The curtain closes on another season and this particular voyage comes to a more bitter end than usual. It’s always hard to take losing, but it becomes more difficult to deal with as you get closer to the goal. One quarter away from the 2012 NBA Finals is painfully close. But there is another reason, a reason that transcends the scope of one season, that this loss was especially bitter and that is due to the fact that it seems possible that we have seen the end of the Big 3. It would have been nice to see them ride off into the sunset with banner 18 draped across their shoulders, however a storybook ending was not to be this time around. So we will wait for another sunrise and hope that Ray, Kevin and Paul (along with management) can find a way to keep the posse together.
The possibilities are seemingly endless in regards to what this roster could look like entering the 2012 season. With contracts coming off the books and a decent amount of cap space, Danny Ainge is working with the closest thing to a blank canvas that he has ever had in his time with Boston. Trying to predict the free agent market is a futile endeavor with so many variables yet to come into play that I wouldn’t even tease myself with pretending to guess what will happen.
So I’ll stick to what I know (or pretend to know), our current roster, and try to answer the big question for each guy. Will they stay or will they go?
The Quick and the Dead – Ryan Hollins and Sean Williams – With three rookies coming in from the upcoming draft and Danny’s ability to swim in the free agent pool this offseason, these two big men will no longer get to sit with the cool kids at lunch. Sorry guys, good luck in the future.
And… Action! – JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore – this season was essentially job shadowing for these two rookies. They were asked to be sponges and nothing more. Next year is the test to see how much knowledge they could soak up. While they still won’t see major minutes on the court, they will need to find a way to shine to remain Celtics. However, barring a trade, they will be on the roster. Two spots down.
Mr. Invisible – Sasha Pavlovic – My wife watches the Celtics with me, adores Rajon Rondo, and is getting to the point where she really knows her stuff. But the one question I continually fielded all year was – “who is that?” – and it was in reference to Sasha Pavlovic every single time. The funny thing is, who is that, describes Sasha almost perfectly. He never really did anything wrong… he just never really did anything right. For the same reasons that Hollins and Williams will be leaving, so will Pavlovic. With rookies and free agents coming in there’s just no room for a veteran competing for the third string. Adios, and via con Dios.
…And Charlie is the Wildcard – Marquis Daniels – or in this case Marquis is the Wildcard. Always Sunny? Anybody? Daniels solidified himself as a solid third string option this year, for whatever that is worth. I suppose it’s sort of like being the fastest kid at fat camp. However, if Daniels could ever learn to finish at the basket he might work his way into limited rotation minutes. However unlikely that is to happen, Ainge has brought back Daniels after previous exits and must like something about him. If there are better options, Marquis will be gone, but if there are not, he stays. (Feel free to address me as Captain Obvious). Daniels is the Wildcard. I’ll flip the coin and say he comes back. He knows the system, has flashes of potential, and seemingly started the “flex dance.” That’s gotta count for something, right? Three spots down.
It’s Not You, It’s Me – Keyon Dooling – You know when you break up with a girl and go to the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line. You really liked the girl, she was really nice, had really given herself to making the relationship work, but in the end you knew… It’s just not going to work out. Off the court Keyon is a leader for the team, a real glue guy. We’ve heard story after story this season raving about how Dooling is a great guy for a locker room. The problem is, for all of the praise he’s been given this season, not any of it has come for what Keyon does on the court. The reality of the situation is that Keyon Dooling has been a liability on the court for us this season. It’s a shame really, I doubt I’ve ever liked a bench player so much and routed for him so genuinely. He obviously cares a great deal and brings a wonderful energy to the team. Alas, it might be an energy, and more importantly a skill set, that is more suitable for a role as a coach and not a player. Sorry, Keyon. It’s not you, it’s me. I don’t think we should be together anymore. No, really, you’ve got so much to offer, I really don’t deserve you. You’re gonna find someone else and be really happy… I mean… we can still be friends.
The Party Guy – Mickael Pietrus – Ok, so you’re putting a party together. You’ve got all the important people you’re inviting, the people who you would never not invite, and then you have to round things out with the secondary invites. Your wife/girlfriend’s bitchy friend who always broods in the corner because the attention isn’t on her, the sort of cool guy at work who you’ve shared a couple of work jokes with who you know isn’t going to go blabbing about what happened at the party, and… The Party Guy. Your wife’s not all that into the Party Guy, he can go overboard sometimes. But the one time you had a party without Party Guy it didn’t go so well. Party Guy is necessary, dangerous, but necessary. He mixes it up, he always smiles, talks to everyone, and keeps the party on its toes. Sometimes he goes a little overboard like the time he streaked nude in front of your wife’s teenage cousin, but c’mon, it’s Party Guy. Mickael Pietrus is Party Guy. You need him to mix it up. Yeah, he’s going to get some fouls, yeah he’s going to toss up a couple bricks, but he keeps the other team on their toes and sometimes gets amazing back-to-back offensive rebounds. If you’re throwing a party, you need Party Guy. Pietrus stays. Four spots down.
Free Beer – Greg Stiemsma – Who says no to free beer? Nobody, that’s who. Greg Stiemsma is free beer. He’s a young 7-footer with natural shot blocking abilities that can pass and shoot a ten-foot jumper. Every team wants a young 7-footer with natural shot blocking abilities that can pass and shoot a ten-foot jumper. But wait, here’s the good part… HE’S PRACTICALLY FREE. The C’s will sign him for about one million, pencil him in on the second string and hope he learns to cut his fouls down. If it doesn’t work out, no big deal, it was free beer; we weren’t going to say no. Raise your glass, Boston. The Steemah isn’t going anywhere! Tommy will be so happy. Five spots down.
The No-Brainer – Avery Bradley – Just out of curiosity, do you think that there is anyone in this entire world who thought that Avery Bradley would be starting for the Celtics by year 1.5 over Ray Allen, because of his sweet jumper, ability to slash and finish at the rim and his ability to shut down the likes of players like Dwyane Wade? Quick tangent – I think Bradley really got into Dwyane’s head. The guy wore pink pants to a playoff game. I’m pretty sure that’s a red flag for serious psychological damage. I don’t even think Danny Ainge can honestly say he thought things would go this way. Go get yourself a pair of glasses with thick, black frames, Bradley. You’re an NBA star! Six spots down.
Not the Future, the Present – Rajon Rondo – Rajon Rondo is not the future of the Celtics, he’s the right now this very minute of the Celtics. Starting the minute the 2011-12 season ended Danny, Doc and the rest of the Celtics brain trust need to exhaust every effort to maximizing Rondo’s potential. The guy has Hall of Fame potential; do not squander it under any circumstance. Set him up with athletic, basket-attacking guys with good hands. With the right group of guys, Rajon Rondo could make the Celtics look like the love child of the Harlem Globetrotters and a Pink Floyd Laser Show. Stoners will start playing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” over Celtics games and talking about how crazy it is how Rondo’s passes match the guitar solos so well. (No, I’m not high right now.) Seven spots down.
Speaking of basket-attacking guys with good hands – Brandon Bass – Wait… Brandon Bass doesn’t attack the basket or have good hands. That’s kind of the point. Brandon Bass is essentially a sweet jump shooter with rebounding potential. So in an offense geared around a stud point guard like Rondo, the only function Bass is able to execute is a pick and roll that ends in a jump shot, or to receive a kick-out pass from point guard penetration that will also end in a jump shot. With all due respect to Brandon Bass and his game, I can’t really see Danny thinking that Bass is a great running mate for Rajon Rondo. With that said, the majority of the decision-making for what happens to Bass this off-season is in his hands. He has most likely murdered his stock on the free agent market with poor playoff performance, and has already gone on record as wanting to continue to play with Rondo. The likelihood is that Bass picks up his player option to stay with the Celtics next season. So one would have to think that he would be on the roster next year. I’m not sold though. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Bass picks up his option to play with the Celtics and then is promptly traded by Danny Ainge. As I’ve stated already, I’m of the opinion that if your not planning around Rondo at this point then you’re crazy. Brandon is just not a great fit, and Danny should be looking for great fits. I don’t expect to see him on the roster next year.
The Exception – Paul Pierce – At this point in Paul’s career he does not fit very well into a Rondo run offense, it is at times painfully obvious when Rondo is running the show and when Pierce starts taking over and showing us that the Truth is still out there. Sometimes they both work well and sometimes I find myself thinking that Pierce is trying to do too much. Simple logic would dictate that he should be traded for whatever we can get. However, this isn’t a simple logic situation. Paul Pierce is one of the few players that come through an organization that need to be treated differently. I’ve written before that if you wanted to follow something that was only cerebral you’d follow the stock market. We are sports fans, and we do not discount the whims of our hearts. Pierce has the heart of Boston and for this reason he will stay. More than this, Pierce can still play defense, create his own shot, and be a leader with the heart of a champion. Paul Pierce will retire in Boston, and I don’t believe that happens before next season. Eight spots down.
Horror Movie Villain – Kevin Garnett – When you think he’s dead, that’s just when it starts getting good. As we’re all well aware, the media has been calling for the death of Kevin Garnett for some time. The horror movie villain can’t be killed that easily. You have to kill him multiple times and often it has to be done in spectacular fashion. For those out there who think that he will be done after this season via retirement, I’m warning you. Don’t open that door… Don’t walk down that dark forest path alone… No… Don’t… HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!! The Celtics will make KG somewhat of a priority in the offseason, as long as he’s not looking for the most money he can get anywhere, they will resign him. As we’ve seen in these playoffs Garnett still strikes fear into the heart of the opponent and he just… won’t… die! Nine spots down.
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” – Ray Allen – Pride is listed as one of the seven deadly sins and is generally looked at as a vice and not a virtue; a hindrance of the vain and short-sighted. I would not argue so. Pride in many cases can come from a place of deep love and devotion, pride can come from a call to fulfill ones purpose, pride can be the product of passion. If Ray Allen again signs in Boston this off-season he may lose the very thing that has propelled him through what has been a Hall of Fame career: passion and a call to duty. Ray Allen would never hurt his team, it is completely against his character, and that is why he was willing to come off of the bench this season. But the pride of Ray Allen (the virtuous) won’t allow that to be all he contributes to the NBA. The call to start and fill as many minutes as he can for as long as he can is what drives him to be a metaphorical warrior on the basketball court. There are many teams that would like to see Ray Allen in their starting lineup, some of which are contenders. Ray will soldier on to fight the good fight… somewhere. We have need of him, but our need is not as great as the need of others. However, Ray has been fighting for a long time and he’s seen a lot. After Let’s-go-Cel-tics, Ray now knows where the grass is greenest. Thanks for fighting Ray, and here’s to the hope that you continue fighting for the Green Guys. I want to be an optimist today, we’ll see you in November, Ray. Ten spots down.
So, with all of that said, I’ve got ten of fifteen spots filled with guys from our current roster. Starters: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett, and 2 forwards to fill. 2nd String: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, and 1 forward to fill. 3rd String: Marquis Daniels, E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, 1 forward and 1 center to fill. I’ve listed Paul Pierce as second string, but I don’t think the Celtics start the season with Pierce coming off the bench. Much in the way events transpired with Ray going to the bench this season, I think next year will produce the same result for Paul. Having Paul in the second unit with Ray could produce the best bench in the league. Moving Pierce to the bench puts our two best ball handlers on separate strings. I see this as a winning formula; hopefully Pierce will agree.
This leaves Danny needing to find 4 forwards, and 1 center. We have three picks in the upcoming draft and I expect Danny to use all three without trading down in hope that at least one pick will land a sleeper the likes of an Avery Bradley. Then Danny will have to fill the roster with two free agents, but who knows what could really happen. I’ve already predicted a trade of Bass after he picks up his option and when trades come into play the possibilities become seemingly endless. I won’t pretend to really believe this is exactly how things will go down in the off-season (if I hit on 66% of these predictions I’ll be shocked) but this is how things make sense to me at this point in time. I would love to see my predicted roster with maybe Jeff Green starting along side a power forward with above-average speed and athleticism, backed up by a veteran, defensive-minded bench led by Pierce, Ray Allen and Pietrus, and a third string full of youth and potential. In my opinion this could be a championship contender next year, which still looks to be a championship contender for years to come after Paul, Kevin and Ray have left.
When the sun sets it is not a time for lamenting what shall never be again, it is a time to rest, for a new day is but hours away.