The millionaires and billionaires have finally put aside their differences (at the last possible moment) and shook hands on a deal to give us back our basketball. So what comes next?
Well, first there is the little matter of working out details and putting pen to paper. All of which could take days or even weeks. But make no mistake, they wouldn't have walked out of there with a thumbs up if they didn't have all the important things hammered out already.
The date to circle on your calendar is December 9th. That day is when training camp opens and free agency opens on the same day.
As you've read here countless times this summer, the Celtics have 6 players under contract (7 if you count restricted free agent Jeff Green - and I don't, not yet at least). They also have at least 2 rookies to sign and probably another one as well. They need depth a center and just about everywhere else. The roster could look very different or you might see Danny bring back a number of familiar faces. Beyond Jeff Green, you could see guys like Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Big Baby, and maybe even a few others make a return trip. Just depends on the price and the market - which will be fast and furious. We'll get into all that and more in the coming weeks (yay! finally!).
So, once all that happens and the team finally takes the court on Christmas day, there's just one more thing. Will they be contenders or pretenders? Bob Ryan isn't too hopeful (then again, remember how down he was about the Big 3 before Danny filled out the roster?)
Let’s say they max out. Let’s say the old guys stay reasonably healthy. Let’s say Green actually does produce and Rondo remains Rondo. Let’s even give them help from an unexpected source. Is this a playoff team? Yes. But is it a true contender? No. There will be nights when their fans will love them, but there will also be nights when their fans will fear for them. The overwhelming odds are that, if this core group stays intact, the season will end with a playoff loss to yet another younger, fresher team.
I don't know at this point. I bought into the window a few years ago only to see them get within a quarter of beating the Lakers again. I'm not about to count this team out entirely ever again. That said, it is hard not to see the writing on the wall. I do have to wonder if they'll look to trade Ray (as Bob suggests) to get some value for him - even though I think he's also capable of a few more good years. But more likely I think we'll see Ainge patch things up the best he can for a one year victory lap and clear the deck for free agents or a fresh start next year.
Bottom line: Danny Ainge has his work cut out for him and these next 12 months will go a long way to cementing his legacy as a GM. Was he lucky or good or both? If he can transition us effectively into the next era, he'll answer all the doubters.
Here's the thing though. We're talking about basketball again. No more lawyer stuff for a long, long time. From now on, BRI doesn't stand for Basketball Related Income anymore. All that matters is Basketball Related Issues. As in....
- Who's going to back up Jermaine O'Neal this year?
- Will Jeff Green and Big Baby be back?
- How good will JaJuan Johnson and the other rookies be?
- How much is Danny allowed to and willing to spend this year?
- Can the Celtics beat the Heat (and/or the Bulls) in the playoffs?
Time will tell and it is finally time for some answers. Basketball is back baby.