Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Halfway there....

I am not going to believe this good fortune until it is signed, sealed, delivered and we get to hear Wyc say something smug. But the small miracle seems to have happened. Now we just need to clean the dirty laundry....and make sure we re-sign the Kandi man so we actually have a seven footer. That last part was a joke. But the Doc watch has begun. You are looking at the best team in the East, I don't care what Hollinger says. The east is so weak up top and this clearly puts us above everyone. But it sure as heck won't look like it till Doc is gone.....like I said, I just hope this does not magnificently fall through. But what a trade.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Back in Business

What can I say, it's good to be back. Apologies to all those who missed me (don't all step forward at once), as I've been traveling around this Great Land of Ours for the better part of the month, taking an invigorating post-Draft hiatus. Now I'm back, and my oh my, what does Marc Stein have for us today? That's right: according to Stein and ever-present "NBA front-office sources," the C's and the T-Wolves have re-opened the mythical Kevin Garnett trade talks, and apparently things are moving forward in a hurry. KG is supposedly warming to the idea of playing in Da Bean now that Ainge & Co. have acquired Ray Allen and shown they're serious about turning this thing around (or so the story goes). The deal that's rumored to be on the table is absolutely immense: Big Al, Theo Ratliff's Contract, Tonz-o-Gunz Telfair and Gerald Green, plus untold draft picks, all for one man who's arguably the most dynamic and versatile big man in the NBA.

Truthfully I need some time to process this. Make no mistake: this would be an insane trade, the work of two thoroughly maniacal GMs who've obviously lost any sense of caution or restraint they once had. The only question is whether it's insane in a good way (Gilbert Arenas) or insane in a bad way (Ron Artest). I mean, the Celtics are trading about a quarter of their roster here, and giving up both Big Al and Gerald could be seen as an emphatically rash fuck-you to the "youth movement" we've been hearing so much about. Also, with Garnett almost certain to demand an extension as part of the trade, all of a sudden we're sinking insane money into three guys squarely on the wrong side of 30.

But... Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett, as noted many times previously in this space. I can't say I'm not intrigued, and Marc Stein is right that if this goes through there's no way we don't contend for the Eastern Conference title NEXT YEAR. And that's definitely worth something. How the fuck you'd stand by with a straight face while Doc Rivers tries to coach this team, I have no idea. Think Rajon Rondo's a little nervous right now? Naaaaaaaah.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

El Capitan

It has been three weeks since draft night and I realize that I have not written anything about the Ray Allen trade except for indicating its larger implications. Mainly that's because so much has been said and I don't have any substance to add, and also that while it was a "huge" trade it really does not seem that earth-shattering to me.

Overall I thought it was a decent transaction for the Celtics. My biggest remaining question with it is did anybody find out who Danny was going to take if he kept the pick? The answer seems important, and I haven't read anything about it. Supposing it was Green or Brewer, I support the trade more. Ray Allen is worth more in my eyes than a soon to be pricey D-West, Jeff Green, and Wally. I just don't think it really hurts the team, although it seems kind of random unless they add another big-time piece.

And these topical musings lead us right to my esoteric thoughts about Paul Pierce, captain, who we haven't heard much about this summer except for the expected bullshit "trade demand" before the draft and his "ecstasy" after the Allen deal occurred. Smart people can't take much stock into either of the statements that Pierce supposedly made. P.P. probably has been playing pickup ball and enjoying LA, like he usually does in the summer, and that's all we really know.

But reading the brilliant FD post yesterday only reinforced the obvious in my mind: Pierce is in complete limbo. This means a thousand things, but the main point is that unless the miraculous turnaround happens soon (i.e. Garnett and Carlisle), it does not look good for Paul in green.

Maybe this should not surprise us. As great as Pierce is, he is not Tim Duncan. Nor is he Dwayne Wade. He is not the uber-magnificent player who seemingly deserves his date with destiny. Nonetheless his failure to achieve great success hits so close to home because it is the most vivid reminder of how the Celtics dynasty is dead. I shudder thinking of Pierce's inevitable decline, and it is just as bad to think of him being traded. It is as if all of Pierce's greatness was completely for naught.

And it shouldn't be this way. Pierce was recently rated as one of the top 100 players ever. Yet his teams' success is so fallow compared to all the great Celtics teams that it is hard to clearly understand this. Every great Celtic has won a championship except for Reggie Lewis and Pierce. Reggie died, and that meant that we did not ever have to admit that he might not have won one. With Pierce there is no way we can be in denial. It has been obvious, and it has been obvious for a long time. The Celtics are a normal team, there is no glint of specialness, and the privilege I felt as a little kid to be watching such greatness is entirely gone.

The best basketball I ever saw Pierce play was in early 2006. His decision making was marvelous - he was at his most selfless and was finding the open man every time he drove and did not have a quality shot. Frankly, it was shocking. As good as Pierce had been, I never knew he could be this good. For a few weeks in January he was the best player in the league, it was surely the finest a Celtic had played as an individual since Bird.

And the Celtics lost more games than they won in this stretch. It was horrible. How could you have the best player in the league, playing the most team oriented ball of his career, and still lose consistently? It just blew me away. It was then that I decided that Rivers had to be the Anti-Christ of coaches for sure. And it made it clear how little help Pierce had gotten on the floor during the Ainge regime. For all of Pierce's flaws were negligible when compared to those made by management.

Pierce today is one of the best halfcourt player in basketball. He has never been suited well for transition basketball, and certainly is not now. In the halfcourt, when he trusts his teammates and plays unselfishly, there are few as dominantly efficient. Basically, at this point, Pierce has to play to with smart, veteran players to be at his most inspiring. The Celtics, as in the past, seem to have no true understanding of this. Therefore Pierce will probably go on as the dimmest star of the Celtics legacy, a truly fantastic player that was never complemented well enough, and who wasn't spectacular enough to get great things done all alone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ersan, we hardly knew ye...

I mentioned a few days ago that Ersan Ilyasova was a restricted free agent, and that no one seemed to care. Well today he officially signed with AXA FC Barcelona. The deal was for two years and $5 million total, with an option involved on the third year. The deal has drawn little notice in NBA circles, and even among media, with a notable exception.
So much of this seems wrong to me and shows how skewered the NBA free agent market is. Ilyasova is a twenty year old forward who showed last season that he clearly belonged in the league. His PER was 12.10 for the year, plenty respectable for someone with so much youth and inexperience. Every time the Celtics played the Bucks, Gorman and Heinson would say how they liked the kid. And that is what he was - a kid, with good touch from the outside and the ability to scrap. It seemed obvious that he could drastically improve. Then an article comes out before the draft saying that Ilyasova looks better than any of the lottery prospects the Bucks are bringing in. He had gained thirty pounds and seemed ready to make the leap.

And you can't offer that guy a contract for $3 million a year? That's less money than Jeff Green will make next year, it's basically still a rookie contract for a lottery level player. There is no reason not to take Ilyasova on face value when he said he wanted to stay in the NBA. It just became clear that nobody would give him a better offer than Barcelona.

So shame on a lot of teams. You're telling me the Celtics couldn't find some time for him at small forward next year? Someone with considerable upside? It's very strange. It is particularly ominous for the Bucks - on the same day we learn of Ilyasova's departure, we learn of Desmond Mason's return. Mason had a PER of 10.90 last year and has no upside. He also will cost probably twice as much as Ilyasova. And Mason once publicly called Bucks GM Larry Harris "a snake in the grass." So, yeah, good going Milwaukee. Between this, the Yi thing, and Bogut's comments the Bucks are the talk of the league. But no one is talking about Ersan, and they might never again. Makes you wonder if it's worth scouting these international guys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Glut At Power Forward

The C's have an overabundance of power forwards. It is simple to say what a good thing this is, so simple that in fact it is probably not true. Particularly when Doc Rivers is your coach. Right now you have Big Al, Gomes, Big Baby, Powe and Scalabrine all on the roster. I would argue that for all five of these guys their natural position is power forward. It is great to have such depth when faced with the ever present reality of injuries in the NBA, but still I have an uneasy feeling. Let's dig a little deeper into the fabulous five.

First off, with the roster as it is, Scal should only play when there is a need for "energy" or "hustle." Otherwise there is no point in having him out there when you have this many quality bigs in front of him. There are just not enough minutes. If we are playing like shit and need an injection of the weird red-headed hustle Scal provides, fine. But otherwise stay seated. I'd love to see this happen, and have no faith that it will.

Powe is a slightly more difficult example. As the Celtics community has largely noticed, Powe played great in summer league. This is all fine and dandy - but we're talking about summer league. I think Powe is an NBA player, and on certain teams he would be deserving of considerable minutes. But not on this team. As a situational player who comes in for rebounding or just general toughness his services are greatly appreciated, but to have him in the regular rotation is to limit the minutes of the superior players in front of him. This is something most coaches recognize, but Doc is not most most coaches.

I don't think even the most ardent supporters of Powe could ever envision him averaging 15 and 10 on the NBA level. Conversely that is something that many of us can easily see Big Baby doing. That alone means Davis needs minutes right away. Big Baby is 21 with three years of college experience. He can play immediately. There is no need to make the same mistake that Doc did with Gomes his rookie season. Davis needs at least 10 - 15 minutes a game. If he fucks up, leave him in there. He will have to consistently screw up to deserve a benching. I doubt that he fucks up badly; like I said prior to the draft - this guy can play, there is little proof that he cannot.

With that said, I'm sick of hearing how Davis has to lose a lot more weight and improve his work ethic. I read something today from David Thorpe (I forget where, it's been a long day) saying that he should get down to like 240 pounds. Give me a fucking break. Big Baby is big, he once weighed 350 pounds for Christ's sake. His work ethic is probably better than yours, David Thorpe...

Ryan Gomes obviously needs minutes. And I think it needs to mainly be at power forward, as I have discussed in detail. If he plays small forward, he has to do it with the mentality of a "power three" (to use Doc's pet term.) This means Ryan must be active and an inside player. He should not settle for jumpers, but attack and rebound close to the rim. If he does that it is okay to play him sometimes at the three. But last year his tenure at that position was a subtle failure, and sad to watch.

Al Jefferson could (should?) be an All-Star this year, and needs to play big minutes. Like 35 or so a game. He is definitely the number one big guy on the team, and that is indisputable. Funny what a difference a year makes. I have touched upon in the past that Al is definitely a power forward, and that he is too small to dominate the center position, especially defensively. This is particularly true in the team defensive scheme, because Al cannot bring the presence in there that a true center can bring. Perkins, for example, brings much more of a presence.

Because of this I did not like it when Al played big minutes at center last year. But with the way things are currently set up, it seems playing Al at center for ten or fifteen minutes a game is the best option (unless Theo actually is healthy.) Perkins will probably play 20 - 30 minutes a game, and then Al should get the majority of the remaining minutes. Big Baby is girthy enough that he also may play center some, but he is even less suitable because of his lack of height. Offensively a pairing of Al with Gomes or Davis at the 4 & 5 is excellent. Defensively...it could be a serious problem. The lack of dominant centers in the NBA certainly will help mask the defensive deficiency. But it is a definite flaw unless the Celtics become a running and gunning team, which we all know they won't.

So if Jefferson averages about 25 minutes a night at power forward, Gomes needs at least 15 minutes there, and at least another 10 at small forward. Big Baby should get most of the remaining minutes, and can play at center some too. These are all generalizations, of course, that can change dramatically with matchups, but as a paradigm it seems appropriate to me. Al, Gomes, Perk and Big Baby should be the bigs getting the majority of the minutes. I'm obsessing over this because I know that if the roster does indeed remain the same, Doc will not share my thoughts nearly as much as I would like.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Other Point Guard

If summer league reinforced anything, it was that the Celtics most immediate need is to find a point guard to complement Jonny Rondo. How "complimentary" you want him to be is open to debate. There are fans like myself who would like to see Rondo play 35 minutes a game. There are others who would feel much more comfortable with him splitting time with a quality veteran. Whatever the case, Bassy and Pruitt inspire little to no confidence, so something needs to be done.

And along these lines there has been much talk about who the C's should acquire. Shira mentions Jasikevicius today in the Globe - a guy who perhaps never got a fair shake in the league, and maybe doesn't deserve one. Not a bad idea, though. Weiss on Celticsblog offers up the gem of bringing Payton back. Terrible idea. The Heat are in a (somewhat) similar position and The Sun Sentinel ran an article yesterday discussing options:

Failing the addition of a free-agent guard, the Heat could turn to trade options with Atlanta (Acie Law, Speedy Claxton, Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson), Seattle (Luke Ridnour, Earl Watson, Delonte West), Houston (Mike James, Rafer Alston, Aaron Brooks) and Portland (Jarrett Jack, Taurean Green, Sergio Rodriguez, Blake) all loaded at the position.

A wild card in the Heat's backcourt search is Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro, whose draft rights are held by the Wizards, but who long has expressed interest in the Heat.

There are some pretty attractive names on that list, but the key is not to give back much in return. Tyronn Lue has been decried for much of his career because he usually plays more minutes than he ought to, and he looks strange. Often lost in translation is that he's pretty good. Surely will not hurt your team if he's just playing 15 - 20 minutes a game, and his $3.5 million contract is up after the season. Someone like Lue is a better choice than someone like Jarrett Jack, who will require serious compensation to obtain and might not be as good as expected. Signing Earl Boykins or Brevin Knight also could require more expense than the C's want, whether it be in length of contract or annual salary.

With this in mind, I hope we go after Carlos Arroyo. He has one year left at $4 million. A package of Tony Allen and Telfair might be able to get him; or a deal with Bassy, Powe, Ray (whom Orlando could waive by August 1 to save money) and a second rounder or two. Whatever the case, Ainge should not need to give up that much for a backup point guard with an expiring contract.

Arroyo is an interesting player, the kind of guy who never seems to play as much as he should. He made a name for himself in the Olympics and in Utah, but was traded to Detroit for a pittance and was wasted there behind Billups. In Orlando he often has found himself the third wheel behind Jameer Nelson and Kenyon Dooling, although he might be better than both of them.

I have never been able to ascertain why Arroyo has not gotten more burn. He's not the best defender, but he's not that bad, and offensively he is an excellent passer and scorer. Arroyo plays the game with true moxie, meaning the flash he brings onto the court actually seems to help his team. It also makes his team entertaining as hell when he gets it going. Arroyo is much more capable offensively than most point guards in the NBA, and to use him as a backup is a small luxury.

And with the Celtics he could be a good, economical fit. Doc will almost surely fuck up Rondo's development with the addition of someone as good as Arroyo, but on paper it sounds great. Arroyo was rumored to be in the sign and trade deal for the Rashard Lewis contract a week or so back, so he clearly can be had. It's either him or Gary Payton.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Silence

In memoriam of the players who take the summer off completely and hopefully gain 30 lbs. of unwanted weight, the crack staff at The Shamrock Headband have been lying low for the past few weeks in hopes of someone springing us a max contract. Seriously though - what the hell is worth writing about these days that hasn't already been said? The free agency period has been predictably silly, summer league has shown me nothing significant, and KG has not been offered for Ronald Reagan yet, so he's not worth scribing about.

Not that one should complain, and it is pretty amazing that the league has basically become a year-round thing. I like having Michael Smith in my life on July nights. But there is not much I have to say concerning any of it. For Celtics fans the quietness has an added meaning this summer, because so many of us are hoping that a big trade will happen, and really next season doesn't become next season until it does (and until Doc is fired.) But maybe we are only dreaming, and there will be no significant trade for Garnett, or even Camby; and maybe Doc will ride out the entire '07-08 year, making it surely one of the most horrific in Celtics history.

But we just don't know yet. The one thing I am pretty sure upon is that the Eastern Conference will be profoundly adequate this year. Maybe to a previously unknown level. There is plenty of time for a team like Chicago to pull off a blockbuster trade and become clearly the dominant team, but as it stands now we could have a whole conference where every single team finishes with between 32 and 50 wins. It is truly wide open - and that kind of sucks, because it just means we are gonna see a lot of lousy basketball. Let me give you a quick rundown of our fifteen Eastern Conference teams, alphabetically, because at this point that makes as much sense as ranking them.

Atlanta - They always have lots of young talent, and if there was ever a year where that could mean playoffs this would be it. Josh Smith is about to get very expensive.

Boston - I don't really follow this team so I don't know what to say. With Doc at the helm you are being delusional if you think they win more than 40 as presently constituted.

Charlotte - If Sam Vincent is a decent coach, the pieces are there to make a march for a .500 winning percentage! I'm sure they're dancing in the streets in Charlotte.

Chicago - I've said the last few years that the Bulls needed a real star to make them viable contenders in the East. Well, guess what? This year they might not. Probably will win more games than anyone else on this list (which is like 50...whooey.)

Cleveland - I'm afraid that Mike Bibby will not destroy the shadow cast by Mike Brown.

Detroit - They need Maxiell or Rodney Stuckey to surprise a lot of people, otherwise get ready for the slow decline.

Indiana - Jim O'Brien might be able to get this team to the finals if the conference is this crappy.

Miami - Watch out world. Dwayne Wade is gonna be a one man wrecking crew come playoff time next year. He might take them to the finals by himself. Help would be appreciated.

Milwaukee - On paper they have as much talent as anyone. Funny how that paper thing works. By the way, twenty year old Ersan Ilyasova is a free agent. Why isn't anyone talking about him? That's probably who the C's should go after...

New Jersey - Rod Thorn, fucking do something! How many years do we have to watch the same team over and over? Please.

New York - Look at their roster. There is so much potential humor and tragedy that I almost want to praise Isiah. Sublimely mediocre.

Orlando - Chad Ford summed it up well enough today.

Philadelphia - My pick right now to win the Atlantic. Fun team that likes to pass and is super athletic. Almost guaranteed to not be shown on national TV, because we would all rather watch Eric Snow miss 15 footers for the Cavs every week.

Toronto - It's just fascinating how European Bryan Colangelo is making the team. I'll be interested to see how it plays out this year. If they succeed it could send waves through the league.

Washington - Ernie Grunfeld is almost as bad as Rod Thorn. Shake it up some! You've got Hibachi for God's sake, and you're still boring.

That, ladies and gents, is your Eastern Conference. Let's hope something happens. Otherwise I'll have to come up with a more depressing Bergman-esque title in a few months.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Is Big Al Worth The Max?

Well, is he? Yes and no. Here at the Shamrock Headband, there is a shared sentiment that Big Al is slightly overrated in the eyes of most Celtics fans. We love the guy, but don't see him turning into McHale. Many people apparently do, and that is why the "Don't trade Al for Garnett" chorus has been audible since these rumors started. Whatever you think, it is undeniable that Al is about to get much richer when he signs an extension. With the way the NBA works, it seems unlikely that Al will sign for anything less than the max.

If Rashard Lewis gets the max, a 23 year old dominant post presence will surely get it as well. If the Celtics are wise they'd try to get Al to settle for something like a 5 year, $60 million deal this summer. But it is more likely he'll get about $15 million a year starting in 2008. That's a lot of hummers.

My concerns with with Al are slight but important. First off, he's not that big. Al is a power forward, he is not Dwight Howard, and to play him mainly at center is pretty silly. Secondly, as brilliant as Al can be offensively, I am unsure whether he can ever consistently command the ball enough to become a top 10 scorer in the league. This is a trait that definitely gets better with age, but Al has not improved significantly in this regard for three years. Lastly, Al is not a good passer.

So what I mean to say is that KG is a legit max player, and Al is not. But this is the NBA, so that means nothing fiscally. In the eyes of many people the fact that Garnett is 31 is enough to make a deal not worthwhile. But real max players are different than excellent second bananas. And the latter category is probably Al's career path: a solid 20-10 guy for years.

Al is part of a pretty exceptional first round class of 2004. It also includes Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, Ben Gordon, Devin Harris, Kevin Martin, Andris Biedrins, Josh Childress, Nenad Krstic, Jameer Nelson and our dearly departed Delonte West. Many will sign excessive extensions that could eventually be harmful to their teams. Personally, I would rather be excessive by getting a player like KG.