by Gabe Kahn
As of this minute, the Celtics have 18 players signed to their roster, three more than the 15 allowed under the brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Barring a trade between now and November 2, when the Celtics open their season against Larry Brown and the New York Knicks, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers are going to have to make some tough decisions regarding who will make it, and who will not.
The Celtics' overflowing roster is an issue because they drafted three players, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes and Orien Greene and then took back two players, Curtis Borchardt and Quyntel Woods in the Antoine Walker deal last month. Following that, point guard Will Bynum was signed in free agency and the C's traded for the offensively talented yet defensively challenged Dan Dickau. Woods, if he is not included in any trade for the sake of making salaries match, will be waived. That leaves two more players than available roster spots and it's anyone's guess who will still be around on opening night.
Of the 17 remaining players, the following 10 are certain to make the team: Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, Raef LaFrentz, Al Jefferson, Brian Scalabrine, Delonte West, Green, Gomes, Dickau, and, sorry fans, Mark Blount. Others, such as Kendrick Perkins, Justin Reed and Greene (once his contract becomes official; though reports differ, it appears that his deal is all but done) might not be locks to be employed much after Halloween, but they shouldn't get too worried, either. Those who might consider hiring a real estate agent in the next few weeks are Marcus Banks, Tony Allen, Bynum and Borchardt.
Allen is the newest and most shocking addition to this list and his inclusion has very little if anything to do with basketball. The Oklahoma State product may have been involved in an incident in Chicago last week where someone Allen reportedly had been arguing with earlier in the day was shot and injured. If it turns out that Allen was more than peripherally involved, the Celtics may consider cutting ties with the gravity defying second-year player, upsetting as it would be to them. Unless there is any evidence pointing to Allen blatantly enough that any jail time is discussed and, given that Chicago police have stated that Allen is not even a suspect, one would have to believe that the chances of something like that happening are extremely unlikely.
No one is entirely sure what the Celtics' intentions are when it comes to Borchardt. The oft-injured center has not yet been waived, and the Green would like to hold onto him as insurance in case LaFrentz's right knee acts up or if Blount goes all, well, Blount on them again in '05-'06. Borchardt is a bit of a wild card and could turn out to be a viable backup. Remember, he will turn 25 this month and has only been in the league for three seasons, playing only during the last two because of a stress fracture that kept him out his entire rookie year. He may have some untapped potential in his brittle body and the fact that he is a 7-footer means that he'll probably have a shelf life in the NBA, but because of the overcrowded roster, he would be the most logical one to get the axe.
If it weren't for the fact that Bynum was signed to a guaranteed contract just weeks ago, he would be on the top of everyone's list of players not expected to make it through training camp. Though the rookie point guard out of Georgia Tech performed moderately well while playing with the Celtics squad in the Reebok Vegas Summer League back in July, Bynum would seem to be the odd man out when it comes to the five point guards on the Celtics' roster. Though a good scorer, Rivers' would much prefer to have a playmaker as his floor general, as he already has plenty of guys capable of putting the ball in the bucket and he already has Dickau and Banks who think shoot first. Minor conspiracy theorists believe that Bynum was brought aboard simply to push Banks to work harder in October, not because he has any real shot of making it onto the roster himself. By the way, for all you who are still stuck on why Ainge would sign a guy only to drop him before he ever played a game, remember that they did something very similar with Ernest Brown last season (though Brown did not have a guaranteed contract). With the $3 million the Celtics received from Miami in the Walker trade, they could cut Bynum and not even notice.
All this leads us, of course, to the mercurial and controversial Banks. Some think he is the Anti-Christ. Some think he is the Messiah, or at least the second coming of Chauncey Billups. Would Ainge sign Bynum simply to motivate young Marcus? From everything coming out of the Celtics' organization, the answer is a resounding "yes." Banks has been mentioned in trade rumors many times this summer, and many times more than anyone else on the current roster. His play as well as his attitude last season clearly frustrated Rivers on numerous occasions and his behavior behind closed doors has irked the Celtics ever since he was drafted. And for all the comparisons to Billups, recall that Chauncey averaged over 11 points in his rookie season and just under 14 points in year two. Marcus averaged 5.9 and 4.6 points in his first and second seasons, respectively.
The Celtics' have taken issue with Banks because they are under the impression that he has enough talent to make him a first class NBA point guard but refuses to listen to those who want him to reach that point. Having exasperated his coaches and his teammates, Ainge may be hoping that the last resort to getting his message through to Banks is by taking away his job security. If anything can get Banks to change his ways, making him sweat out a roster spot will and if it doesn't, what's the point of even trying? It's unlikely that it would come to that, but sources have indicated that it is a course that the Celtics are considering taking.
But the fact remains, that whether it be because of injuries, talent, trouble with the law or simply a lack of motivation, two must go. If these four want to be members of the Boston Celtics in 2006, it's time to start making their case. Let the competition begin.