What the Celtics Need This Offseason
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When the Boston Celtics snuck out of Miami with a 94-90 win over the Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, one last run to the Finals seemed reasonable.
Then LeBron James turned into Chris Mullin in NBA Jam in Game 6 and the Celtics ran out of gas seven minutes from the finish line in Game 7.
Now, almost certainly, the Celtics core group will break up like a boy band whose members just turned 25.
The Celtics are in an NBA limbo: Garnett and Pierce have enough juice in them to keep Boston a legitimate, top-4 team in the East, which makes strapping C4 to the team and blowing them up like the Kingdome in Seattle a bit premature.
But the Heat are only going to get better while the Celtics are only getting closer to being put out to pasture. With the most important Celtics offseason since they acquired Garnett and Allen upcoming, hope springs eternal.
Get a Quality Wing Defender
This is the face of the enemy.
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If the 2012-13 regular season is a level on Super Mario Bros., LeBron James is Bowser waiting in the playoffs.
Now that he's put the critics and the monkey (really, more like King Kong) off his back by winning his first NBA Championship, he's only going to be tougher to beat in the playoffs. In order for the Celtics to be able to get past the Heat, they're going to need somebody to contain James— or at least provide some resistance.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, right now (if they resign the players they should) the options they have include:
Somebody who will be 35-years old next season with a history of bad knees—including this postseason (Paul Pierce).
Somebody who is coming off heart surgery that caused him to miss the entire season (Jeff Green).
Somebody who has been as fragile as porcelain over his career, playing in more than 70 games just twice in his nine-year career (Mickael Pietrus).
The options are not spectacular, either. Gerald Wallace is an unrestricted free agent, but has had some health issues, as well. In the draft, Quincy Miller from Baylor should still be on the board late, but he's coming off ACL surgery that caused him to lose a little quickness and has a frail frame that would cause James as much resistance as plywood to Jet Li.
If Terrance Jones is still around at pick No. 21, he would have the right body to guard James, but would need to improve his quickness to keep up. Also, if Royce White is still around, he has the right body (6-foot-8, 260 lbs) to at least make James work for his points.
Let Ray Allen Walk
Look at those calves!
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Nobody likes a breakup.
Well, some do, because a Kardashian breakup does wonders in the ratings.
But Allen is a rare professional athlete that's nearly impossible to dislike. He acts like a professional on the court. His work ethic is well-chronicled—has there been a nationally broadcasted Celtics game that didn't involve the shots of Allen shooting hours before the game?
But sometimes, you have to let go. Even it means after you break up, there are rumors that they're going to just start dating the smart, attractive architect who lives in South Beach.
I remember where I was when he broke Reggie Miller's record. There hasn't been an open Allen three-pointer that didn't have me sit up straight and say "Ray Ray!" as he lifted up into that beautiful shooting motion.
However, during the regular season, the Celtics went 15-4 without Allen in the lineup. With the emergence of Avery Bradley playing alongside Rajon Rondo instead of behind him, the Celtics have the potential for a quality backcourt for years.
And to bring back Allen for two more years (he wouldn't take a one-year deal), means that every stretch of minutes Allen is on the floor is taking away from progress Bradley could be making.
Let Bradley take over the starting shooting guard position, grab some free agent shooting guard to come off the bench (Landry Fields, Rudy Fernandez, Shannon Brown, Gerald Green) and tell Allen it's been a lot of fun.
No hard feelings. I just want you to be happy—just not with that architect from South Beach.
Get Somebody Who Can Actually Grab a Rebound
Anything is possible.
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Last season, the Celtics finished dead last in the NBA in total rebounds—a full two offensive rebounds behind second-worst Golden State, middle of the pack in defensive rebounds and in the bottom third for opponent's offensive rebounds allowed.
There are few things more demoralizing than the Celtics playing great defense for 22 seconds, forcing a terrible shot late in the game, only to have the other team get an offensive rebound.
And it felt like it happened all the time!
Most likely, the Celtics will re-sign Brandon Bass, who averaged six rebounds a game, to remain their starting power forward. While Bass is wonderful at hitting the 15-18 footer, he's not exactly a bruiser in the box to grab a key board.
And if Garnett realizes that not playing basketball seems as foreign to him as not talking all 48 minutes of the game, he'll come back to Boston. But even he only averaged eight rebounds a game and his knees will only get worse which means he'll have to sit out a little more.
There's Roy Hibbert in free agency, but he'll cost a lot coming off an All-Star season and it would not be a good first impression for new Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard to let his best player go.
There's Chris Kaman, who, despite having his ESPN photo looking like he's a character in Breaking Bad, would require a lot of money for a back-up.
If the Celtics are willing to spend for a big, why not go after Kris Humphries?
After you get over the fact that his official website and ESPN profile is below the links to his TMZ profile and gossipcop.com on Google, he's proved he's a quality rebounder who could benefit from playing alongside veterans like Garnett and under Doc Rivers. Play him as the starting PF and draft a big with one of their draft picks.
And if they don't pick up Humphries, the draft does supply plenty of rebounding help. Fab Melo is supposed to be around in the draft and would provide a big presence in the paint as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
However, the 7-footer was more of a shot blocker (which the Celtics still need) than a rebounder, but the size dictates he's capable of it. And offensively, he'd be as valuable if Tom Gugliotta came out of retirement, but you know who else was pretty much a non-factor on offense? Kendrick Perkins—the guy who the Celtics won the Finals with as their starting center.
Then there's Jared Sullinger. Despite having a back that's as good as my dad's, if healthy he does provide a toughness inside that would provide some rebounding. He may play below the rim, but he has excellent anticipation off the rim and has a big frame to block out. It sounds like the same scouting report of Kevin Love. It would be a risk considering his back, but it may be a risk worth taking.
Hope Rajon Rondo's Jump Shot Continues to Improve
How has Rondo not earned a nickname?
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Quick Rondo question: Doesn't it seem like his frame and ability lend itself to some sort of nickname? The only explanation is that "Rondo" is such a perfect last name, that it becomes all he needs to be known by.
Rondo has improved as a jump shooter each year. However, according to hoopdata.com, his field goal percentage from 16-23 feet over the seasons have been: 27%(2007), 43% (2008), 40% (2009), 33% (2010), 41% (2011), 39% (2012).
Aside from his rookie season when he looked like he was shooting in those rims they have at a County Fair, he's hovered up and down.
The one thing I don't understand about Rondo is how he'll catch and shoot confidently one minute and be left wide open without even a thought bubble of shooting it. He'll be standing 17 feet from the basket with the defender five feet off him like Rondo's got leprosy, and he'll look everywhere on the court except for the rim.
In order for him to take his game to an even higher level, he'll need to figure out how to to make that 18-foot shot. With Allen most likely not coming back and Bradley not being a come-off-screens shooter, teams will end up packing in their defense against the Celtics.
Each offseason question seems the same: Will Rondo come back with a better jump shot? Usually the answer: Eh.
Balance Present and Future
Kids these days, right, Paul?
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Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers will have to find the balance of still playing for a title because Garnett and Pierce are on the final 100 meters of their career and having a plan for the future.
It's not an easy task. It's like taking a group of teenagers and a group of elderly guys, putting them in a room and asking them to start up a conversation.
When the Celtics were struggling last season, there were rumors that Ainge was close to sending Pierce to New Jersey. But this offseason will show where Ainge's mind is at.
If he goes out and gets Kaman or Marcus Camby, or trades their two draft picks, he's throwing all his eggs into one basket and tossing it off a skyscraper and hoping it survives.