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With Leandro Barbosa gone for the rest of the season with an ACL tear, Ainge is faced with the same decision that he stared down when Rondo was lost with the same injury: should he blow up the team and build for the future or reload for a playoff run?
Source on whether Barbosa has ACL tear: "They have to do the tests to verify it, but that's what it looks like."— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) February 12, 2013
5 positions. 48 minutes each. 14,440 seconds.
That's the simple math that Doc has to figure out every night for every game. How can he squeeze out the best of his roster so that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole? Considering what's befallen the team this year, he's a candidate for Coach Of The Year for getting the team up after every hit. Since the beginning of the season, Doc's dealt with the loss of Darko Milicic, Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and now Barbosa. That's four rotation players.
But truth is, if the starters plus Green and Terry average about 30 minutes each and Collins and Wilcox chip in with 15, that's a full game and a pretty tight playoff rotation going forward, but after tomorrow night's game against the Bulls, we still have 30 games after the All Star break. Plus, the Celtics aren't exactly guaranteed a playoff spot. Even with their inspired play of late, they're still only three games over .500 and you never know what a Bynum return to Philly could do for the Sixers. I like that rotation come April and May, but Danny certainly needs to be shopping for insurance over the next two weeks.
Like many have suggested, Ainge could fill out the rest of the roster with D-League call ups and 10-day contracts and try to catch lightning in a bottle with some of these fringe players; Micah Downs was with the team in training camp and Shelvin Mack has had a cup of coffee with a few NBA teams. We saw it work last season with Greg Stiemsma's emergence from last year's training camp to Ryan Hollins' late season pick up that led both to valuable minutes in the playoffs. Fans have also clamored to bring in vets like Kenyon Martin and Delonte West that might be able to help right away without a lengthy tutorial in the Celtic way. Keyon Dooling also flirted with coming out of retirement when Rondo went down.
There's also the trade route. But with the team's recent success and rumors dying down that he might deal cornerstones Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in order to rebuild, he really doesn't have a lot of chips to bet if he decides to go all in for a championship run. Including the recently recalled Fab Melo, the team only has 10 healthy players and with Wilcox and Collins on vet minimums, it makes it difficult to bring in anybody of merit because of the need to match contracts (not to mention that those guys are already part of the rotation). Combining Barbosa's vet minimum with a future 1st or 2nd rounder might work though. Danny could also look to trade Fab's upside. Look around the league for log jams with other vets playing for the minimum and they might become candidates for the C's. For example, could Ainge convince the Bucks to part with Marquis Daniels? What about Brooklyn and Stackhouse? C.J. Miles? Damien Wilkins or Royal Ivey? Roger Mason Jr.? Ronny Turiaf anyone? Gulp...Jermaine O'Neal?
My two cents: when Danny put this team together last summer, he extended the championship window for two (very optimistically, three) years. Basically, we're talking about the length of Kevin Garnett's contract with Pierce maybe signing a one-year deal in order to retire with KG. And even with all these injuries this season, I don't think that plan should change. We're not trading Pierce or KG and any combination of Lee/Terry/Bass/Green would be foolish at this point. The team is playing well and they'll be playing even better in 2014. But for the immediate needs, I really think it's time for Danny to start entertaining bringing in some vets. If Doc's not going to play Fab and rightly so--the kid's just not ready--he's not going to give a guy from the minors PT either. I know I'm not alone in saying this, but there's nobody better that can fill in for us right now than Delonte.
In my book, he'll always be a Celtic. We can argue that he's had his problems, but they never came up in his time in Boston. He knows the system and fits in perfect as a back up PG and a big wing in three guard line ups. I'd really be surprised if he wasn't the first call that Danny makes.