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The case for the starting 5… Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa.

June 30, 2009
Just as guilty as the rest of you...

Just as guilty as the rest of you...

I’m guilty. I’m guilty like most of you. Upon hearing the news of the King of Pop passing away last week, I turned to my digital library. I made the MJ-RIP playlist in iTunes. I then loaded all of my MJ songs into my iPod shuffle (red, second generation clip one– none of this voice activated crap) so that when I went running, Jack-O could be with me in spirit.

When all of the lawsuits and rumors were flying around about MJ’s sleepovers with little boys at Neverland Ranch, I sort of put the music aside. But with his recent passing, it’s like he’s been absolved. Of everything. All of the weird stuff (his plastic surgeries, molestation charges, dangling his baby over a balcony, etc.) has taken a back seat so that his music can live on. We are remaking his legacy with every mention of his music and not the stuff that landed him on the front pages of tabloids.

Like I said before, I’m, just as guilty: As I write this post, I’m listening to MJ.

This gets me thinking about how our memory tends to play tricks on us. We convince ourselves of certain truths and therefore create a reality that isn’t always true to form. We make our world what we want it to be.

It’s not entirely a bad thing… but it can be dangerous. Our nostalgic tendencies fog our ability to properly assess a situation, and thus creates greater difficulty in an already difficult decision making process.

On the eve of when 2009 off-season free agency commences, I’m trying to see through the Rondo-Ray-Pierce-KG-Perk lineup that we fell in love with in the 2007-2008 banner year and in the electrifying start they had in the 2008-2009 season before the Christmas Day massacre and the KG injury in February. This starting five has so much personality and character that it’s hard not to be enamored by them. But more importantly, I whole heartedly believe that it is the BEST starting 5 in the association from top to bottom and all-around.

The best starting 5 in the association. Im on record with that.

The best starting 5 in the association. I'm on record with that.

But then I have to call a time-out and check myself: am I being too nostalgic? Am I allowing myself to only remember the good stuff (and believe me: the good stuff was good)? Am I willing to push the bad stuff to the outside of the plate? Some things that are out there in the nebulous of Celtic Universe that I am trying not get absorbed into:

  • Sitting on Ray Allen might mean missing something BIG: his expiring contract is so valuable in this tumultuous economic environment at all owners and GMs seem to be working around instead of with. We could get a handful of players back if a deal were struck where Ray was packaged with a young PG that many teams out there are drooling for.
  • Speaking of the young PG: Rondo’s diva-esque attitude that seems to be eating up headlines all over the place in the last few weeks. Is he really that much of a pain in the ass to play with? I doubt it’s as bad as the reporters are saying. In a time when every writer wants to write the right story in fear of becoming a second class citizen in an ever-changing field (journalism), integrity gets deliberately ignored and writers just write as if they have a source when they have none. Besides, if a guy is really hard to deal with, you change your strategy with him. Here’s an idea: go make Rondo live with KG on an island for 4 weeks– he’ll come back a changed man. And, this would make for GREAT summer reality television.
  • Age. Ray, Pierce, and KG aren’t getting any younger.
  • Wyc and Danny floating the idea of being able to sign a max contract guy in the 2010 off-season frenzy. This has serious ramifications: at that point the only unmovable guy is KG (no one will take on a salary that large at his age), so what will Pierce have to take in order to stay in Boston and retire a Celtic? Will that mean no money for a guy like Rondo? What happens to Perk’s future after 2011? A max-contract guy in 2010 means no money for others. Scary, but also a little exciting at the same time.

Am I being too nostalgic about Rondo-Ray-Pierce-KG-Perk (RRPKP)? Do I want these guys to stay together because of what they’ve done in the past instead of thinking forward about what they CAN do in the future?

Here is the honest answer: YES and NO. I want them to stay together for lots of reasons that deal with the past and the future.

So I go to 82games.com for some help. In their sortable 5-man units in the NBA, RRPKP played a total of 1074 minutes together in the 2008-2009 campaign… and that’s with KG missing 1/3 of the season and the playoffs. That’s the most in the NBA. How do you create strong court chemistry, team camaraderie, and speed up the development of young/raw talent (Rondo/Perl)? Put them on the floor together for as many minutes as possible. RRPKP also had the highest +/- rating amongst all possible 5-man units in the entire NBA that played with each other for at least 100 minutes during the 2008-2009 season: they had a +260 rating. To give you an idea of how effective they were on both defensive and offense (with this +260 rating), Lebron and his Cavs were second with a rating of +187. That’s a 73 point swing if you’re doing the math alongside me. They also collected the most wins in 2008-2009 with 37 as a starting 5 (Spurs were second with 33). And yes, I remind you that KG was hurt for the last 1/3 of the season.

As for RRPKP’s efforts individually, here’s just a tasting:

Keep him where hes at: in green.

Keep him where he's at: in green.

RONDO- Remember that the really really really smart folks over at Wages of Win marked Rondo as the team’s most valuable player because he had the largest rating for wins produced on the entire roster: through mathematical reasoning with various statistics, Rondo is established as being accountable for 29.9% of the Celtics 62 wins during the ’08 season. His actual wins-produced-per-48mins rating was 6th in the ENTIRE league. We lived and died by the phrase “As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.” True, true. Oh yeah– he’s 23 years old. Put him on that freakin’ island with KG (we could call it, “Growing up with KG”).

RAY- Unfortunately for you Ray fans out there, this might not end well for you. I love Ray Allen on this team. I really do. But for his price tag, I’d rather have a slightly over mediocre shooting guard that plays good defense, a reliable back up for Pierce, and a good big man off the bench. You can get all 3 for $18 million. But if we keep Ray, here are the quick upsides: stone cold shooter, makes CLUTCH shots over and over again, efficient scorer, knows the system, and he plays well with the other 4 guys in the lineup. I like the idea of him staying in the lineup because I like thinking about the consistency and chemistry he already has with the other 4 guys… plus, if he is moved odds are a young PG is moving with him and we just can’t have that.

I can only count 5, 9, 20, 34, 43...

I can only count 5, 9, 20, 34, 43...

PIERCE- One of the most durable players in the game and a ’08 second-team ALL NBA forward, he will be even more effective when KG is back in the lineup and Pierce is not asked to carry so much on his aging shoulders. Less responsibility means more production. A few extra minutes of rest each game means more production in the playoffs. I think we can see a similar performance next season– efficient and reliable scorer and a great defenseman. Plus, he’s a match up nightmare for most teams except Cleveland and Orlando.

KG- Two things: he will eat children if it means another ring and his surgery was a success. I can’t wait to see #5 back on the court this year.

Perk will be even better in 09 than he was in 08. Now thats scary for Lebron and Dwight and really everyone else...

Perk will be even better in 09 than he was in 08. Now that's scary for Lebron and Dwight and really everyone else...

PERK- A maturing center that is earning his money and then some… He had a specific role this year: play defense and score on the low-low post if given the chance. He bought into the role and Perk exceeded ALL of our expectations: he became the anchor of our defense when KG went down. Look at what he did against Dwight Howard in Orlando and then look at what Dwight Howard was able to do in Cleveland. Perk is a beast.

Rondo-Ray-Pierce-KG-Perk need to come back because they are the best starting 5 in the game. With the passing of the draft and no moves being made, I think we can actually believe that Ainge will be looking to free agency to improve our depth and bench… and not touch the core. Danny: go find us a back up PG, a back up swing man, and a reliable back up center.

It’s ok to be nostalgic… as long as it still makes sense. In this case, Rondo-Ray-Pierce-KG-Perk still make sense.

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