I have spent many hours via email, texts, and face-to-face conversations discussing the NBA.
Since his move to Maryland this past summer, he has been depending on NBA League Pass to watch his beloved Celtics. I thought we should hash out the past and future of this Celtics team with an email exchange.
The Celtics are just about half-way through their shortened basketball season. It is very clear that this Celtics team has had two very distinctive sections of the first 30 games. They were awful to start the season. They looked old, tired, out of shape, and frankly, they were a non-contender.
After 29 games they have clawed back above .500. Their bench is a bright spot, which was not the case last year. Paul Pierce was rejuvenated after trade talks. Rondo's wrist is improving, even though his attitude is still as inconsistent as ever.
Tung, looking at the landscape of the Eastern Conference where do you think this Celtics team will fall once the season ends? Can they get into the top five? Is home court in any series out of the question? Which teams would you love to see the Celtics meet and which teams scare you the most?
I think the Celtics will have a tough time climbing over the Magic, Pacers, and Hawks. I would love a 6th place spot, because I think it could end up pitting the Celtics against the 76ers, a young team that might be overwhelmed with the playoffs. And who doesn’t love an old Philly-Boston match-up?
The young team that scares me is the Pacers. A 5th place finish might mean the Celts face the Pacers, a young team that learned the ropes last year in the playoffs, and have since added George Hill and David West.
What do you think?
Before going down the road of what the potential playoff picture looks like for 2012, Sean, I feel like we should first look at the oddity of this shortened season.
Statistically, we are seeing dips in critical categories on both offense and defense. Offensively, Zach Lowe from “The Point Forward” blog noted an increase in something bad and a decrease in something even worse: “So far this season, a full 71 players — up from 27 last season, remember — have logged a minimum of 200 minutes and clanked their way to a field-goal percentage under 40 percent. That is to be expected, with shooting percentage league-wide down about two percentage points. But the sheer number of guys missing a ridiculous numbers of shots — and still getting minutes — surprised me.”
How does this affect the Celtics? In every conceivable way. The Celtics average age is like 74 years old, which means any of our key players is likely to go down with some ailment at some point this season for some period of time. It’s inevitable, but fortunately, our team is proving to have a deep bench.
It seems to me, using the eyeball test, that the successful teams right now are ones with a deep bench (sans Miami). Look at Oklahoma City. Philly. Denver. Indiana. The Lakers…oh, wait. Not so much.
I think Boston is deep enough and strong enough to finish 4th. The homecourt advantage means nothing to this steely veteran team. Here is what I do think matters: if Derrick Rose gets hurt (like his current toe predicament), Chicago is porked. Who can Indiana really count on down the stretch to repeatedly score the ball? Atlanta is really not as good as their record shows — while their bench is strong, I think it’s a smoke and mirrors show that we are seeing; energy teams can’t win as energy teams. Dwight has already proven time again that he is unable to lead a team anywhere.
I am convinced that the Celtics will make it out of the first round but will struggle in the second. For a band on its last tour, that’s not terrible.
Philadelphia scares the bejesus out of me, mainly because they are like the Denver of the East but with loads more talent. Iggy has embraced his new role as playmaker and defensive stopper. The “Night Shift,” the affectionate talented bench led by Lou Williams, is so effective and difficult to stop at the end and beginning of quarters. But most of all, Doug Collins scares me. I think he will out-coach ANY team they face in the East. Miami, on the other hand, is just such a cohesive and dangerous team this year on both ends of the floor. There is no stopping them.
Any match-up is fine. I am convinced that the Celtics will make it out of the first round but will struggle in the second. For a band on its last tour, that’s not terrible.
I appreciate the optimism for an aging Celtics team that has played only 9 road games after a terrible loss to the Raptors after an OT loss to the Lakers.
If we look forward, the schedule is going to get tougher. They have a five-game road trip from February 16-28. However, in March the Celtics will head out West and play eight games in twelve nights. Can’t every pessimistic Celtics fan argue that the team has not really been tested yet, and that the shortened season is going to really have its toll on them in the next 5 weeks?
If you are Danny Ainge you have to be expecting some injuries to pop up. What do you do before the trade deadline on March 15? That date is right in the middle of their West Coast road trip.
Would you consider dealing Rondo? Do you sit tight and hope the team you have will win some games in the playoffs with defense, experience, and a good bench?
If I’m Danny here is what I do:
I shop Rondo around, I know he can deal with the rumors. I also know that this team seems to run pretty well without him. The Lakers proved that you can still leave him open and pressure him to shoot jumpers. I also know I don’t have to deal Rondo for a point guard anymore. I can think beyond "Westbrook for Rondo."
Ray Allen is another tempting player to move to another team. Could you get a team on the cusp of the playoffs to make a trade for a cold-blooded shooter? Could you involve a third team?
After spending time on the Trade Machine, I came across a few deals that are both speculative and fantastical, but its fun to dream.
Trade #1 Boston, Utah, and Golden State
Boston gets: Stephan Curry and Alec Burks
Utah gets: Ray Allen and Dorell Wright
G. State gets: Paul Milsap
Trade #2 Boston, Indiana, and New Orleans
Boston gets: Eric Gordon
Indiana gets: Trevor Ariza
New Orleans gets: Ray Allen
Guys I would love to see in Celtics uniforms: Anderson Varejao, Eric Gordon, Demarcus Cousins, and Greg Monroe.
Tung, if you’re Danny. What do you do to make this team better and competitive for a deep playoff run?
I think you’re right — the upcoming schedule on the road could make or break the seeding for the Celtics. But it could really determine where we sit in the rankings. Fortunately, the All-Star break will provide some rest for our guys, from there on out the gas pedal is essentially floored for the team.
The Rondo Conundrum Code is too difficult and irritable to crack. Apparently Rondo could be pissed off and sulking because of his All-Star snub in the wake of D-Will making it from the Nets. Who cares? Wake up and realize that you might be in the last year of a title window that has already been on borrowed time. This kind of arrogance, stubbornness, and immaturity make want me to ship his ass out.
Then he pulls a game out like last Sunday against the Bulls. 32-15-10 against one of the stingiest defenses in the league. For a $10 million dollar per year rate, how can you beat this?
But with the devil on my shoulders, I also realize that his $10 million dollar contract is potentially a gold mine. A young player just entering his prime with such a varied and unique skill set has so much to offer a Western Conference team looking for a legitimate floor general who will make others around him better.
What do the Celtics really need in return, though? We don’t need size to get out of the East. We need to be more athletic in the middle — our wings need to be fast, strong, play inside/out, stretch the floor, and play defense. How many guys fit the bill? Plenty, but none that come with a cheap price tag.
I like your trades a lot, but I think Gordon, Cousins, and Curry are all too valuable to their respective teams. None of them are worth letting go.
However, OJ Mayo could be our guy. His salary is just under $6 million, which means to give up Ray Allen the Grizz would give to toss in a few other things like draft picks and/or cash. I am not sure it could be made up, but I like the idea of giving up Ray for OJ.
I mean at this point, why not see if getting younger and more athletic helps? Why not see if guys like Pierce and KG can keep OJ’s head on straight? Why not see if a guy like OJ can blow up the Garden with electric dunks and moronic fade-away jumpers? Rondo would be guaranteed on ESPN each night with this wing on the floor.
For now, my untouchable players are: KG, Pierce, Bass, and Rondo (Rondo is barely hanging on by a thread and is at risk of getting pulled from this list.)
My near untouchables: Pietrus, Wilcox, Stiemsma, Allen.
Let’s talk building a team down the road. The Celtics have never signed a big name free agent, ever. Travis Knight is one of the most expensive signing the Celts have ever made. Don Nelson tops the list of players the Celts have acquired through free agency (I’ll let that sink in….)
This is clearly a problem. Cities like Miami, LA, and even New York are the places guys want to go. To rebuild, the Celtics have to make trades, they have to draft well, and they have to depend on signing cheaper free agents to build the roster.
Loyalty to Paul Pierce might make him the one untouchable, but I think if a good enough offer for anyone else comes along you have to take it.
I don’t know if you can have untouchables right now if you are Danny Ainge. Loyalty to Paul Pierce might make him the one untouchable, but I think if a good enough offer for anyone else comes along you have to take it. Don’t you?
The only thing that could draw a free agent to Boston is Doc Rivers and how much guys like playing for him. However, Doc was on the ropes the year prior to winning 2008 because he had a terrible team and people thought he was not very good at managing the game and rotation minutes.
I think that this trade deadline and draft are vital to the future of this team. That is how good teams were built in Boston in the past, and it will probably be how teams will be built in the future. Unless the weather gets warmer and the girls get prettier.
It’s funny to talk about rebuilding and attracting free agents. This is something that befuddles my mind and defies all sense of logic: Boston is a big market, they have been to two Finals in the last five years, and most importantly, the Celtics have a coach that literally everyone respects and likes. How is it, then, that they cannot attract big talent to free agency?
It’s simple: we’ve never had the money. If you think back to even Russell, most of our expensive players came from homegrown talent (draft picks) or via trades.
I am okay with this because through nothing other than empirical evidence, I am not sure how many TRUE franchise-type players over the years have been acquired in free agency and lived up to the hype. This is just off the top of my head over the last few years, but here we go:
- LeBron James to the Heat
- Steve Nash to the Suns
- Shaq to the Lakers
Am I missing a couple? Probably.
In thinking about Finals MVPs; Shaq and Chauncey Billups are the only guys since 1985 to win that award as a free agent to the team. Every other Finals MVP came as a draft pick to that team (even though Kobe was drafted by Charlotte, we can throw him into this category because he has only played in purple and gold).
Going backwards from 2011: Dirk, Kobe, Kobe, Pierce, Parker, Wade, Duncan, Billups, Duncan, Shaq, Shaq, Shaq, Duncan, Jordan, Jordan, Jordan, Olajuwon, Olajuwon, Jordan, Jordan, Jordan, Thomas, Dumars, Worthy, Johnson, Bird, then Kareem breaks it again in 1984.
What does this say? Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything.
Perhaps the value of buying guys in free agency doesn’t equate to the things you truly need to win, like getting players to buy in to a system.
Maybe you can’t buy talent that is going to be worth the price. Perhaps the value of buying guys in free agency doesn’t equate to the things you truly need to win, like getting players to buy in to a system that the coach and organization are trying to sell to its players. Maybe that's where teams win championships. Not during the summer signing frenzy, but during team camps. With veterans who work to get the young guys on board.
I couldn't agree more. I love the points about free agency; guys with high value get traded before they get to the end of a contract because GMs cannot face a fanbase that loses a star with nothing in return. Just look at Cleveland after LeBron left.
"Umbuntu" was the Celtics motto during their championship run. Trading for KG and Ray obviously helped their team improve also.
Maybe building a team is more than just getting a bunch of stars together.
Fan Hub Action
Marcy Kelly June 12th
Wow! I must have listened to a completely differnt press conference. Oh, wait- you convinently left off all of the good things they just got…
Nathan Devine June 5th
The dude is nasty. The fastball is REAL heavy at 97-100. Steady improvement every year.
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
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