When David Stern and Billy Hunter finally get around to allowing NBA teams to get about the business of basketball, the Boston Celtics will be picking up the pieces of a disappointingly one-sided second-round playoff loss.
The current evolution of the squad has both pundits and casual fans wondering if they’ve already peaked and are on the downside of the mountain.
With so much uncertainty abounding, what at this point can be reasonably expected from what now constitutes the Boston Celtics in whatever there might be of a 2011-12 NBA season?
Abacus reveals five realistic expectations for the Boston Celtics in 2011-12.
An undersized but uniquely skilled big man, not too far removed from Final Four fame, gregarious and sporting a cool nickname, plays reasonably well and becomes a fan favorite. But by and by, problems arise and his roster status is in jeopardy.
No, we’re not (yet) talking about Davis.
This was the status of a very young Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell at the time Mr. Auerbach was assembling the Original Big Three. His ball-handling and funky post game, which compensated for non-existent vertical leap or jump shot, forged an enviable NBA career.
But Max almost derailed it under the dubious wings of Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe before it even got started.
Is such a turnaround in the cards for young Mr. Davis?
Unfortunately, it would seem not.
Big Baby is a charming and endearing fellow.
But Glen’s immaturity has grown troubling.
In one breath, he wishes to remain a Celtic; the next, he’s looking out for No. 1 – in the same interview.
Nola.com reports him making nice speeches at the Rotary Club in Baton Rouge and working out at LSU, his old stomping ground. (There was no mention of his enrollment in school, as with someone we’ll discuss next.)
But is he Big Baby the gym rat or Big Baby the Big Man on Campus again?
You see, we just don’t know, and that’s the problem. We should by now.
Maybe he’ll show up at Ray Allen’s door looking like a million bucks and ready to play when and if the players organize some workouts.
More likely, alas, he’ll be showing off a new tattoo.
Abacus predicts the C’s will soon cut their ties with Glen Davis once business is up and running again.
From 1980-1985, the aforementioned Cedric Maxwell was one quadrant in a four-part rotating frontcourt of distinctly and uniquely skilled players. Effective utilization of such a wealth of talent is first a coaching challenge, then a nightmare to opponents when the challenge is met.
Which brings us to Jeff Green, a player of diverse skills that could present nightmarishly devious challenges as part of a frontcourt rotation for a clever coach like Doc Rivers.
GM Danny Ainge has staunchly and repeatedly defended the acquisition of Green, even at the cost of center Kendrick Perkins.
Does the Celtic brass have plans for this young man, or is he a bargaining chip for the next move?
Anyone expecting the next Paul Pierce is setting Green up for failure and himself for disappointment—he’s not that kind of shooter and scorer. Look at his free-throw numbers over time, improving but…not indicative of the sort of “touch” that launches many late-game daggers.
But that athleticism is enticing, the endorsement of his hoop IQ by his college coach encouraging and his overall maturity would make a bench role suitable at this time.
Unlike a shooter’s natural “touch,” defensive efficiency is indeed a learned skill, a consequence of teamwork and effort. Here, we should expect to see growth, as well as in his ability to find scoring opportunities in the transition game.
This summer Green has been honing his skills in the DC summer league, though when the marquee competition is the incoming Hoya class, the level of competition is not quite NBA level.
But Jeff is working towards completing his degree, in English of all things, at Georgetown. Commendable.
Abacus predicts that the team will re-sign Jeff Green and that, in the 2011-12 season, he will uphold the long and proud tradition of the Boston Celtic Sixth Man—25-30 minutes a night, a Continental Minuteman always at the ready.
(And if young JaJuan Johnson pans out as well as expected, we’ll have half of our four-part frontcourt harmony in place for a while, not to mention that shooting touch that Green lacks.)
Poor Delonte West.
He’s a victim of this information age in which we live.
Any assumption of privacy for a public figure is as outdated as an abacus.
We know more about this poor kid’s personal foibles, passport status and post-playing career options than we’re entitled to.
But we do, so why not take it a step further?
Perhaps some professional stability would be the best thing for Delonte the person right about now. Let the health and legal issues sort themselves out in familiar surroundings with people you’ve come to know.
The Celtics won’t offer the kind of money some other teams might, but they’ll pay him enough to hang up his hardware store apron.
And the team retains an experienced, capable Derek Fisher-type to backup both guard spots.
Abacus predicts that Delonte West will be inclined to sign a team-friendly, two- or three-year deal shortly after the lockout is resolved. He’ll continue to be groomed as Ray Allen’s replacement, though he could also wind up being a significant piece to a major deal a year from now.
By the time Danny Ainge made the Perkins deal, he’d had ample time to assess L’ Experimente O’Neal.
A healthy Shaq could have carried them through 2011, but not beyond.
Jermaine, when able, contributed 15-20 minutes of relatively effective play with about a handful of points and boards. Much less than that would be unacceptable, much more unrealistic.
So, what did Danny Boy have up his sleeve when he traded KP?
Is he indeed hopeful of getting Dwight Howard next summer?
If so, then you muddle through this year with Big Baby and/or a one-season rental (Theo Ratliff, Kurt Thomas) filling minutes.
Has he targeted a big man already and is just waiting for business to resume?
A hard-working guy like Chuck Hayes or Carl Landry would fill a role short- and long-term.
Ainge would not have made the deal nor defended it so vigorously if he did not have a plan.
We’ll just have to wait and see what it is.
Abacus predicts that, if Jermaine O’Neal is introduced with Rondo and the rest for the Celtics’ first 2012 playoff game, there won’t be many 2012 Celtic playoff games.
Ever since Red Auerbach arrived on the Celtic scene back in 1950, it has been the team’s habit to retool, rather than rebuild.
Ramsey becomes Havlicek.
Cowens hands the baton to Bird and McHale (correctly predicts a championship as he does, to boot).
Archibald and Chris Ford morph into DJ and Danny Ainge himself.
Now, the need to rebuild has at times arisen—a couple of untimely and tragic deaths, Russell’s unexpected retirement, Pitino’s prolonged pout over Duncan.
But that’s not the Celtics’ way. (If you’re partial to reclamation projects, call the Clippers at 1-800-WELOST.)
The Big Three, especially KG for whom there is no real substitute, will determine the team’s success again this year.
But if we and Rajon himself are not thinking of this more and more as Rondo’s team (maybe even more than Doc’s team) by the playoffs, there may be a need for major reconstruction.
Abacus predicts that a healthy Rajon Rondo will continue to expand his offensive game, post career numbers and, assuming the presence of a viable center, lead the Celtics on a deep run through the playoffs.
Sorry, all you Chris Paul fans.