There is no one on earth who hates the Lakers more than I do. From the very un-masculine purple and gold uniforms to the egotistical jackass that is Phil Jackson, I hate everything that is associated with the Lakers. However, let me congratulate them on being handed, excuse me, winning another championship. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying they did not deserve it, but the Celtics did not exactly prevent them from getting enough free shots to fight their way back into the game. Congrats to a very good Lakers team that will be even better over the next five years or so.
Now the real reason for this article is because I realized something—the Celtics window to win Banner 18 is going to be put on hold for quite a while. The Celtics surprised everyone this year when they beat the Orlando Magic to advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. Everyone, myself included, figured they would beat Miami, and lose to Cleveland. However, they shocked the basketball world when they upset the heavily favored Cavs four games to two. Then, they dominated the highly overrated Magic four games to two (should have been over in four though).
However, now I ask everyone, do the Celtics have another run like this left in them? The answer is NO.
With the impeding free agent frenzy that is going to take place, the Celtics have to make a decision on 35 year-old Ray Allen. He is joining a star-studded free agent class and the Celtics need to decide if they want to bring him back and at what price. He is currently making almost $20 million per season and he would need to take an enormous pay cut in order to stay. There was speculation that Allen was going to be traded at the deadline back in February, but after the Celtics decided to hold on to the future Hall of Famer, he paid dividends by being their most consistent scorer for the rest of the regular season.
However, come playoff time, Allen was M.I.A for the most part. With the exception of Game 2 of the Finals, Allen was 4-30 from deep. He is one of the greatest shooters of all-time but he has clearly lost a step, so it will be interesting to see how the Celtics approach this situation. Due to the salary cap, even if Allen walks, the Celtics cannot afford to sign someone like Joe Johnson to be Allen's replacement. The only chance of the Celtics replacing Allen with a quality player is through a sign-and-trade. But I ask, are there many teams willing to take a 35-year old shooter who is getting towards the end in exchange for a young stud still in his prime?
The next big question the Celtics have is the health of Kevin Garnett. All season it looked like something was just was not right with KG's knee. He was limping up and down the court and even missed some time early in the season. When the playoffs came around, we saw a resurgence of Garnett that we had not seen since the '08 Finals. His defense was just as good as it had been in years and he was scoring at a much better rate.
KG is now 34 years old, and is about a year removed from knee surgery. At his age and with the amount of miles he has on those knees, its pretty clear he is not going to be getting any better. While he still has the same intensity he had when the Celts traded for him, he has definitely lost a step, although a lot of Celtics fans do not want to admit this. When asked about Garnett, Pau Gasol said that KG has lost a step and it sent Celtics fans through the roof. Obviously trading KG is out of the question, so the Celtics are going to have to find someone who can handle more minutes, as KG will need more rest next season. Whether that guy is Glen Davis or they somehow pull off a sign-and-trade for Amare Stoudamire, this issue definitely needs to be addressed.
The next big question is about the captain, Paul Pierce. Pierce has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can now exercise. While I think it is unlikely he will opt-out, I think the Celtics need to prepare as if he does. Pierce may be a drama queen, but he is not dumb. He realizes that the Celtics window of opportunity has closed and could you blame him if he wanted to cash in on one last big contract? Even if it is just to re-sign with the Celtics for a long-term contract, I think Pierce wants to look at all of his options, and he may consider opting out. Had the Celtics won the Finals, I think Pierce would have cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. However, with the loss, I think people are starting to question his leadership and legacy; I am not one of these people however. I think Pierce is a first ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best players to wear the green and white. We will have to wait and see what Pierce and the Celtics do about his contract situation.
Going into the Finals, the Celtics bench was a big question mark yet again. The likes of Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, and Tony Allen did not seem to compare to Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown (for some reason). While the Celtics bench outplayed the Lakers bench for the most part, the Celtics showed that this was definitely a weakness. Wallace was a solid reserve, but he is talking about retiring, so he will more than likely be gone next year. "Big Baby" and Nate Robinson (aka Shrek and Donkey) won Game 4 for the Celts but were not really a factor in the rest of the series. Tony Allen played great defense on Kobe and the Celtics could not have asked for any more out of Allen however, offensively he still remains a liability.
The Celtics need to upgrade their bench and I think a great start would be re-signing Nate Robinson because of the offensive spark he delivers. The question will be, does he want to continue to be a back-up? Glen Davis has built his game around hustle and is a perfect fit for Boston, but he is way undersized (height-wise) to be matched up against most power forwards and centers. While I know quality big men are hard to come by in this league, if the Celtics can find a solid back-up big man and re-sign the likes of Robinson and Tony Allen, then maybe the Celtics bench can be as good as it was in '07-08.
There has been a lot of speculation that Doc Rivers will "retire." In other words, he realizes that the Celtics are about to go through a rebuilding stage, and he does not want to be associated with the failure that may follow. Many reports say that he will go back to broadcasting for a couple years and then sign a big contract to coach somewhere with a contender.
There has not been anyone as critical of Rivers as myself however. I think this season said a lot about his coaching abilities. He had to build game plans around many different injuries, which I know every coach has to do, but I think Rivers did just about as good of a job as he could. KG, Pierce, Rondo, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Wallace all missed time with injuries but he was still able to make the Celtics a #4 seed in the East. On top of that, he did a great job drawing up a game plan in the playoffs knowing that Kendrick Perkins was one technical foul away from a suspension. Rivers has done an amazing job managing some egos in Boston such as Pierce, KG, Rasheed, Robinson, Posey, and some others. Whatever Rivers decides to do, I wish him the best and thank him for helping the Celtics win at least one championship in his tenure.
While I do not want to admit that this run is over, it seems to be exactly that. Unless the Celtics can pull off a miracle of a trade, I cannot see them getting back to the Promise Land any time soon. Unfortunately, we may be in for another dry spell similar to the one they had until they won in '08. This is going to be one of the biggest off seasons in professional sports history and I hope that the Celtics can make a splash. Those of you, who are thinking of adding LeBron James, please just get it out of your head because it is impossible. The Celtics do not have anywhere near what it would cost to bring a player of his caliber to Boston. I am hoping that they can pull off a solid sign-and-trade for one of the "B" free agents and bring in some complimentary players instead of bringing in a go to guy.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you think the Celtics are going to do this offseason and how it will affect their future. I am open to all possibilities. I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and ideas!