The Boston Celtics depth used to be the difference maker for head coach Doc Rivers.
Two years ago, Rivers could point to the bench, pluck a player like he was playing Go Fish and basically bank on a performance that would push the Celtics over the winning line—or at least stop the bleeding.
Most teams (except maybe the Lakers) had no answer for it. The Celtics had their own Pandora’s Box of secrets. Rivers could go small. Rivers could go big. And that’s how the Celtics won their 17th banner with relative ease.
But now, things have gone pear shaped. For a team who used to have a steady hand when it came to all things roster-wise, the Celtics depth has become unbelievably shallow. In fact, it’s the biggest annoyance not named the Miami Heat to plague Danny Ainge’s mind since, well, forever.
In the past two weeks, the Celtics have noticeably become much worse. Amongst The Finals, Weiner, and the tedious comparison between LeBron James and Michael Jordan, things have become bad—actually, stressful is probably the better word.
First, a 39 year old Shaquille O’Neal pulled the trigger on a career that perhaps underachieved to some. That left Boston reminiscing but not sulking.
Second, Boston also saw center Nenad Krstic disappear overnight in a rather lazy deal on Ainge’s part to CSKA Moscow. That left Boston not only sulking, but scrambling as well.
So here’s where the Celtics stand right now: ‘Big Baby’ Glen Davis or the highway. Somewhere, Jermaine O’Neal falls in between those two great masses of weight.
Boston will, for next season’s sake, probably be all over free agency this offseason. Realistically, the Celtics are one of few teams not named the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls or Magic who are in serious need of improvement.
Although it will be a rare sight for fans, as Ainge hasn’t tested his recruiting skills since he brought Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston, it’s time for the Celtics to do something every rebuilding team must do and that’s to actually rebuild.
But then again, it won’t be easy for Ainge. Really, it’s unfamiliar territory for a team who has had the long end of the stick in terms of roster luxuries and depth. But the following options could make Ainge’s job a little easier, and the Celtics chances at an 18th title a little higher.
This time last year, Sasha Pavlovic was the one guy in the NBA that no one really wanted to commit to. He left Dallas in a rush. New Orleans never really worked out at all. And even after spending a handful of years in Cleveland, the Cavs weren’t all that interested in one of the leagues most underrated big men.
But that’s not to say the Celtics shouldn’t be.
Boston needs to wake up to themselves. Danny Ainge, too. The Celtics have seen the onion unravel at light speed in the past week, and it’s probably scared a lot of fans. But if Ainge steers away from literally reaching for the stars and taking his chances in free agency’s lucky dip draw, he just has to look around him, and notice that big men are available. But good luck telling Ainge that with the talent available in this year’s pool.
Pavlovic is looking for a home, though. And look at this! The Celtics are looking for a big man too. Someone who can lockdown the paint, and also help pave the way for the future behind Rajon Rondo seems perfect. If only the Celtics can keep Pavlovic away from Russia, or Europe entirely.
Boston really needs to get this Pavlovic contract sorted, now. Krstic walked to CSKA Moscow without so much as a whisper last week, and these overnight deals to foreign teams seem to be the entire craze in the NBA these days.
Pavlovic is big, sure. But he briefly knows the Celtics' system. He’s also 27 years old, and right now, looks as if he may head to Europe and never look back at the NBA—that’s if no one offers him some kind of serious dough. That’s what years of feeling out of place will do to a man. But the Celtics could change that and actually get more than they bargained for.
The Boston Celtics aren’t known for lavishly spending money on posh free agents. And after securing the NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks, Tyson Chandler may not even be interested in relocating, let alone to Boston.
But if it were to happen, it would solve a lot of Ainge’s problems. It may not solve his size problem entirely, that’s for sure. Yet it would guarantee another scoring threat, or at the very least, somebody who is athletic and talented to gel with Rondo’s fast paced style.
To me, this is like securing the Mickey Mantle Topps card as a kid. The chances of it happening are unbelievably low, but if you have the money, signing Chandler is a must, and that can of course be said for just about every other team who has a bank account and an ATM card.
Of course, Chandler’s unselfish game play is handy too. He had 15 points in Game 5 against the Heat late last week, but he also had five defensive rebounds, and is normally a distinct presence on the court with the right pieces around him (a la the Big 3). Whether or not Boston wants to spend this kind of money is a question, though. They do have it. But to say it is a long term move, is an answer best left up to Ainge.
This is where the Celtics size need is answered, big time.
Perhaps, it could be a dumb move on the Celtics part to take on a 30 year old player in Samuel Dalembert. It’s likely Boston are searching for somebody, say, a little younger – and with less mileage to his name. But Dalembert has his perks, so if the Kings surrender him after only two seasons, expect every second team in the Dwight Howard race to take a serious look at him.
Dalembert has the blocking ability that the Celtics have lacked. We saw little blocked shots against the Heat—a key problem against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, or in another case, Derrick Rose—and although Kevin Garnett is capable of containing layups, it’s a gamble to risk serious injury.
Offensively, though, Dalembert is stale. He isn’t the greatest jump shooter, and he’s definitely too large to drive to the rim consistently. Then again, those are sometimes the qualities of Big Baby too. If Boston wants to aim for that veteran presence for one more season, however, Dalembert makes perfect sense.
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