Screw Lebron, Wade and Bosh: I want Pierce and Ray
Whew. What a wild couple of weeks we have had, huh? After losing a gut-wrenching game 7 to the Fakers, it’s been an utter apocalypse of speculation and quite frankly, of pure abomination. It has been downright annoying to flip around to all of my favorite basketball news sites and blogs to read about all of these unnamed sources saying where Lebron, Bosh, and D-Wade are going. I’m tired, tired, tired, tired of it. No one knows where any of them are going except each of the respective players. This whole charade couldn’t end sooner if you ask me: this free agency bonanza is going to continue as long the trifecta of LBJ, Wade, and Bosh are still on the table. I would love if all three signed in Miami and phase 1 was over so that everyone else can be put into place. The likelihood of this happening? I think pretty slim.
So let’s assume that two out of the three do end up on the same team (which I think is entirely realistic), and the other one is on a different team. Nearly every team with cap space to sign one or even two of these three fools is in the East, which means every expert from here to Lake Titicaca will expect that team to run away with it in the East. I like how this all plays out, actually.
And more importantly, I like what it means for a Boston Celtics teams that is looking more and more to reassemble itself together to look like the core team of 2008, 2009, and 2010. Yes, I am all for bringing back the core back together for two more reunion tours.
Wait, Loscy, did you say TWO more tours of duty? I had to say it: with KG on the books for $18.8 in 2011 and $21.2 in 2012, you can’t fully reconfigure this team with his contract as the big ass elephant in the room. It simply won’t happen. Since the Celtics do not have the cap space (WE DON’T) to sign a marquee player that will make an immediate impact, we don’t want to follow the road that so many other bad teams have desperately done in the past: after being unable to sign that big name free agent, a team will fight their way against other desperate teams and throw stupid money toward a second-grade free agent with a long-term deal. Hey Boston: we’ve been there before and we don’t want to go down there again.
So instead of trying to sign someone at the top of the free agency list, go much lower on the pecking order and see what you can dig up. Brad Miller? Not so much, Shaq? Not so much. Mike Miller? I like. John Salmons? I like. Josh Howard? I like. Entice them with anything you can that doesn’t put your team in jeopardy in 3 years, but helps NOW. Of course, others will have deeper wallets but that’s okay. Don’t get sucked into this silly desperation free agency game. Anyone ever heard of “the winner’s curse?” Yeah, this is the perfect example of that situation.
But just because we aren’t signing someone that is making headlines doesn’t mean that the dynamic and undertones of this team cannot change. Here is Loscy’s coaching corner moment: I do believe that Danny will make every effort to bring back Pierce and Ray to keep the core of this group in tact, but it’s going to be Doc’s job to sell how this team will re-chemistrify (made up word!) its modus operandi for 2010-2011.
Pierce’s disgusting display of turning away from Rondo after not receiving the ball during the final ticks of the first half in game 5 of the Finals nearly erased everything he had tried to bury for the last three years during the Celtics competitive run. Pierce had masterfully bought into the idea of playing as a team, and therefore winning as a team. Sharing the scoring load. Giving the final shot to Ray. Making the extra pass. Playing tougher defense. And nearly in an instant, we were all thrusted back to a younger Paul Pierce being overtly selfish. As many say, one small act shouldn’t destroy a lifetime worth of good deeds. The only problem? Pierce doesn’t have an extended history of being selfless… So to preserve the new attitude of the Pierce we have grown to love even more in the last three seasons, Doc needs to slap him around and say it’s time to really be a leader and give others a chance to lead. KG has accepted that, albeit forcefully because he cannot physically do what he used to, but emotionally he is still there to lift his teammates up when they need lifting. Pierce needs to now lift up his teammates by being the most selfless efficient scorer possible: pick your spots but realize that this team is now too big to be carried on your shoulders alone night in and night out. There will be times when you do carry this team because they need to, but you’re old enough and good enough to now know when those times are… and when those times are not.
Retaining Ray will only further this cause as you add a terrific wing shooter, someone who can talk where Pierce will listen, and most importantly, someone who has already bought into the system.
This may be the most important piece to this new 2010-2011 Celtics puzzle. Danny: don’t you dare sign anyone that doesn’t buy into this system. You need to ride out this core group for another 1-2 years and you can’t have anyone infiltrating that locker room that may even disturb the chemistry of these players. You’re in the Eastern Conference: you will make the playoffs with Rondo alone. Just like this year, just get to the playoffs and come prepared.
This is your bridge to Rondo. Rondo needs to the keys to the car, and not just told he has they keys. During games, Rondo needs to be more aggressive for the entire time he is on the floor, not just when he feels like there is an opening for him to assert himself into the game. Physically, his game is there. Free throws are the new challenge, as his jumper has fallen enough that players aren’t so quick to leave the man too wide open. As a 24 year old premier point guard, the only big obstacle that keeps him out of the conversation with the likes of Deron Williams and Chris Paul is his endurance. Not his physical endurance, but his mental endurance. Can he maintain that instinct to attack during an entire game? An entire stretch? An entire season? An entire playoff run? It’s not just about putting up triple double numbers every night, it’s about attacking and being there. If he ends up with a poor night of shooting, say 3-14, but all of his baskets were difficult layups in the paint… Then I can live with that. I can live with him not being a statistical anomaly each night as long as he just brings it every night. The only way to do this, though, is for Rondo to truly know that the team is his and he is now flanked with gritty vets that will play their role as best as they can while the artist-formally-known-as-Rondo goes to work.
No one can predict which team truly is good enough to win the title, but you know when your team can be at least competitive and relevant when the title discussion crops up. Even with this Celtics core, as old as they are, can still be competitive next spring. There is no way that people will forget this miraculous and genuinely crafty playoff run in 2010. If you discount this team next year, you’re only doing them a favor. There are no questions about game plans or the system itself. There are no questions about coaching strategy or how truly invested the front office is about winning. The only thing that matters is how mentally tough these guys stay as a team and if they can execute what they’re supposed to do on both sides of the floor. And of course, can the old farts make it to the playoffs healthy. With their backs to the wall, this core group of guys have proven that they can prevail through precipitous pressure even when everyone else has given up hope. So while Lebron, Wade, and Bosh find themselves in their new digs and without the familiarity of this thing called pressure, my chips will still be on the table in the green corner. I’m still all in for this Celtics team to return as in tact as possible, and I hope Danny is on the same page as me.