Could Doc Rivers have a much different group of players huddled around him in just a couple weeks?
A winning streak makes everything look better—or does it?
In the case of the Boston Celtics, it’s helped to mask the pain of losing its franchise point guard to injury. It’s most likely also given general manager Danny Ainge a bit of indigestion, as he sees the trade deadline looming and a roster that can go either way.
Quite frankly, it might be fitting for their starting lineup intro music to be “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
Clash songs aside, when it comes to blowing things up and starting over again, there are compelling reasons on both sides of the argument…
Let’s say Rajon Rondo comes back reasonably intact at some point next season. Let’s say Ainge can parlay just one of his mega-contracts (Kevin Garnett? Dare I say Paul Pierce?) into cap flexibility, a high draft pick, a big with an upside, a Josh Smith-type or, well, even Josh Smith. Let’s say Jared Sullinger continues to show us something and Jeff Green decides to live up to his contract.
Let’s say even most of that happens. All of a sudden, the Celtics are slight favorites in the Atlantic Division next season. All of a sudden, a favorable seeding gives them home court advantage for at least a round and opposing players urinate a bit in their shorts over the prospects of facing this playoff-tested squad.
Just eight months ago, a very similar-looking Celtics team was just a game away from knocking off the eventual champs in the Eastern Conference finals. Therefore, perhaps we shouldn’t count them out from another run just yet.
The Brooklyn Nets moved to Jay Z’s backyard and subsequently went on a shopping spree which looks like it’s finally starting to pay off.
Those are four teams all trending upward beyond this season, even if they simply stand put.
Meanwhile, dong nothing could mean going nowhere in Boston.
The Celtics’ roster, as currently assembled, is the devil that they know. There is no guarantee tearing it all down will ultimately build a bigger, stronger foundation.
Yes, it worked in 2007 when the C’s were fresh off a dismal 24-58 campaign—its worst in a decade. That summer, it had arguably the most successful offseason in NBA history, snagging Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in trades, then sprinkling in proven veterans Sam Cassell and Eddie House for good measure and, voila! You’ve got a mind-boggling 42-win improvement en route to a title.
But for Ainge to try and catch that 2007 lightning in a bottle again is like Paris Hilton, well, expecting to catch 2007 relevance in a bottle again.
Plus, for every 2007 Celtics, there are the 2008 Detroit Pistons.
That year, fresh off a run which saw them make six consecutive Eastern Conference Championship appearances, they decided to toy with the formula and traded its heart and soul, Chauncey Billups, for Allen Iverson. They subsequently won 20 fewer games.
Needless to say, Iverson was not the answer.
So this is around the time when the hate comments start piling up from the Bostonians, anointing me Bleacher Report’s worst ever writer (and yet you still read my articles, you poor gluttons for punishment), while declaring me a stupid, biased Philly fan. Hey, I may not be smart, and I might be a biased Philly fan, but…I don’t know. You got me, I guess.
But ball don’t lie and neither does the math. Three of Boston’s top four players are on the wrong side of 35. Of the players over 25, it can be argued that only Rajon Rondo has yet to hit his ceiling, and he recently suffered a devastating knee injury which could, in fact, force a premature ceiling.
Of the players under 25, it would be a stretch to say that the Celtics can build its next dynasty around the nucleus of Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Perhaps, but some additional youth infusion is most likely required.
Because, you know, they’re old.
(Now let the hate comments commence! Make sure to spell check this time!)
Garnett is locked into a contract which won’t expire until shortly before he turns 39 and it looks like he’ll veto any trade that doesn’t ship him to an L.A. team anyway.
Nobody in their right mind wants to take on Jeff Green or Courtney Lee’s bloated contracts, both guaranteed until 2015-16.
Jason Terry, himself in his mid-30s, has regressed statistically for the past five years.
The aforementioned four make up a total of $97,035,000. That’s some serious coin.
Could Ainge find a sucker—uh, someone, to take on one of those hamstrung salaries? Perhaps. Two? Unlikely. More? No shot. Which means, at the end of the day (which in this case would be Feb. 21), Boston wouldn’t have put much of a dent into its hamstrung salaries. Plus, Doc Rivers doesn’t seem to think it will happen, either.
Which means that they’re essentially back to where they were anyway.
As it stands right now, before this offseason even begins, the Celtics are ALREADY $12 million over the cap for NEXT season! That means even one move this summer requires more maxing out of the platinum card.
Even two seasons from now, they’re on the hook for $52 million, earmarked for six players, plus an additional $2.7 in team options for two more.
Three seasons from now—three seasons!—and they’re still locked in for a cool $15 million and $4.5 million more in options.
Remember when I said the Celtics probably can’t blow things up? If they want any type of cap flexibility in foreseeable future, it better not be for lack of trying.