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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Staying together presents its own problems, too.

Ok. So this hasn’t gone as we hoped it would.

It might not be the Celtics last will and testament, but it certainly is about the Celtics’ lost will and testament… to the value of chemistry.

Those who said this assemblage of the Big Three was a one shot group in the same vein of the Miami Heat a few years ago are looking prophetic.
It now seems like such a long time ago that this new team of stars went to Rome to bond and build that oh so important chemistry. While there, Kevin Garnett called the new big three the Ceatles…and he was Paul.

The Beatles had a tremendous run over about eight years.

Many saw this team as having a three year window to ransack and pillage the league. Was that optimistic?

The league was in awe. The new Boston Celtics had the NBA’s attention. But who thought that the new kids on the block be more like….The New Kids On the Block?

Some outside of Boston thought so then. I didn’t.

One Hit Wonder?
This powerful Celtic team ‘Gino danced’ to the championship in 2008. Will that title dance become a one hit wonder like… the Macarena?  

Have individual agendas made the Celtics….Too Sexy For Their Shirts?  

Right Said Fred.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Said Einstein.

So just how complicated is this?

That is what Danny Ainge must decide. Solomon might have a tough time with this one.

Picture the Beatles without Paul or John for a while. It is not the same group. It is the same with Garnett and the Celtics.

The Beatles were ripping out hits right up the end. It is a bit different with basketball players. Their minds get better, but their bodies don’t.  
The trash talking-est team in the league hasn’t been able to back it up this season. The Celtics’ pit bulls have lost their bite. Their own coach has called them ‘front runners’.

They play 24 minutes of solid, team oriented, energetic basketball and mysteriously do something less than that for 24 minutes a game.

For what it’s worth, the technical fouls have stopped for the moment. The Celtics haven’t had one in 6 straight games now. The last one was by Rasheed in the Lakers game.

As Garnett Goes, So Goes the Celtics

So…is Paul dead? Did we end up with Billy Shears?

Is the dream, as we know it, dead?

It depends on who you talk to.

At this point, many in Celtic Nation believe the ship has sailed on any realistic title hopes for this unit - for good. Time for the big break up. And Ray Allen is the likely choice. Great attitude, team player all the way, locker room and community diplomat, healthy, in great shape, and a huge expiring contract that is as precious as gold is this environment for certain teams.

Bringing up the counter thoughts are a small band of hold outs who believe patience and no major moves are the best course of action. Ray Allen’s ‘still dangerous’ game, overall persona and unquestionable character drives the loyalty of this group.

But understand. Ray Allen is not the problem with this team.

There is so much going on regarding the myriad trade talks that what matters most may be getting lost in the shuffle.

So why is Ray the one being offered in trade?

Some say he is in decline. He is at near career low numbers right now. But he has the best net on court/off court number (+9.9) on the team. It is about more than his individual numbers. He makes life easier for the other 4 players on the floor. No one would think any just three point shooter would be as valuable…would they?

Ray’s shooting droughts have sometimes come at inopportune moments. But he bounces back. And few are as dangerous in the last few minutes with the game on the line. He is currently in an 8 for 34 (23%) slump from beyond the same line that will ultimately put him in ‘The Hall’. Make no mistake, he will break out of this slump as well.

He is healthy. Ownership would not trade Pierce. Garnett is making major dollars and will make even more as he grows older. Even with KG’s physical decline – he is probably the most difficult to replace.

Ray is the obvious choice.

Ray Allen is a gem - as a player, as a person. He is still one of the most dangerous clutch shooters in the game. In this crazy league, at this crazy time, his expiring contract is a good thing.

Expiring Contract = Financial Freedom = Greater Roster Freedom

Remember when players were traded based on talent alone?

It was kind of like trading picture cards. Those days are long gone.

Sometimes the contract is more important than the talent.

If you just want an expiring contract, he has a big one ($19.7 mil.) and you get a 30 game rental to boot. In the off season, Ray will then seek the best place for himself to resume his career. Could he find his way back here?

Uncertainty and ambiguity reigns. The path is not clear, though some would have you think so.

A number of solid players have been mentioned, but their contracts, age, and individual games have to be considered. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement, depressed economy and projected lock out in 2011 all play a role.

Issues? Do we have issues.
Other major issues are equally important. And the solutions are not clear right. Danny’s decisions (or abstention from) right now will be critical to the present and future success of this team.

Kevin Garnett
The biggest thing is still Kevin Garnett’s health and game.

So a few thoughts on that.

What if this is as good as Garnett will get this season? Does that mean no title hopes?

Let’s look at it this way…

Isn’t Garnett, even at his current level of play, as good defensively as Pau Gasol? I would wager the answer is yes. Similarly, isn’t Kendrick Perkins better defensively than Andrew Bynum? Again yes.

So, the Celtics two starting bigs are still as good defensively as the Laker’s two starting bigs. Isn’t that the core of a still solid defense?
Can’t the Celtics make a few adjustments defensively and return to dominance?

Are the problems really on the offensive end?

The team already has the lowest 'points allowed' average in the league. But that is somewhat deceptive when teams roll over you when they need to. And that is exactly what has been happening. It almost happened again last night in a game where all the defensive numbers were great.

The Celtic defense with Garnett off the floor (18 minutes per game) still needs work. So Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau have their work cut out. Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis still don’t do ‘help defense’ to the level required to play Celtic style defense. But both had performances last night that were encouraging.

Eddie House is still a defensive liability and Rajon Rondo has, at times, been part of the defensive mystery. Rondo is, by far, the most energetic player on the Celtics. Without him this team looks more like the Geritol Gang than Gang Green. He leads the league in steals. But a number of point guards have had excellent games against the Celtics this season.

There are a slew of issues that have popped up this season. Rebounding, focus, energy, chemistry, offense, defense, aging stars, loss of ubuntu and whatever else I missed.
For the record, I am not against trading Ray.  But whether Ray stays or goes, this team has things to fix.

With all their troubles, they are but 5 losses behind the Lakers and 7 behind the Cavaliers. I’m not ready to give up on them yet.

The next few weeks are critical. Whatever the team’s private issues are, it is time for Doc to get them straightened out.

Ray Allen to Steve Bulpett in the Boston Herald...

“We’re facing a different challenge now,” Allen said. “You think about all the teams in different sports that were supposed to win and didn’t because of other issues that got in the way or on the table.”

Whatever problems Paul McCartney and John Lennon had between them, they continued to work together pumping out some huge hits.

I'd like to believe this group of Celtics aren't done either.

Yesterday, all their troubles seemed so far away. We believed in yesterday.

It is today and tomorrow that have us all worried.

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