A Daily Babble Production
In the aftermath of Sam Cassell's recent proclamation that he'll be returning as a Celtic this season, there seems to be no shortage of members of the green faithful that are running for cover.
Given how Cassell played in his time in Beantown in 2007-08, it's hard to blame those who are doing so.
Too often, the guy had the effect of coming onto the floor as a one man wrecking crew. That would be in regards to wrecking the Celtics' chances of being productive during his stint on the court. He had the tendency to immediately kill ball movement by looking for his own shot and nothing else. The offense stagnated as Sam dribbled around looking for a good shot, and if it wasn't there, he often took a bad one. That he shot the ball fairly poorly as a Celtic didn't help him take any steps toward providing even an iota of justification for that sort of actions.
It was at times painful to watch this guy last season, and I'm as guilty of anyone as joining in the masses' frustration with him down the stretch in the playoffs.
Yet, all things considered, the thought of SamIAm returning to the fold doesn't bother me as much as it could.
Yes, Cassell was awful in his brief stint for the Celts but that's part of the point: It was a brief stint. This is a guy who has played in this league for 15 years and been consistently more effective throughout that tenure than he was for 38 games as a Celtic. He has been a considerably more efficient shooter, and while he has always been a bit shot-happy, he has done a markedly better job at facilitating offenses over the course of his career.
Certainly, the fact that he is now 38 years old has contributed to a decline in his game, and he isn't getting any younger. It isn't fair to expect him to perform the way he did in the midst of his career. But he also isn't going to be asked to perform in the same role he did then either. Cassell was injured throughout much of last season and didn't join the Celtics until mid-March. It stands to reason that he could regain some of his past productivity simply from the benefits of coming into a season healthy and being a part of the mix and the team's schemes from day one.
Further, on a team facing many depth questions, it might not be so terribly bad to have the shot-happy Cassell around. The Celtics are very thin on proven offensive punch off their bench, and there are no shortage of concerns as to who will step up to add some scoring. SamIAm is the type of guy who can get hot anytime and really add a spark as a reserve. If he starts scoring, the points will come in bunches. It doesn't hurt to have that sort of guy at least available on the bench.
As for the fact that the Celtics already have 15 players under contract, early theory is that a return for Cassell would mean either an upcoming trade to cut the roster or that Darius Miles or Gabe Pruitt would eventually be shown the door. The mercurial Miles is as big a question mark as this team has. He has an awful injury history, a reputation as a long-time jerk, a lot of talent and very little NBA productivity to show for it. If he works hard right from the start and proves to the Celts that he deserves a shot as the back-up three, great. That would be a bonus. If he doesn't wow the front office brass with his work ethic immediately, well, there is a reason (many, actually) why his contract isn't guaranteed. Cutting him loose would be no surprise and no source of unpleasantness here.
As for Pruitt, it may be worth being wary of fixation with the unknown. Like many of this team's young players, Pruitt attracts interest because we don't know a lot about him. Since he wears green, the predisposition for many of us tends to be one of optimism. He is a 170-pound stringbean who can supposedly shoot the ball a little bit, and young talent often leads to thoughts of future glory. But we don't know if he can run a professional offense, defend at this level or even get his own shot. He's currently the only entity even close to a point guard on this roster after Rajon Rondo and Eddie House. Second-round picks aren't exactly guarantees in this league to begin with, and the proven Cassell could be of more value in the chase for another championship than Pruitt is if he isn't ready for the big-time this season. That being said, Jeff noted earlier this week that Ainge is very happy with Pruitt's progress at this point, so perhaps the youngster isn't going anywhere too quickly.
Finally, it bears remembering that the value of a Cassell signing has almost as much to do with Doc Rivers as it does with Cassell himself. The onus will be on Doc to pick his spots with the Alien, who isn't being brought in to be the big-time floor general he was earlier in his career. He is at this point a spot spark guy off the bench, and he is a guy who should be coming off the bench after Eddie House. House earned himself the reserve role with his commitment to this team throughout the season, his hustle in the playoffs and his unselfishness throughout the rotation flip-flopping with Cassell.
But that doesn't mean that Cassell couldn't be of value on a night when the team is struggling and needs some scoring spark off the bench. Or if House is having trouble against ball pressure, Rivers would have a proven superior ball handler off the bench for him. If Doc can use Sam in moderation, ride him when he is hot and yank him right away when he is clearly cold, he could turn Cassell into at least something of an asset for this team rather than a hindrance.
This isn't to say that bringing Sam Cassell back is definitively the way to go or that Gabe Pruitt or Darius Miles should necessarily be on their respective ways out. But having the old vet back in the fold might not be the catastrophe that it may seem in some eyes.