Boston Celtics Prepared to Go Down with the Ship
The Boston Celtics' season is becoming more lost by the day, and GM Danny Ainge seems perfectly fine with that.
Even though star point guard Rajon Rondo is lost for the season with a torn ACL and the team just lost rookie Jared Sullinger to back surgery, Ainge spoke of the team's intentions for the rest of the season to local radio station WEEI, and Greg Payne of ESPN Boston had the full story about how the Celtics won't seek help at the point.
"Well, not right now. There's a lot of reasons why we're not just jumping out and doing something right now," Ainge told WEEI. "I mean, there really is nobody that you're going to find to replace Rondo, obviously, through trade or through free-agent acquisition at this time of year with our (financial) inflexibility. But I think that we like the guys (we have). I mean, (Leandro) Barbosa's been dying for a chance to play and Jason Terry and Avery (Bradley are) playing some more point position. I think all of those guys are looking for an opportunity, so I think it's a chance for us to see those guys play without Rondo playing and just see what they're capable of doing."
Um...excuse me? Last I checked, the Celtics are on a three-game winning streak and the No. 8 team in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, they're three games ahead of the No. 9 Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston also ranks seventh in points allowed, so it's clear that they can still make the playoffs so long as they stay committed to defense. Instead, Ainge is content to let the ship sink and play musical point guards with the aforementioned players, none of whom are as strong a floor general as Rondo.
The Celtics simply cannot afford to do that. Losing Rondo is one thing, but losing Sullinger is a different kind of monster. The team now has two gaping holes, one at the point and another in the paint.
Losing Rondo is huge, as the man was averaging 13.7 points and a league-best 11.1 assists, but head coach Doc Rivers also has Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on his roster. Though slowing down with age, both men are great at creating their own scoring opportunities. At the point, they just need someone who can get them the ball, and they can take over from there.
Sullinger, believe it or not, is the greater loss. Despite his inexperience, he has good size at 6'9", 260 pounds, and plays a great low-post game. If Kevin Garnett ever needed a rest, Sullinger could be called upon to spend some time in the middle.
This is because at age 36, despite still being a fine defensive presence, Garnett can no longer play the same extended minutes like he used to. With Sullinger gone and Ainge unwilling to make a move, Rivers has no choice but to rely on a generally disappointing Brandon Bass and a streaky Jeff Green.
The saddest part of it all is that there are players available at both positions who could help the Celtics, but only if Ainge starts trade talks with their respective teams. Guys like David West, Mo Williams and even former Celtic Al Jefferson's contracts all expire this year, so taking any of them on would not create a financial burden, which Ainge clearly fears.
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Look, I understand where Ainge is coming from, even though the Celtics are currently on a winning streak. The Celtics have been underachieving just one season after coming within a game of the NBA Finals, and it's frustrating to see them play so poorly. However, it's not worth it to break the bank for a rental player and hope that the trade moves them up a few spots in the playoff race.
Is Danny Ainge's approach the right one?
But that was before two of the Celtics' key players suffered season-ending injuries. If the team was underachieving before, the ship is sinking now. And Captain Ainge appears ready to go down with it as opposed to trying to stop the water that's being taken on.
He simply must realize that Boston still has something to play for, even if it means fighting a tough uphill battle that may end with the team getting badly knocked down. Otherwise, he will sign his name to an ugly chapter in Celtics history, one that fans would rather soon forget unless action is taken now.
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