Danny Ainge has done an excellent job all season in putting on a clinic of demonstrating the virtue that is patience.
He has left two roster slots empty for much of the season, resisted pseudo-temptations such as Damon Stoudamire and made it clear that he would make a move only when the right move presented itself, not for the sake of making one. It is the right attitude, and it has served Ainge well so far.
That said, here's hoping Ainge is ready to step off the executive sideline and into the trading game. Thanks to the trade that sent Tyronn Lue and his expiring $3.5 million contract to Sacramento, the chance to make that right move has presented itself.
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Back in August, when it was first reported that Lue helped convince good friend Kevin Garnett to willingly come to Boston, I half-jokingly suggested the possibility of the Celts pursuing Lue over the summer. The jest was that Lue had to be a cool dude if he was friends with KG. The not-so-funny part was the stability he would provide at the point guard position.
At the time, however, Celtics Nation didn't know exactly what the need would be at point guard for this team. Well, with the exception of loyal reader MikeDfromNP, that is, who to his credit has at no point wavered on his unconditional love of Rajon Rondo. For those of us without the self-proclaimed resident Rondologist's foresight (in the case of any confusion over tone here, the preceding phraseology is meant wholly as a compliment to Mike), what Rondo would give the Celts remained an enormous question mark going into the season. Maybe the Celtics would need a veteran back-up. Maybe they would need an entirely new solution at the position.
Then again, maybe not to that latter possibility. The picture is a lot clearer now, and it only makes acquiring Lue look like an even more sensible move. The questions about where Raj fits on this team are gone: He is the starting point guard now and for the foreseeable future, and his ceiling remains unknown. As has been evident for some time now, the issue is at the point is that of potentially acquiring a more traditional point guard than Eddie House and Tony Allen to back up Rondo.
Before we get to Lue, it is worth disclaiming that this doesn't mean that either House or Allen should be getting booted from the rotation. Allen could still be a very valuable piece at the swing positions (his natural spots) for the Celtics, and House has earned the right to keep getting minutes, be they either at the point or occasionally at the two, though that latter possibility would certainly put the Celts at a major size disadvantage at times. The goal isn't to eat all of House's minutes, and that shouldn't happen, but that said, it's still important that this team be as playoff-ready as possible.
Tyronn Lue helps said team become more playoff-ready.
As part of a logjam in Sacramento and as a man in possession of an expiring $3.5 million contract, Lue should be obtainable at a fairly reasonable (if not altogether bargain) price. Worries about him affecting the thus-far beautiful chemistry on this team will likely be assuaged quickly, as Lue has long been reputed as one of the best locker room guys in the league. He is someone who knows his role and will bust his gut every night for his team but won't complain for more minutes or touches or cause strife with his teammates or coaches.
As for his role on the floor, Lue makes sense because he will fill the niches the Celts need. Unlike House and Allen, Lue is actually a point guard. He handles the ball with far greater ease than either of the other two and will be much less susceptible to running into trouble against ball pressure, especially when that sort of opposing defense picks up down the stretch and in the playoffs. He is a heady player who is far happier to settle for the smart play than to take the risk to make the spectacular. Lue won't need to take a lot of shots, and he will be take care of the basketball. When he does shoot, he likes the mid-range jumper, which is exactly the shot the Celts would be looking for Lue to take if he gets a minimally contested look.
Furthermore, Lue remains a very capable defender. He is best known for doing a phenomenal job on Allen Iverson in the 2001 Finals, and though he has certainly aged considerably since then, he is just 30 years old and still knows what he is doing when his team doesn't have the ball. Though just six feet tall, Lue is compactly built and deceptively strong. He is a scrappy player who will be more than happy to try to get inside the shorts of an opponent if asked to do so.
Ball handler with a brain, who will avoid turnovers. Passer. Defender. Low ego. High character. Deep postseason experience (two titles with the Lakers). Relatively low cost. Call me crazy, but this sounds like exactly the profile Celts boosters have been putting out in our want ads for back-up point guard help all season. Tyronn Lue would know his role on this team, and he would fit it to a tee.
Finally, as was mentioned in the forum thread on this topic, I would be remiss to retire from any discussion about Tyronn Lue without sharing my favorite anecdote about him, courtesy of Michael Leahy's When Nothing Else Matters (in my paraphrasing):
In those '01 Finals, AI got so frustrated with Lue's defense that he finally yelled something at him that -- with the expletives removed -- equated to "I'm gonna fight you after the game." And Tyronn Lue looked right back at reigning NBA MVP Allen Iverson without blinking and said "I'll fight you right now."
This is the type of guy who one is best served to have as an ally. Especially come playoff time.