Mid-season fork in the road

Reading various posts and articles, I feel the need to make a generic point about how to see Danny's situation with regard to this year. It especially comes to me as I think of lingering rumors about trading Rondo. As we respond to such possibilities, I think we need to see this year as baseball seasons are often seen:

Some time around the middle of the season, Danny has to decide whether a championship is actually possible. That will be the fork in the road. Does Danny push on for a title ... or does he shift into re-building mode?

Lots of fan posts make an assumption about this. They speak of adding pieces for the stretch run. They assume that a run for the title is going to be a feasible possibility.And if that turns out to be the case, then absolutely. I think we can trust Danny to try to take another shot at that title, with owner support.

Now, we all hope and perhaps trust that this group of magnificent champions will be good, one last time, for AT LEAST a run in the 2nd tier of contention. We want to assume that.

But there is a realistic--likely?--chance that they will break down. JO is likely to go down. Pierce or KG may turn out to be more brittle than we hope. I like our bench, but with the short camp, it is a long way from integrated and settled. And we have tough opening games along with all those dauntingly dense stretches of bone wearying games.

We may struggle early, not really catch fire, and fall back into the pack. Barring disastrous injuries (and given recent history who can truly bar them?) I don't think we drop out of the playoff picture, but we could well be revealed as a lower seed long shot. Yes, we had the big run to the finals 2 years ago. Celtic Nation is going to hold on well into any precipitous slide to the hope for a another miraculous, critic-defying shot at glory. But, really, what are the odds of another run from a lower seed to the Finals after what could be a stuttering and condensed campaign?

Now keep this in mind: Danny is not a fan. As he says, he must look at this year AND the near and long future. Which means that he is very likely to face a difficult choice at some point perhaps mid-way through the season, perhaps earlier: do these guys have a real shot? Being a GM, not a fan, he is likely to draw a conclusion on this much faster than we do. As a veteran himself of playoff runs, he will be looking at our season start and fairly quickly tending to formulate a judgment. It may not be what we hope for.

IF Danny does decide this team doesn't have what it takes, that decision is likely to come long before fans are able to come to that conclusion. And if Danny does draw that conclusion, the fork in the road opens up and he has the RESPONSIBILITY to go the other way: rebuilding mode.

In rebuilding mode, he has GOT to consider Rondo and he has to do so both ways:

  • Does he rebuild around Rondo? If so, what assets does he have to work with?
  • Does he rebuild by using Rondo as a tradeable asset?

Hundreds of scenarios clearly branch off of this fork in the road. It is Danny's responsibility to explore all of them, Fortunately for the Celtics, Danny's track record shows that he will do precisely that.

And this is why the Rondo talk cannot die. Rondo is central to what we are now and to all scenarios for what we will become next year. We do not know if this team can realistically contend and we don't know whether Danny can re-build better around Rondo or by trading him. Danny himself cannot know this now.

Now, speaking personally, I like having Danny. I like having a GM who is willing to make the Perk trade. Danny knew that team last year wasn't going to finish without some extra pieces, and he knew that a plodding defensive center wasn't going to make the difference either way. He made a gutsy choice that had a chance of coming good for the year and for the future, as Green surely looked when the trade was made to be a key building block. It didn't work out, but, personally, I think that fans who think the trade doomed us are delusional. Yet, even if one can blame the trade for last year's fade out, I STILL applaud Danny for being willing to take that shot.

And that brings us to where we stand. This Sunday, we begin to find out if this team can silence its critics or if--as is entirely possible--those critics are right. I doubt the case will be decided in the first 2 weeks, yet very rapidly the tell tales will begin to pronounce the trends. And Danny has the RESPONSIBILITY of reading those odds coldly, dispassionately, and with as much an eye to the future as to the present. You can expect him to see the window closing--if it does--before we do. And if that happens, don't be surprised if Danny blows it up and starts the rebuild ... a decision likely to involve shipping Rondo.

Everyone involved with the Cs, including an owner, have sworn that we are committed to trying to get #18 this year. And with our Big 4 in place one last time, this is as it should be.If we are clearly in the race, we can hope for a mid or late season pickup to energize the stretch run.

But this is easy to say now, before the reality of the season begins to set in. The fork in the road may reveal that we are going the wrong way, and if that happens, Danny will shift into re-building mode. And this, too, is as it should be.

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