MEMPHIS TN - NOVEMBER 20: Carlos Arroyo #8 of the Miami Heat looks to the bench after scoring a basket against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on November 20 2010 in Memphis Tennessee. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
The first time came seven years ago, when, in a display of excited pride, Arroyo tugged his jersey slightly off his chest to reveal the words "Puerto Rico." Arroyo had just played like an artist, leading his Puerto Rican national team to an Olympic-opening 92-73 victory against the United States -- the United States' first Olympic defeat since allowing professional basketball players to play. If Arroyo could lead Larry Ayuso and company to a victory against the vaunted United States, I thought, he could undoubtedly turn Ricky Davis into a Hall of Famer. (Okay, just kidding about that last thought.)
And the second time? Well, that's right now.
It's no big secret that Carlos Arroyo has never been an All-NBA point guard. In fact, my friend called me yesterday to offer his thoughts on the Arroyo signing:
"If you asked me who was the one NBA player in the world I could beat one-on-one," he said, "I would have told you Carlos Arroyo without a single second of hesitation."
While it's entirely unlikely my friend could defeat Arroyo in a one-on-one game (my friend's 5'7, in heels, and weighs approximately 125 pounds while holding his two-year old daughter in his arms), Arroyo strikes a less-than-imposing figure. He's not very quick, at least not relatively to anyone he plays against. He doesn't quite look chubby, but his muscles are not exactly chiseled out of stone. He's tall, compared to most normal human beings. But in the NBA, compared to the Redwood trees he shares the court with, the 6'2 Arroyo looks approximately the size of Snookie.
Still, he's just what the Celtics need.
With Delonte West an injury concern, the Celtics need a reliable point guard to spell Rajon Rondo when West misses games. Some folks, I'm sure, would prefer Avery Bradley to play the extra minutes -- but with the Celtics fighting for the all-important number one seed (and the home-court advantage that comes with it), Bradley's development needs to come some other time. He does not yet have the point guard instincts required in the NBA. He takes too long to get the Celtics into sets, and, despite top-notch athleticism, has hardly every penetrated the middle of any defense. If the Celtics were the Toronto Raptors, developing Bradley's potential would take priority. But this is Boston, where banners are only raised for NBA championships, and so the Celtics cannot afford to let Bradley learn at his own pace.
Thus, the Arroyo signing.
The Celtics don't expect Arroyo to threaten Rajon Rondo's minutes. They don't expect him to play 30 minutes a game, or to remind anybody of Bob Cousy, or to score at will, or to become The Glove defensively. They'll settle for Arroyo being an upgrade to Avery Bradley, which he certainly should be. Arroyo can bring the ball up-court against pressure, and he can hit an open jumper (at least occasionally), and he's capable of running an NBA offense. Sure, there are reasons the Miami Heat cut Carlos Arroyo. But there are also reasons he started 42 games (and yes, I understand one of those reasons is "Mario Chalmers was the only other option").
In an injury-less world, the Celtics will play Arroyo very few minutes. But they know West could go down at any time, and it's nice to have insurance in case he does -- Rajon Rondo cannot continue playing 83 minutes per game. While Avery Bradley, at this stage of his career, fails to provide such insurance, Carlos Arroyo can. He's a veteran who has done this before, and he won't be intimidated by any stage. He won't be perfect, but he's an upgrade. And that's good enough for me.