|Posted by paul on July 22, 2012 at 5:05 AM|
Danny has had a brilliant summer, hasn't he? Of course, the key was KG's return, KG having signed a contract that turned out to be VERY team friendly, in comparison to other contracts signed around the NBA this summer. I know that I was down on KG early in the off-season, unfairly as it turns out, because it looked to me like his commitment to the 'Celtics Way', something that I seem to recall him talking about with tremendous passion, was more show than substance. Now it looks like KG is as true a Celtic as we have ever seen. Has anyone ever done more to tend the Celtics Pride flame that was lit by Bill Russell a half century ago now?
Losing Ray hurt, but I can't blame Danny for this. I think Danny made an offer to Ray Allen which showed that he finally recognizes that it really is important to treat key players with respect, especially veterans who have meant so much to the team; I see it as a kind of 'mea culpa'. Danny simply must realize that he cannot ask players to give their all for the team, while keeping them permanently on the trading block. Loyalty has to be a two way street. Of course trades have to happen sometimes. Bill Russell himself would not have come to the Celtics had Red Auerbach not traded one of the teams most honored veterans, Ed Macauley. But the more a player gives to the team, and the more responsibility a player takes for carrying forward the Celtics Tradition, the more they should be embraced with the loyalty that the Celtics organization was once famous for.
Ray will help Miami, but the way Miami focused on stealing him away from us says a lot about how much they hate and fear us. As was demonstrated when Dwayne Wade took down Rondo in 2011, the Heat are not a team that shows true respect with hugs and kisses. And the thing is, we will be better off without Ray. I think most fans see that now. Ray was honored for his professionalism, and he deserved a lof of that, but - like most people - he has his contradictions, and he turns out to be more of a silent diva than most imagined. He seems to have burning up inside about what he saw as his diminishing role on the team, and perversely, about Rondo's rise. I think it's clear now that his attitude, and his need for the offense to be organized around him, around him running through endless screens to get open, was hurting the team and dragging down the offense. Ironically, the role it seems Allen will be playing in Miami will be precisely the role he could have played more and more in the Celtics' offense: spotting up for easy threes off (Rondo's) penetration. Will his ego be more comfortable knocking down the kick-out three from Wade and Lebron?
With KG signed, Ainge proceeded to make one solid move after another. Isn't it funny that we looked forward to this summer for years, imagining the blockbuster moves that Danny would make, signing or trading for Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Wilt Chamberlain and Babe Ruth?!! Now that the Summer of Fantastic Blockbuster Moves is finally here, we have learned to be very happy to see Ainge making nice, smart moves. It may be that lessons have been learned from The Trade. Let us hope so. Don't move players just to show off how 'bold' you are, Danny. We know you are bold, and we appreciate it. But we also know you can be a subtle appreciator of talent, and that is a more fundamental ability. Find talent you believe in. Trust that talent. You don't need to be lighting off fireworks constantly just to remind everyone that you are there. You aren't the star. You are the foundation.
Ainge's most questionable move this summer was signing Jeff Green to a big contract. Green will be paid almost as much money as KG and Rondo, in a multi-year commitment. All this is for a player who has been a journeyman, one coming off a major surgery at that! The thing is, even critics of The Trade accept, I think, that Danny Ainge believes in Jeff Green, and we have good reason to believe in Danny's eye for under-appreciated talent. Ainge's career and legacy may depend on what Jeff Green does this year and in coming years. I respect the fact that he has made a choice and committed to it. Now we will see.
Brandon Bass showed us a lot last year, but he often disappointed us too. Still, resigning him was a key move, because we had to take some of the load off KG, and Bass showed a lot of commitment to the team by not holding the Celtics over a barrell. Meanwhile, drafting Sullinger will be a key move for this next season, I think. It looks like we can surely expect Sully to be a strong backup for Bass. On one hand, it may be unfortunate that he seems to duplicate some of Bass's weaknesses (short, not athletic, has a hard time finishing in the paint), but I think he will push Bass to be more assertive near the basket, and more of a rebounder. I think that Bass and Sullinger will push each other, actually, making each other better players.
The summer's marquee move was signing Jason Terry. This was a move that excited everyone. Terry adds nothing to our youth movement, but he can shoot the J, while also being adept at attacking off the dribble; he is a certified scorer off the bench, who seems to have a very Celtics-like eye for the main prize, winning a championship, as a team. Frankly, he looks like someone who was meant to play for this team. Lack of offensive power off the bench has hurt the Celtics badly in recent years. Terry is an instant cure for that. At the same time, along with Jeff Green, he gives Rajon Rondo more tools in the offensive tool kit. I think we can expect Rondo to spend a fair amount of time with the second unit this coming season!
Bringing in Courtney Lee helps Celtics fans forget about the loss of Allen's firepower, while bringing more defense and more of an up-tempo game. Here again, Rondo must be really looking forward to deploying his beefed up tool-kit, especially in the transition game! There will be times this season when Rondo won't know whom to pass to, there are so many options! Lee also covers for Bradley's expected absence for much of the season.
One of the enduring images from last season, for me anyway, was Rondo literally leading break after break. Our transition game was almost always one-on-three, or one-on-four, or even one-on-five. No one in basketball has ever been better at Rondo at running a one-against-all fast break, but how absurd to have to do it constantly! I'll never forget one play where Rondo was pushing the ball up the floor, while literally begging his teammates to come along!! Danny has changed that. This coming year, Rondo will have running-mates in transition. We SHOULD have a team that is effective both in the half-court and in transition; we may actually have one of the strongest offenses in the league.
With this in mind, signing Wilcox was an important move. Last season, Wilcox was one of the achievement-hungry vets that Danny proved to be so good at finding; this kind of vet is someone who may have underachieved in his career, but who nonetheless has real talent and real desire to do something with that talent. Wilcox seemed to enjoy the Celtics environment. He seemed to have a real bond with Rondo. He seemed to enjoy rebounding and then getting out in transition with Rondo. Considering the way Wilcox seemed to be coming along last year, before his heart problem was found, we have good reason to believe that he will do a good job spelling KG this year, while giving our offense a different dimension. I think he will turn out to be one of the best second string centers in the league.
Losing Stiemsma hurts. I think it is a foolish move by Stiemsma to leave. This was the team where he grew from a life-long mediocrity to a legitimate NBA big man. Uprooting himself at this delicate point in his career may backfire. But I think signing Collins, along with drafting Fab Melo, who appears to be a legitimate project center, gives us enough depth up amongst our bigs. Considering how well the rookies and free agents have played in summer league, and considering the moves Ainge has made, we look to be a very deep team in 2012-13. Our lineup is starting to look like this:
Bradley-Lee-Christmas(or Pietrus, or Delfino?)
I think this looks like a very strong, very deep lineup. At this point, I'd like to see Pietrus and Dooling come back. I've dubbed Wilcox-Pietrus-Dooling the "Little Three". My point in doing that is that last season, the Celtics' spirit was important to what they accomplished, and some of the bench guys were particularly important to that spirit. I think we need those guys back. Of course other factors need to be considered too, and some of the decisions may be tough ones. What really concerns me is that Dooling still has not been resigned. It appeared last year that, while Dooling's contributions on the floor were disappointing in some ways (but generally solid), his contributions off the floor loomed pretty large. He was given a lot of credit in the media for being probably the most important leader on the team amongst the bench guys. More importantly than that, though, he was given a lot of credit for being a mentor to Rondo, and a guy who helped stabilize Rondo during a very, very difficult season, during which Rondo grappled over and over and over again with the challenges that come with being a leader for his team.
In the year ahead, we will need the spirit we had last year, if we are to succeed. And Rondo's path won't get any easier. I think Dooling really has got to come back, somehow.