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Old Hands, New Blood

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When the Celtics made their huge offseason splash, picking up Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, one of the concerns was team depth.  After all, what good is it to get 3 superstars if the rest of the players can't hold up their end of the bargain?  Danny Ainge promised he wasn't done, and he has since built up a roster around the big three that will contend for a Championship this year.

Already in place were young players like Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Leon Powe and Rajon Rondo.  To varying degrees, each has stepped up to the challenge of contributing to a winning team (a 180 degree turn from the situation they were part of last season).  Credit Ainge for making good decisions on who was worth holding onto and who was more valuable in trades.

Soon after the KG trade, Ainge added Eddie House and Scot Pollard.  While Pollard has predictably spent more time on the pine than the hardwood, he may have some value as a big man sub if he gets healthy by the playoffs.  Eddie House has been our version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson, heating up fast and pulling the trigger on 3's even faster.

After flirting with Reggie Miller, the Celtics seemed to luck out by having James Posey fall right into their laps.  He's been as good as advertised on defense and has come up with some clutch three pointers when the team has needed them most.

For most of the year, that lineup has been enough to earn the league's best record.  But the feeling has always been that there were still weaknesses in the depth.  There were no true backup point guards on the team to spell Rondo or fill in if he missed a few games.  The frontcourt depth included two undersized power forwards, Pollard in street clothes, and Brian Scalabrine.

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For months the team stood pat and repeated the line "we're happy with our team" over and over again as free agents like Damon Stoudamire, Gary Payton, and others expressed a strong desire to join the Celtics.  None of them seemed like a good fit to Ainge, so the team waited (which was easy to do as the win totals piled up).

If you could have picked two players to add to the roster, they would be veterans with playoff experience who are hungry for a title and willing to accept a smaller role on a Championship focused team.  They'd be solid guys that wouldn't frustrate the team chemistry and would give the team a boost and a spark off the bench down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Enter P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell (pending waivers).

Brown seems like the perfect fit for the frontcourt.  He's got the size (6'11"), defense, and rebounding that are sure to blend beautifully with the system Doc Rivers and Tom Thibbodeau have in place.  Either Powe or Davis will see some of their minutes reduced, but it would seem that Scalabrine should be the most likely to be pushed to the end of the bench.  I would think that whatever intangibles Scal brings to the table would be more than made up for by Brown's experience.

Cassell slides into the backup point guard position that has been covered by committee all year.  No longer will we have to cringe as Eddie House or Tony Allen barely get the ball over half court, leaving fewer seconds on the shot clock to get into the offense.  Both should still get their share of minutes backing up Ray Allen, in particular if we intend to keep Ray well rested.  But how much time each gets will likely depend on the situation (House for offense, Tony for defense).

The roster had holes in it.  Perhaps they weren't leaking yet, but they might have been enough to sink the ship in the playoffs if things didn't go right. By waiting for the right time (perhaps anxiously awaiting the results of the trade deadline), Ainge has filled those holes.  Time will tell how well they fit into the team and how much of a boost they give the team down the stretch.  But at least for now, they seem to be the perfect finishing touches on the roster that Ainge has constructed.  Now it is up to the players to go and get it done.