Danny Ainge was on WEEI the other day talking about the offseason and explaining why he has made the moves he's made so far and I picked up on a recurring theme. Injuries.
His reason for signing Jermaine O'Neal despite the horrible postseason he had was that O'Neal was playing through an ankle injury that limited him. So presumably he'd be a better player for us (he did have a very solid season for Miami last year). Along those same lines, he reminded us that Ray Allen was playing through a severe thigh bruise that happened early in the game following his record breaking performance in the Finals. So presumably we can hope for better performances in the future. Finally, he talked a bit about how both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both played much better when they weren't hurt towards the end of the season and into the playoffs.
All of this should make Celtics fans feel a little better about how this team is going to fare next year now that the gang has largely been brought back together again. Or should it?
This team has the talent to win the Championship. That has been the case for the last 3 years. But because of the age of the starters, there's always an "if" statement that has to be tossed in there. "If they can stay healthy and rested." The chances of each individual player staying healthy a whole season and into the playoffs becomes less and less every year. When you are talking about 4 critical pieces of the puzzle being over 30 with a history of nagging injuries or worse, the chances of losing one or more of them for significant stretches including the playoffs becomes exponentially greater. And I'm not even counting "young" Kendrick Perkins who just had major surgery.
Those are the cards we've been dealt as fans and that's not such a bad thing really. I'll take that chance over another year of rebuilding in Minnesota or Milwaukee or Philadelphia. I mean, at least we've got a shot. Maybe it is just one more shot, and maybe its a longshot, but its a shot. And the worst case is that the team gets one last run together before fading off into the sunset. At least they got that one banner (at the expense of the Lakers no less).
And when you look at it, the choices that Danny was given this offseason were limited. He could blow the whole thing up and start the rebuilding around Rondo era or he could roll the dice and hope for health and one last run. He chose the latter and I'm happy he did.
I'm even happier that he's limited each of the contracts to just two years (with the exception of course of Paul Pierce's - which is fine with me too). My most realistic scenario is that the team gives a good go of it this year (likely falling short, but as this year taught us, you never know). Then the following year should be locked out for most if not all the season. With a new CBA in place Danny will have tons of financial flexibility with $41M in expiring contracts.
At that point he'll be able to trade those contracts for big named veterans from teams that aren't as well situated financially or he'll be able to clear the decks and start building from scratch. That is assuming Danny Ainge is still around running the show by then. This is a guy that works tirelessly and has already had a heart attack. At one point during his coaching career he took time off to be with his family. Who's to say he won't call it a career right around the time the Big 3 do? Of course this is all speculation, but that's what the offseason is for.
Hopefully we'll be able to beat the odds next year. Hopefully we'll be able to limit the injuries and get the team rested and ready for the playoffs. We can put off rebuilding for another couple years. And if Danny plays his cards right, we have a shot at avoiding it altogether. And that's really all I need right now. Just that shot.