Any season that starts out at 29-7 is pretty good in my book and the fact that we are still one game in front of the 1986 Celtics’ pace (They were 28-8 ) is even more comforting during these recent days of hysteria amongst all of us Boston fans.
The warm glow of the 2008 championship banner and memories of what we used to panic over in the post-Pitino era are what keep me sane in the harsh, cold days of the post-Christmas Celtics schedule. What this team needs to do to restore the collective buzz amongst Celtics fans is take a page from the ’86 Celtics and do what they did best - beat on the Houston Rockets. The Larry Bird led Celtics took the Rockets down twice in the regular season before conquering them four games to two in the 1986 NBA Finals. What better way to right this ship than to honor the ’86 champs by laying a symbolic beating on the Rockets tonight?
While beating the Rockets for a second time this season would be very therapeutic and temporarily assuage the pains that ail this team, it has become evident that this team is in need of some tweaking. There are some fundamental flaws that render us vulnerable against certain teams (read: teams that are young, athletic and long). Reading the rants on the message boards make it abundantly clear that Joe Public is aware of our team’s needs, so you can rest assured that Danny Ainge and his staff are aware of them also.
What can we do to counter these vulnerabilities? I will pitch ideas of what the missing ingredients may be to our already award-winning recipe.
Matching up with dynamic, versatile, long small forwards
The Boston Celtics had been looking for an athletic, long/tall small forward for years and until James Posey, they were never able to acquire somebody that could fit that bill. Stay with me here. This isn’t a bring back Posey or a we screwed up by not bringing Posey back rant. However, the Celtics find themselves back in the market for that lanky small forward that can come off of the bench and provide a dynamic versatility to the second unit’s attack. This player is also needed to address matchup problems when forwards like Josh Smith, Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler, Luol Deng and company are giving us fits.
Paul Pierce is clearly our starting small forward but he is also our only pure small forward on the active roster right now. Tony Allen (I know he is hurt right now) is a shooting guard and cannot matchup with the tall small forward crowd. Brian Scalabrine can play some small forward but his foot speed precludes him from consistently matching up with guys like Deng, Harrington and Smith. However, he did play some good defense in the Knicks game the other night. Other than those two guys, there isn’t anyone on the active roster that can step in and play small forward. The only two guys left on the roster at all that could physically play that position are both steadily producing in the Developmental League. Are Giddens or Walker ready to contribute yet? We don’t know if they could do it consistently but it may be worth our while to give one of them a shot in limited minutes.
There may be some external candidates worth looking at and I am sure that Danny Ainge is doing just that. Austin Chroshere was recently cut by the Milwaukee Bucks and if he is healthy, he could be serviceable. In seven minutes per game, he scored 3.3 ppg and grabbed 2.2 boards. He is a consistent outside shooter and can finish around the basket. You have to wonder how healthy he is or what other problems he may have, seeing as it was the 17-19 Bucks just released him outright. In fairness to Chroshere, the Bucks are loaded with long small forward types and he wouldn’t see the court with guys like Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in front of him.
Another team with a glut of versatile small forwards is the New York Knicks. They have Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler, Tim Thomas and the 6’10’’ Danilo Gallinari, who will be returning to the court soon, all clamoring for minutes at the small forward position. I know that it is rare that you are able to successfully trade with a division rival but wouldn’t it be nice to land Tim Thomas (the Knicks aren’t giving up any of the other three guys) and have him come off of our bench? A package of friendly contracts like Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen and J.R. Giddens /Gabe Pruitt (Knicks’ choice) would be feasible and open up some roster spots for the Celtics. The only question would be if the Knicks would be willing to make that deal. You’ve got to throw the pasta against the wall to see if it sticks.
Length in the paint and on the block
Glen Davis has done an admirable job trying to play the role of backup center. The man is listed as being 6’9’’ and that is a very generous measurement. Sometime he is great with his defensive rotations and glasswork and other nights he barely shows a pulse. His length leaves him overmatched in matchups with almost any true backup center. Never mind the world of trouble that we would be in if Perk were to go down for an extended period of time.
We do have Patrick O’Bryant, a true seven-foot center, on the roster but we only get to see him throw down a few dunks and hook shots during garbage time. Could he hold his own if he were to play a couple minutes a game backing up Perk? I guess we won’t know because it doesn’t look like he is going to get the chance.
This weakness is most perplexing because of how unlikely it is that we will be able to get someone with the size that we need to back up Perk. Teams just don’t cut 6’10’’ – 7’1’’ players that have the ability to put one foot in front of the other and get up and down the court. If they decide to trade them, you better believe that they are going to come with a large price tag. That is why Joe Smith will most likely not become a Boston Celtic this season. We don’t have the chits to trade for him and he has said that he would like to play in Cleveland if he to be cut and become a free agent. Smith and KG have a solid relationship from their days in Minnesota, so maybe The Big Ticket could pull some strings. That would be our only hope at getting Joe Smith.
I hate to say it but I think that Patrick O’Bryant getting minutes and using his length may be the most likely scenario for the Celtics this season.
Ball Handling and Playmaking
Our second unit is in dire need of a ball handler and somebody to initiate the offense. Eddie House is a valuable commodity and his shooting will come in handy later this season but we all know that he is not a point guard. Gabe Pruitt may someday be able to play a passable point guard but he is not going to play significant minutes at the backup point guard this season, if we want to win another championship. He is just to unseasoned and untested. The Celtics need a veteran to backup their young starter at point guard because the second unit is full of youngsters that are in need of leadership.
I don’t know what the story is with Sam Cassell. I don’t know why we resigned him if he is unable or unfit to play. He has been in uniform a couple of times this season but hasn’t been more than an extra coach on the bench all year.
Could Starbury be the answer? I hate to say it but if he gets bought out by the Knicks, he may just be our best option. He may be a maniacal, mercurial, evil genius (Ha!) but he can break a press, get the ball to the rim and dish it off underneath to guys like Powe that need to be set up better this year. He could also be brought in when teams are playing the “leave Rondo on an island and triple team KG” defense. If teams sagged off of Marbury like they that, he would be more than happy to drill mid-range jumpers all the way to a championship ring.
The only downfall of being the Boston Celtics is that you don’t have the kind of flexibility to make personnel changes like other teams because of the three large contracts at the top of your salary cap. Of course, you take that problem every day of the week and twice on Sunday but now we have to become opportunists if we want to add dynamic players that can help Garnett, Pierce and Allen win another championship.
Be respectful and keep it clean. Thanks.