Danny Ainge has been a busy man since the end of the Celtics’ season.
He has worked to make sure Doc Rivers returns for one more year as the head coach.
He worked to re-sign Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, all the while maintaining some spending flexibility for the remainder of the offseason and for future seasons.
Ainge locked in Rivers, Pierce, and Allen, all for at least one more year, and kept the core of a championship team together for one more run—And he did all of this without the need for a one-hour infomercial to glorify himself or any of the players involved. How about that?
Credit has to be given to all parties involved. Rivers, who had a sincere desire to spend more time at home watching his children excel in sports, honored the last year of his contract and decided to return.
Ainge was loyal to Rivers in 2006 and ’07, and River was right to reward that trust with one more season.
As for Pierce and Allen, they did what we wish athletes would do more often—they made decisions that appear based on something other than salary. And both made the correct decisions.
Pierce, who was set to earn $21 million next season, opted out of his contract and in return, he has security for the next four years at roughly $15 million per season. The four-year deal also likely guarantees that Pierce, who will be 33 by the time next season begins, will retire a Celtic.
Ray Allen was reportedly recruited by some of those big name free agents we are all tired of hearing about. He didn’t want to play their waiting game, and chose instead to return to Boston for a two-year deal at $10 million per season, with the second year being a player option.
Allen said all along, he wanted to stay in Boston. But he also made nearly $19 million dollars last season. With all the money teams have to spare this offseason, and with all the three-pointers Allen has made in his career, it is likely some team out there would have given him more money.
Ray, though, didn’t wait, didn’t drag the process out. He wanted to be in Boston, was reasonable about his contract demands, and signed to stay a Celtic, with the deal being announced on the first day deals could be signed.
Good job all around.
Then why am I still not sold on the 2010-11 Celtics, and why do I know that Danny Ainge still has a great deal of work to do.
That is because the goal is to win a championship. Every year, that is the goal for Boston, but it will be particularly so next year. Rivers, Allen, and Pierce stuck around in part out of loyalty, but in part to make one more run at a championship.
They won one in 2008 and were real close in 2010. All involved know that 2011 will likely be their last shot.
Even with all Ainge’s moves to bring back the team’s key ingredients, all Ainge has accomplished has been to keep the team relatively even from last year. Considering the age of Pierce, Allen, Kevin Garnett, and the injury to Kendrick Perkins, staying even won’t bring a championship to Boston in 2011.
Moving forward, there have been two noted additions. First, Ainge drafted Avery Bradley out of Texas. That was a good first step for Ainge this offseason, especially if Bradley proves to be a versatile player and can come in at either point or shooting guard.
And earlier today, Ainge made another move official, signing the 31-year old Jermaine O’Neal. I point out O’Neal’s age because in the playoffs this year, when he was with the Heat, O’Neal looked to be a player much older than that.
Thus, you can see why I am not too excited about that signing.
Best case scenario, O’Neal matches the output Boston got from Rasheed Wallace in the postseason. If that is the best case, then it is difficult to see how O’Neal brings the Celtics closer to a championship.
I like signing Jermaine O’Neal better than the other rumored options—Shaq or Kwame. That, however, clearly is not saying much, and Ainge must continue to work to fill out the bench with players that Rivers can rely on in any situation.
There are two areas that concern me the most.
The first is added front-court depth, even for when Perkins comes back. I’d like Ainge to find an athletic big man who can run the floor with Rajon Rondo and finish at the rim when Rondo drives and dishes.
The other area that is just as pressing, if not more so, for Boston to fill is finding someone to step into the role played by James Posey in 2008.
Remember that Posey did not put up huge numbers for the Celtics. He was though someone Rivers felt comfortable playing at any point in any game. He could defend multiple positions, could knock down open shots, and maybe most importantly, he could give Paul Pierce a rest.
Pierce looked tired at the end of each of the last two postseasons, and not coincidentally, the Celtics have not had anyone on their roster the last two years to really give him a breather.
Ainge did not replace Posey in 2009, and the Marquis Daniels experiment did not work this past season.
Where exactly does Ainge turn?
I am not exactly sure, and I do not for a second pretend to fully understand the various and numerous restrictions and limitations on NBA contracts. I will just say that Ainge needs to get creative.
Players to keep an eye on could be old friends Ryan Gomes or Leon Powe, former Boston College star Craig Smith, Miami's Joel Anthony, or maybe get on the phone with the Golden State Warriors to discuss Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow (especially if the Warriors sign David Lee).
Ainge did his part in bringing Rivers, Pierce, and Allen back. Don’t stop now Danny. Those three came back for one more run; the fans expect the same.
By any means necessary, do what you have to in order to reward them for coming back. And also to get the horrid taste out of my mouth that remains from Game Seven.
And if I may offer one comment about the entire LeBron James saga: no professional athlete of his, or close to his, stature has ever done more to turn people against him, short of breaking the law or other scandalous activity, than LeBron James has done to harm himself in this free agency process.
Other writers have written it much better than I could, but regardless of what he chooses tonight, he has proven, once and for all, that his ego is too big for his own good and that he cares more about attention than he does about basketball.
If he goes with Cleveland, he basically made a team and a city beg to keep him and put them through hell for two years as he made them all fear he would leave. His actions look even worse in comparison to Kevin Durant’s quiet, understated resigning yesterday with Oklahoma City.
If he chooses Miami, well then, he has shown he doesn’t believe he has what it takes to lead a team to a title and would rather just rely on other stars. He wants a title, but doesn’t want to put forth the effort necessary to get one. He wants a shortcut to a championship, a short cut to a place next to the other all-time greats.
I don’t believe there is such a shortcut to basketball immortality, and all I can say is that from now on, I will certainly be rooting against James in his attempt to get there.