Celtics fell last night to the Heat and ended what many believe will be The Big
Three's last chance at a championship.
Celtics future in doubt
If you live
in Boston you know the Celtics were on life support in February and fans were
demanding that General Manager Danny Ainge administer last rites and then bury
the very players who won a championship for the town back in 2008. The sports talk shows were ablaze with
comparisons of Ainge making the identical mistake his predecessor, the
legendary Red Auerbach, made when he allowed the 80's version of The Big Three
(Bird, McHale and Parish) to hang around until the 90's when they were but
shadows of their former selves.
morning of February 23rd of this year, the C's had lost 7 of their
last 8 and awoke to a record of 15-17 in this strike shortened season. Everyone could see the writing on the wall
but Danny. And yet it was Danny Ainge, a
member in good standing of those remarkable Celtics teams during the Bird era,
who insisted on many occasions that Red made a mistake by not parceling the
aging veterans away in order to build something, anything resembling a
championship contender that would propel Boston throughout the 90's and
But as they
say, a funny thing happened. The Celtics
proved the naysayers and the Ainge detractors wrong. The Green went on a furious run and wound up
in the Eastern Conference finals. They
even took the series with the Miami Heat to seven games, a place nobody except
the men inside the Celtics locker room, thought they would ever be. The C's had
a seven point lead at the half and the impossible suddenly seemed highly
probable. They were running on empty
against a club that had plenty of gas in the tank and ultimately Boston's
30-somethings withered against the younger, more powerful legs of the
20-somethings clad in the white and red of Miami.
So what now
Danny? You were right and everybody else
was wrong. You didn't succumb to the
public pressure that said blow it up and start from scratch. But now it's different. Now you have
to do something. Contracts are up and
will you let Kevin Garnett walk away, knowing he is still a viable, if not top
tier player? Do you let the NBA's most
prolific three point shooter in Ray Allen just pack up and leave or do you
bring back the future Hall of Famer for one more shot at greatness? Is Paul Pierce still The Truth in Boston or would trading him be the answer to a rebuilding project that must start now?
will have back to back 1st round picks this season (Nos. 21 &
22) and they will probably stay put at those spots due to the depth of this
year's draft. Their backcourt is solid
as last year's 1st round pick Avery Bradley didn't just step up to
the plate when Ray Allen went down with an injury, he ate everything on the
table. Therefore, Boston has no worries
in their backcourt with the talented young tandem in Bradley and Rondo which is
exactly why the Celtics will allow Allen to move on and spend that cap money
is firmly entrenched as a Celtic for the foreseeable future. His only downside is his age but a 34 year
old Paul Pierce is better than a younger though less talented option and the
NBA is littered with those. The Celtics
don't have a bona fide center unless they come to terms with Garnett and make
certain he is on board as a number five for the rest of his career in
Boston. That leaves a vacancy at power
forward which is a bit easier to find than a bona fide center. Kris Humphries is an unrestricted free agent
and might be a nice fit but Brandon Bass certainly proved to be a pleasant
surprise for the Celtics and will most likely be back next season.
Depth is a
huge issue for the Celtics. They are not
only lacking it, they may just need it more than most because of the age of
their superstars, Pierce and Garnett.
When Mickael Pietrus, a player the Celts signed a day before the season
began, is your 6th man in the most important game of the season then
you have a problem. The Celtics will
have to use free agency and the draft to shore up those glaring deficiencies.
does this leave Danny Ainge? It looks to
me like the Celtics GM will bring back Garnett as the Celtics man in the middle
for the next two years, watch Ray Allen walk out the door and keep his fingers
crossed that he gets lucky in the draft.
Celtics fans may question aloud how this team is supposed to contend
again with a team that is not only another year older but with no appreciable
depth up front. Danny Ainge could fairly
rebut, "What are my options?"
There are no
quick fixes in the NBA, if there were then everyone would be contending for a
title. Danny Ainge once remarked he did
not blame the Celtics when they traded him, a piece of two championship teams,
for a young center named Joe Kleine who went on to an unremarkable career with
Boston and remained a journeyman until he retired. Ainge has always looked at basketball as a
business and emotions would not preclude him from doing what's necessary to
enhance their storied tradition. Yet it
is precisely that same cold, calculating mentality that steeled him from the
public outcry when the team was at its nadir this winter to deal Garnett,
Pierce and Allen for a bucket of balls and a few wristbands.
lucky to have a savvy GM and a charismatic head coach. They attract talent and make Boston a place
that virtually every free agent at least considers. It wasn't always that way as it's ugly racial
history turned black athletes off for decades.
But Ainge must now make some very important decisions regarding the
future of the Celtics. The franchise is
at a crossroads and he now realizes it's not as easy as he once thought to
dismantle a group of legends. Just ask