First of all I want to take this opportunity to say how proud I am to be a fan of the Boston Celtics. With all the pride, heart, grit and balls they've shown to us this season, I cannot help but just put my hands down. Early in the season, there was the season ending injuries of Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Jermaine O'neal and many thought that the Celtics would not even reach the playoffs depending only with their aging core and an immature Rajon Rondo. Especially Jeff Green, that many expected to show some skills after an infamous Perk trade, is for some reason deprived to this team. But again, they prove them wrong. With the help of the emergence of Avery Bradley and the collective effort of this team, a great turn - around shown by the C's and manage to finish from a presumed no seed to a respectable 4th seed place heading into the playoffs.
They've beaten the Hawks, then the Sixers. But they suffered again a big blow when they lost Avery Bradley to a season ending surgery, a player that could have been a hope that they could use to match the superior athleticism of their next opponent, the Miami Heat. No one expected the series to be long, even me honestly don't believe that we can win against them. But a light of hope touched me in game 5, when a dagger hit by Captain Paul Pierce sealed the game for the C's to lead 3-2 against the defending Eastern Conference Champions. The whole basketball world was stunned, as the Heat is just one game away from losing again another season. But unfortunately, the C's were not able to use the opportunity and lost the series. A game that could possibly be the end of the chapter of the Big 3 era.
It is sad to even think this as I start being a Celtics fan the same season that they became Champions in 2008. I do not know yet a lot about NBA at that time, all I know is I am a Celtics fan. Fast forward to 2012, and we can possibly witness the red carpet to the Big 3 era towards the end. Many believe that maybe this is it, but I don't buy that. The C's have a few so-called "weapons" coming into the offseason, the two draft picks, the cap space, and the recent playoff pedigree.
Let us first talk about the draft picks. Well, the difference of these draft picks to other picks of the C's is that they have a deeper draft class this year. Many believe that this class have multiple players that could possibly be franchise players in the future. Some also say that outside the lottery picks, the difference in terms of talent between players are so slim that the 11th pick’s ceiling may be the same to the 30th pick. These are very significant picks for the Celtics, as the players that would be picked could be part of the transitory (rebuilding?) period that the C’s will undergo. Will you build around Rondo? Or still complement the picks to the Big 3? These are few questions in Danny Ainge’s mind which I’m sure he will successfully figure out to himself to help the Celtics build another Champion team. Austin Rivers, son of Doc Rivers, is also present in the draft class. What’s his significance? Well, I think Boston is the best place for him and discretely, DA maybe is making some moves to acquire this player. He may not be a starter for now, but I think he is the best complement to Avery Bradley off the bench. Let me just say that with all the talent shown to us by AB, I think he is best to come off the bench just because he lacks the needed offensive punch to pair up with Rondo. In bench, Rivers would have the necessary ball handling abilities to play PG and the necessary offensive punch to complement AB. Well, he can create his own shot helped by his quick first step. That would really solve the anemic bench production of the C’s that really became a factor for the past seasons, especially in the recent Celtics-Heat series. Being connected to the coach who happens to be his father is also an advantage to both parties. Confidence is something in which rookies consider as the wall which translates them to a neophyte to a full grown NBA player. A very good example is Avery Bradley, whom his new found confidence converted him not only as an NBA player, but a SOLID player with superior defense. Confidence would not be a problem to Austin Rivers. Not only that his coach happens to be his father, but the fact that he’d already developed some bond to some C’s players prior to his new journey now in the NBA. He will not alter any established chemistry with the team, and would develop much faster compared other rookies experience. The C’s is a hard place for a player to develop especially to rookies, as there are too many Alpha Males in the group (ex. KG, Rondo, etc.). But if you manage to jive with it, you will surely develop (ex. Tony Allen, Big Baby, RONDO etc.). The 2 draft picks may also be used by DA to package to go up to lottery picks, or even better, to package to some of the C"s players to acquire better talent or best case, a superstar.
Next is their salary cap space. This one is kind of overrated as other people perceive it. First off, assuming Bass opts in and Stiemsma is signed to its qualifying offer, then the C’s payroll is about 36M. Deduct that to the Salary cap limit of 58M of the NBA (58M is the cap for this season, so it is more or less the same next season), then we have 22M to spend to free agents. And before the C’s would have that 22M, they still have to renounce their own free agents, namely, Garnett, Allen etc. DA really need to be creative with this one, because it may take a lot of guts to sacrifice KG and Allen in exchange to whomever they want to get in free agency. I believe that the C’s success lies on their chemistry, so if they will let one of the Big 4 go then it may be a big blow for the Celtics. The C’s also don’t have the rights to Jeff Green, as the C’s already renounced it when they discovered his heart ailment, leaving him not an option to any sign-and-trade deals. So if we resign KG for 10M, Allen with 5M, and Green wtih 5M, then that’s already 20M, leaving 2M to spend for the remaining spots for the roster. The big question is, "I thought we could sign a max player?" Well I thought we could sign a max player, too. But the C’s will also have the full MLE as they are under the cap. Let us also remember that the salary cap limit which is 58M right now and the luxury tax at about 70M is different. The latter speaks of the limit which allows teams to resign players to exceed the salary cap which is virtue of the bird’s rights. Exceeding that of course will punish them extra taxes. With all that said, the fact still remains that this would be an exciting off season for the C’s, will it be a "bring back the old guys" Celtics team? Or entirely a new one? We will wait and see.
The C’s is no doubt a champion. You ask any player in the NBA right now and no one will resist that the C’s are truly a Champion. Even Kobe and Lebron would agree to it. But the recent playoff run of the C’s is something the players in the NBA should ponder on. talent-wise, do you think this team could compete to the Heat, Spurs, OKC, or even the Lakers in the start of the playoffs? Too many injuries, aging core, inconsistent Rondo, H-O-N-E-S-T-L-Y? But they shut our mouth off. This team is too proud, to even lose just like that. And they’ve proved it, almost winning the ECF with just one game away. Teams are not always dependent on superstars, that’s why it is called a "team" because games are won by collective effort. Free agents, as well as other NBA players, should witness the beauty of being a Celtic. And acknowledge the fan base, cheering for about 4 straight min chanting "LET’S GO CELTICS!" and your team down by 20pts? Wow. If Dwight sees that, he’ll cry. Even Josh Smith envy the C’s for having that kind of fan base. They should remember that if the Celtics are too proud to lose, we fans also are too proud to let them down. The Boston Celtics team is not only composed of 15 players and the coaching staff. I am with them, the Celticsblog family is with them, we are all part of their success. Be proud, as well.
I am proud to be a Celtic.
You should, too.