Boston Celtics: What the Team Could Do to Make a Playoff Run
Just last year, the Boston Celtics were talking about a championship. The Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were joined by almost-full-fledged star Rajon Rondo, and the quartet was ready to make one last run.
And then things went horribly wrong. The storied franchise made mistake after mistake, not quite blowing up the roster, but definitely not keeping it together.
This time last year, the Celtics looked like they had it in them. The hunger was there, and the excitement was mounting.
This season? The team is 4-5 and the lockout-shortened season is already taking its toll. Boston has not played like an elite team. Instead, they have looked old and a step slow.
So how did we get here in less than a year? And more importantly, what can be done to fix the situation?
Here are some practical and some not-so-practical moves that the Celtics front office should really consider.
Get Kendrick Perkins Back
The Boston Celtics' obvious and most costly mistake was trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green.
Perk was the Celtics’ defensive anchor in the middle. He was a great teammate who energized everyone around him and hustled on every possession for Boston.
Even if Green were playing for Boston this season, the trade still makes no sense. Green was not the type of player the Celtics needed.
He was not assertive enough to slash to the basket—something the team sorely needs help with—and his personality seemed too reserved to bond with the team.
I would bet quite a bit of money that if Boston had the Perkins trade to do over again, they would not pull the trigger.
Perkins was the type of player whose value became clearest when he was gone. When he was injured in the 2010 playoffs, the team stumbled and eventually lost in the Finals. When he was traded away, the Celtics limped to the end of the season without fire or drive.
Don’t Anger Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is a great player. But if he has any kind of personal problems, his production will disappear.
When his name was mentioned in trade talks two years ago, Rondo was in such a funk that he was barely even noticed on the court.
When Kendrick Perkins, his best friend on the team, was traded, Rondo slogged through games, looking completely emotionless.
Something Boston should undoubtedly know by now: Rajon Rondo is the most important player on the team. He is young, he is the future of the franchise and he is singlehandedly continuing to make the Big Three relevant.
Something else Boston should know: Rondo takes everything personally.
Yet another thing Boston should know: The team absolutely, positively should not mention Rondo’s name in trade rumors unless he is absolutely, positively going to be traded.
And of course, they already broke rule number three.
Rondo is in for a monster season if he has his mind on the game. He could average 12 assists per game. I think he could average 15 if he wanted to.
Rondo can be a bit of a headcase, but he has found a home in Boston, flourishes there and loves the city, the fans and his teammates.
Please don’t mess that up, Danny Ainge.
Making a Trade Splash
Shaquille O’Neal? Really? That was the Boston Celtics' marquee signing last season? When he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009, there were major questions about how effective he would be and how well he could team up with LeBron.
When he signed with the Celtics? Why bother? Yes, he played better than expected in the first few months of the season, but everyone knew he couldn’t last 82 games.
So what can be done? Boston needs to make a big move. The roster as it is now is clearly not winning games.
I hear there are at least two centers in the NBA who might be looking for new homes. If the Celtics could get Dwight Howard (a long shot, true) or DeMarcus Cousins (possible), they would be taking great strides towards replacing Kendrick Perkins.
Either player would also be an important building block for the franchise’s future. Rajon Rondo paired with a dominant center would be fun to watch.
Regardless, the Celtics need to do something big. They need a star or at least someone who can put up numbers and take charge of a game every now and then.
The Big Three are not the dominant force they once were. They need help.
Trust Younger Players
The NBA Draft appears to be just a formality for the Boston Celtics. They send someone to New York, take a quick glance at the draft board and then, when it is their turn, draw a name out of a hat to select who will sit on the bench wearing Celtics green next season.
In last year’s draft, the Celtics selected JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, who both played for the Purdue Boilermakers.
Neither is playing more than four minutes per game this season. Their youth should not be a problem, as both were seniors when they turned pro. Johnson and Moore are ready for life in the NBA.
Avery Bradley was the Celtics' selection in the 2010 draft. He has increased his minutes per game to a whopping 9.4 this year, but he's still not doing much.
When these young players get a chance, however, they contribute.
When Moore was allowed to play an outrageous six minutes in a game against the New Jersey Nets, he scored five points on 67 percent shooting, including hitting the only three point shot he attempted.
Bradley was entrusted to play 23 minutes in the same game against the Nets and responded by scoring 11 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and recording two assists and two steals.
Maybe these players haven’t fully grasped the offense yet, but the least Doc Rivers could do is try to play them and see what happens. He might be pleasantly surprised.
Pick It Up on Defense
The Boston Celtics of years past have been known for their defense. But then the team traded Kendrick Perkins, and things have begun to go downhill.
Last season, Boston was second in the league in defensive efficiency. This year, they’ve dropped all the way to 19th. Quite a big fall in just a few months.
The lack of defense by the Celtics signals a number of things: how important Perkins was to the team, just how old all the players are getting and how much of a toll the shortened season is taking on players’ legs.
The one standby that an old, wily team like Boston should have is lockdown defense.
It should be heartening for the Celtics to remember that the season is still young. New players are still adapting to the system, and everyone is getting their basketball legs under them again.
With Doc Rivers still at the helm and veterans still leading the charge, Boston’s defense should pick up considerably as the season progresses.
Find the Fountain of Youth
Probably the most helpful of my many suggestions for the Boston Celtics is to somehow reverse the aging process.
An easy task? Of course not. But if a team is committed to winning a championship, they should stop at nothing to get there.
Maybe Kobe Bryant can hook them up with his German doctor. That guy could move some platelets around, mess with DNA a bit and BAM! The Big Three would be as good as new.
Boston needs to start winning with authority. Two eight-point wins against the middling Washington Wizards is not good enough.
The Celtics should be trying to beat every team by 30 points so that their starters can rest. Furthermore, when the starters rest, bench players will get more minutes and hopefully prove to Doc Rivers that they deserve more meaningful playing time.
Boston has one of the oldest teams in the league. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are all in their mid-30s. The more rest these players can get, the better.
If the Boston Celtics cannot start scoring more points, they will not win many games.
The Celtics are allowing more points on the defensive end than they are scoring themselves, and that is not a recipe for success.
But Boston’s defense is not to blame this time. The Celtics are seventh in the NBA in points allowed with a 92 points-per-game average.
Their offense, on the other hand, is averaging a mere 91 points per game. The team’s reliable scoring options have disappeared.
Paul Pierce is averaging his lowest point production since his rookie season. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are both under their career scoring averages.
Rajon Rondo is picking up some of the slack, but not nearly enough.
For a few years, the Celtics have needed to acquire a slashing wing scorer. Each year, they have made a deal or two and come away with a player who is decent, but not nearly what they need.
Jeff Green is a good player, but Boston needs someone like James Harden or Rudy Gay or Paul Pierce three years ago. The team needs a player who can score and create his own shot.
Rondo cannot be the only offensive initiator on the team. The Celtics must find scoring and find it soon.
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