NBA Free Agents 2011: 5 Players the Boston Celtics Would Be Wise to Pursue
Back in the day, roster reconstruction was a much less cumbersome task. Player stability was established by the tradition of the now-reviled “reserve clause” in the basic player contract, which tied a ballplayer to his franchise in perpetuity. (Heck, Red Auerbach wangled a rotation player from Cincinnati in 1970 when the Royals’ coach Bob Cousy, who'd been retired since 1963, decided his team needed the ball-handling services of “Mr. Basketball” himself. You see, the Cooz was still Red’s property.)
So the original “Sixth Man,” Frank Ramsey, transitioned into John Havlicek; one day Cousy and Bill Sharman went into a tanning salon (in the ‘60’s, Abacus?) and walked out as Sam and KC Jones. And the band played on!
However, that pendulum of power has now swung a good bit in the opposite direction. (During his own free agency last summer, was D. Wade being paid by the Heat as a consultant and recruiter…or did it just seem that way?)
The current version of the Boston Celtics has reached that tenuous time in a title team’s tenure when the elite players are beginning to show some age, but would still seem to have enough breath left for one more go-round as a Top Banana, particularly in a shortened season.
The Big Three Plus One, along with a Bradley and the slighter of the O’Neals, are all under contract. Presumably, Jeff Green was not acquired for a mere 26-game stint—let’s assume they’ll find a way to keep him. The slick and versatile skills of Delonte West have been a nice fit and are worth retaining, maybe Marquis Daniels as well.
Add in the two rookies from Purdue University, but we still have some open chairs in the orchestra—not to mention the need for a decent center.
Who can fill the void?
How significant is a potentially shortened season to these decisions?
Well, wonder no more, because Abacus Reveals the five players the Boston Celtics would be wise to pursue.
The Second Unit
Carl Landry with Kobe
Harry How/Getty Images
Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets: an underappreciated young veteran out of Purdue, he’s a career double-figure scorer, though perhaps not the rebounder you’d like to have.
Leon Powe, Memphis Grizzlies: is a return to the Green possible, or were bridges burned?
Theo Ratliff, Los Angeles Lakers: in a reduced regular season, could he be this squad’s P.J. Brown?
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Milwaukee Bucks: if Marquis Daniels doesn’t return, they’ll need a big guard.
Juwan Howard, Miami Heat: see Theo Ratliff.
No. 5: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
DeAndre Jordan on Dwight
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The starting center of the most recent Celtic champions was mined from the fertile soil of Southeast Texas. Why not try again?
DeAndre Jordan, a 6’11” Texas A&M product out of the Houston area, is a three-year veteran just four years out of high school.
Perhaps still a project at the offensive end of the floor, Jordan ranked in the NBA’s top 10 in blocked shots as well as offensive rebound percentage. And he’s only 23 years old.
The drawbacks? Well, anything involving the LA Clippers gives Abacus cause for pause. Additionally, he’s a restricted free agent.
No. 4: Acie Law, Golden State Warriors
Acie Law keeps his cool
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Hey, no Aggie jokes allowed. Mrs. Abacus got her terminal degree from that fine institution in College Station.
Acie Law was instrumental in the resurrection of Texas A&M basketball under coach Billy Gillispie, wrapping up an impressive four-year career with a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2007 NCAA tournament.
“See the World” used to be the U.S. Navy’s recruiting pitch, but the NBA has provided that opportunity to young Mr. Law (five teams in four years). Thus, he’s never really had the chance to settle in anywhere.
With the return of West uncertain, Doc Rivers needs a backup combo-guard. With some nurturing, the 6’3” Law, a heady and slick player, could grow into that role.
No. 3: Kurt Thomas, Chicago Bulls
Thomas & Pierce, future teammates?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
A visit to Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe a year ago yielded Shaquille O’Neal—and we saw how that turned out.
Dare they make a return trip and another purchase this time around?
Kurt Thomas, now the NBA’s oldest player, has been an effective front-court swingman since Robert Parish was still playing.
Last season he was able to provide the Bulls, his eighth pro team, with over 20 minutes per game, including 37 starting efforts.
Especially in what figures to be a reduced schedule, Thomas will give Coach Rivers a dependable performer and another mentor for his rookie big man JaJuan Johnson.
They’ll keep him from two conference rivals, the Bulls and the revamping New York Knicks, who are said to be interested.
And he’s another kid from Texas (Dallas), to boot.
No. 2: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Crawford's sweet J
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
A fella can dream can’t he?
The very best pure shooter Abacus ever saw was a kid from Providence (both the city and school) named Joey Hassett. He played in something called the New England Catholic High School Tournament in around 1973 at the old Roberts Center at Boston College.
Back then, the only three-point shots on a basketball floor were being taken with the red, white and blue ball of the ABA, but this kid was launching and making shots from just inside half-court.
Hassett had that shooting touch, almost six-and-a-half feet of height and really not much else. Yet he parlayed that into five-plus NBA seasons.
Abacus thought of ol’ Joey Hassett’s shooting while watching Jamal Crawford in the playoffs for Atlanta this past spring. And Crawford can do more than just shoot!
A fella can dream, can’t he?
No. 1: Chuck Hayes, Houston Rockets
Kidney shot by Hayes?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Back to Texas we go. (Maybe Abacus shouldn’t have indulged in so much bar-b-q this weekend!)
Hardly a stat machine, Hayes did rate in the NBA’s top 10 in offensive rebound percentage and offensive rating during the 2010-11 campaign.
An undrafted free agent out of Kentucky, the 28-year-old six-year pro brings a hungry approach and a heady game along with his lunch pail to work every day.
Want a comparison? Think Big Baby Davis without the baggage (both literal and figurative).
Chuck Hayes reminds me of the kind of veteran player that Red always seemed to find a way to acquire back in those simpler times.