Just before Christmas 2009, I wrote an article here on 4 Sport Boston looking at how the change of the decade looked for each team here in Boston. In that article, while looking at the Boston Celtics, I wrote:
In this 2009-2010 season, we are looking at another Celtics team that may be well on their way to another successful playoff run. Whether this team goes on to win it all or not may play a role in the future success going into the new decade.
Here, a couple days past the Celtics crushing Game Seven loss at the hands of the hated arch-rival Lakers, the fate of this team may have never been less predictable.
Doc Rivers is rumored to have one foot out of the door to watch his teenage kids finish up high school and college, Ray Allen is a free agent, Kevin Garnett is basically sitting on flat tires, Paul Pierce decides his own fate with a one year player option one season prior to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that is not expected to be player friendly, Tom Thibideau has already accepted a head coaching job elsewhere, and Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis are the only bench players with guaranteed contracts for the 2010-2011 season.
To quote one of our biggest readers (ok, I am making that up) Charles Barkley, “That’s just turrible!”
For a team who gained the Boston fanbase back as quickly as they lost them in the first place during the 90s, the Celtics are certainly at a turning point after an unsuccessful run at Banner 18.
So where do the Celtics go from here? Honestly, there is no good answer.
As I loved to point out this past fall and winter on the 4SportBoston podcast and during my guest spots on the Celtics Late Night Show, the Celtics have really put themselves into this spot.
Let’s assume for a second that Pierce accepts his $21.5M player option for 2010, putting the team payroll at $63, 326, 049. This amount is tied up in just six players in Pierce, Garnett, Wallace, Davis, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins. That leaves the Celtics with a whopping nine open spots on the roster and only almost $24M remaining assuming they spend what they did in 2009-2010.
In the 2010 NBA Draft on June 24th, the Celtics hold the 19th and 52nd picks. NBADraft.net has the Celtics taking Oklahoma State SG James Anderson with the 19th pick and Duke PG/SG Jon Scheyer with the 52nd.
NBADraft.net describes Anderson as “Highly efficient offensive game (46% FG for his college career) … Lights out shooter with textbook form and high release … Possesses boundless range with no deterioration in accuracy from distance (38.4%) … Has no conscious, even in the face of repeated misses … Extremely effective in catch-and-shoot situations, with his feet set and ready to fire … Always squares his body to the rim with great balance and elevation on his jumper. Shoots well off the dribble when driving to his left.” Sound like anyone you know who may have just played his final game in a Celtics uniform?
Scheyer is a player that basketball fans know a bit more about from his four years in a Duke uniform, playing deep into a March Madness pool near you each season. However, his transition to the NBA is not expected to go well and is easily described on NBADraft.net as “He’s simply not strong enough”. Granted, Boston fans heard similar things about the current point guard on the way in and see how that has worked out.
But let’s not bank on draft players and especially not before they have even been selected.
The entire change in personnel will start at the top should Doc decide to move on from coaching. Clearly, no one in Boston can blame Doc for wanting to enjoy family time before his kids full reach adulthood. Especially here on Father’s Day weekend, the decision may have a deeper affect for both Doc and fans of the team.
But where do the Celtics turn to for this leadership? The NBA is notorious for coaching moves. Coaches come and go everywhere and when they aren’t coaching, they are commentators or analysts and eventually find their way back into the NBA. This offseason we have already seen Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and the LA Clippers part ways with their coaches.
Would the Hawk’s former coach Mike Woodson be a viable candidate? This could be a serious option for the Celtics depending on what Pierce’s decision is. Should Pierce pass on the option or take a contract for less money but more years, former Hawk and current free agent Joe Johnson is known to be atop the “hot commodities” board in Danny Ainge’s office. Signing his former coach and having a point guard like Rondo could easily sway him toward the C’s.
The other coaches recently parting ways with their teams are not even possibilities in my mind and I am pretty sure that Bill Simmons would quit his job and Boston fandom if Mike Dunleavy ever led the Green. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former Hornets coach Byron Scott, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, and pretty much any player who has retired in the last 10 years are all possiblities and names being thrown about in the other cities where positions are available. The Celtics also have Tyronn Lue on the bench, have had experience on the court and bench with Sam Cassell, and lord knows that Tommy Heinsohn would always enjoy a return to the clipboard.
Of course, we don’t really even know for sure which way Doc will lean but I am a “plan for the worst” type of guy.
As for the players, the simplest issue rides on the free agency of Ray Allen. Before the trade deadline, fans (including myself) thinking with their heads instead of their hearts, easily called for the dealing of Allen. The deadline came and went and Allen remained a Celtic and fans throughout the Hub rejoiced as the C’s easily could not have gotten where they did this season without him and his play in the second half of the season.
But how can the Celtics possibly keep Jesus Shuttlesworth in Celtic green? That decision lies solely on Ray himself.
Sugar Ray made $20M this past season as the highest paid Celtic. Ray is undoubtedly hoping to find himself a four-to-five year contract but turning 35 next month could be his worst feature. Expect the Celtics to offer him two years at about $8M which shouldn’t be enough but the C’s will test his loyalty to the club.
The bench roles can be filled easily but the Celtics have to be sure to fill it with players who can make an impact and use each of their individual skills to better the team. It is doubtful that we would see players such as Shelden Williams, Nate Robinson, and, I am going out on a limb here, maybe even Brian Scalabrine, even if his $3M per year covers his seat on the bench.
It is true that the Celtics will certainly look different going forward and there are a ton of decisions to be made by both the team and individual players.
And maybe this is the last we have seen of the “Big Three” era here in Boston as well.
One thing, though, should remain consistent, and that is the Championship attitude that has been brought back to the “Red Auerbach Parquet Floor”.