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Far East Q & A

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Earlier this week I received this email:

Hello Jeff!
I am a big Celtics fan from China, and I have been on the Celtics bandwagon for nearly 7 years. Now I am one of the moderators of the most popular basketball forum in China (hoopCHINA, www.hoopchina.com). I always collect the latest news and report from this blog and then translate and post on the Celtics forum (hope you don't mind:)) in order to show more Celtics' information to the Celtics fan in China.

This season is really a disaster, but all of us can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some questions collected from the Celtics fans in China, since you have much more understanding of Celtics than all of us, might you spend a little spare time to answer these questions? Million thx in advance;)

First of all, thank you very much for your kind words.  It is great to hear that there are dedicated Celtics fans in China.  Please pass along my kindest regards to everyone reading from the Far East.  I’ll do my best to answer these questions as best I can.  Of course I’m sure I’ll change my mind at least 16 times before the end of the summer.

1. Besides Oden and Durant, Which player do you think is best suitable for the roster? In other words, if unfortunately we miss the top 2 picks, which player would you choose? Will Yi be in your consideration in that situation?

Danny Ainge has indicated that he’s going to be looking for players that can have an immediate impact, so I’m guessing that he will not be interested in players that will take more than a year or two to contribute.  I believe that is why the rumors are indicating that Joakim Noah is high on his list.  Noah may not have the upside of some of the other players, but you know he can come in and help your team in many ways right away.

On the other hand, I think the preference is going to be to trade the pick if it is not in the top 2.  The team is in desperate need of veteran help and they simply can’t bring in too many more young players and expect to make real progress before Pierce starts getting too old to contribute.

I’m sure you are aware that Danny Ainge has scouted Yi extensively but I don’t know how seriously he’s considered him.  From what I know about Yi, it may take him a few years to adapt to the NBA game and become the player he is capable of becoming.  For that reason, I don’t think he’s going to be high on our list, but you never know.

If anything, perhaps you can tell us more about Yi’s game.  I’ve heard him compared to a young Raef LaFrentz.  Will he be able to play the physical game of the NBA?  What kind of demeanor does he have on the court?  In other words, does he play aggressively or does he play more reserved?

2. As is mentioned many times, Pierce have a big desire for veterans. Which teams and which players do you think is feasible to make a trade with? Do we have a chance to acquire Kevin Garnett?

This is a topic that we will very likely be talking about all offseason.  Right now, everything is on hold until we know where our draft position is.  That’s why we didn’t see many trades at the trade deadline in February.  Teams just don’t know what they have yet.

If we don’t land Oden or Durant, I think the emphasis will be to go after a big name player using the pick, Theo Ratliff’s contract, and perhaps Gerald Green or a few of the other young guys.

I am a huge fan of Kevin Garnett but based on conversations with other bloggers, it appears that we may not have the best shot at getting him if he does become available.  It comes down to whether or not we are willing to give up Al Jefferson.  I just don’t see the Celtics trading him for anyone at this point.

It is possible we could get Pau Gasol without giving up Jefferson.  It depends on who else is bidding for him and what the Grizzlies are looking for in return.  If they really are trying to cut costs, we might have a shot using Theo Ratliff’s contract.  Still, I think we’d have to part with popular players like Rajon Rondo and Gerald Green.

For some reason, I keep wondering about Jermaine O’Neal.  The Indiana Pacers are looking to shake things up and might take a package of young players for him.  I know that O’Neal and Pierce are friends and I think his price-tag would be lower than that of Garnett or Gasol.  Of course it would be odd to put him next to Jefferson since they play the same position, but I think either O’Neal or Jefferson could play some center.  Besides, Ainge loves trading for guys with leg injuries, so this should be a perfect fit!

If they can’t get one of the top guys on the trade market, or if they win the lottery then I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Celtics go for someone like Mike Bibby.  He could probably be acquired for a reasonable price and he could fill the role of veteran point guard.  Rondo would have less pressure to develop right away and Delonte could move over to shooting guard full time.

3. Jefferson have been shining for almost the whole season, do you consider he as a major part of the team's future or a big trading asset in the offseason? Could you estimate his next contract given that he is healthy?

I think that Jefferson is an absolute cornerstone to whatever the team is planning for the next several years.  You just can’t find low post scorers like him very often.  I think he’ll get a contract extension somewhere between 9 and 11 million dollars a year for 3 to 5 years.

4. Which way does Pierce act will be most beneficial to the team? A scoring machine or a playmaker? Will he still be untouchable if the Celts keeps losing in the following season?

Pierce is a natural scorer, but he’s mostly scored the most points when he has nobody else around him that can score.  When his teammates step up and score consistently, it makes Pierce’s job a whole lot easier.  I think he can set up his teammates and I think you’ll see him make a big effort to make sure that Al Jefferson gets his share of shots. 

Pierce seems to be waiting to see what the team does this offseason.  If they bring in some very good players to help him win, Pierce will be very happy.  If they don’t fare well this offseason and run out of options, he’ll be as frustrated as the rest of us fans.  In fact, if things get bad enough, the team might consider trading Pierce for a fresh start.  That is probably the last thing the management wants to happen though.

5. Does Rondo play well enough to implement the PG position? Will West become a SG on the court given that Rondo gets mature?

Rajon Rondo is quickly becoming an excellent NBA point guard.  He moves the ball like a pure point guard should, he plays tough defense, and he plays with wonderful energy and creativity.

The knock on him has always been that his jump shot is just not good at all.  When his defender doesn’t have to worry about him shooting, they can play back and defend his dribble better.  Of course he’s quick and smart enough to do well anyway, but eventually he’s going to need to get at least an average jump shot.  It will be even more important when the team starts playing playoff games and opposing coaches will be able to game plan against us.  He doesn’t have to be a great shooter, but if he can improve his shot a little bit this summer, he should win the starting spot in training camp.

Delonte is a natural shooting guard, but he is also pretty small for that position.  He also has enough court vision to fill in at the point guard spot.  For those reasons, I like using him as a combo guard off the bench.  Ideally (if there are no changes to the backcourt) I’d like to see Rondo and a healthy Tony Allen starting and bring Delonte off the bench for either one of them.

6. How do you judge Rivers' and Ainge's performance in the last 2 years?

Rivers has not done as well as I would have liked, but he does have some legitimate excuses.  Youth and injuries are hard to win with in this league.  However, other teams are able to persevere in similar situations, and often that is because of an excellent coach.  If I have one major issue with Doc it is that his teams don’t rise above expectations.

The other major problem I have with him (and I don’t believe this is discussed enough) is defense.  He focuses so much time and energy on his offensive system that I believe the defense gets lost.  Rondo, Allen, Gomes, and Perkins in particular have the ability to be excellent defenders.  I just don’t feel like they are being utilized to the best of their abilities and I blame that on the coaching staff.

Ainge has been up and down.  I think we’ve seen him do an excellent job of drafting, especially finding great value lower in the draft.  On the flipside, none of his free agents has panned out as hoped.  With trades he’s done a decent job of picking up draft picks and young players but he’s also had to take on big contracts that seem to limit the team’s finances.  This summer Ainge has a great opportunity to make the team better.  Let’s hope he does.

Thanks again for the questions.  These are just my opinions and I’m sure you’ll find that a lot of people reading this blog will disagree with me on the particulars, but that is all part of the fun.  It was great hearing from you and I hope you’ll keep in touch.