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Irish Coffee: What’s the bigs deal with the Celtics?

07.18.12 at 3:00 pm ET

Thank God for Kevin Garnett. Again.

If not for his transition to center last season and the assumption that he’ll now man a position he admittedly hates for three more years, who would have earned minutes at the five other than Chris Wilcox? Fab Melo? JaJuan Johnson? Sean Williams? Might as well punch the Celtics faithful in the stomach thrice.

The bad news: As currently constituted, one among that trio will get minutes to begin the 2012-13 NBA season.

The steamboat whistle has probably blown for the last time. Greg Stiemsma and his 14 minutes a night appear headed for Minnesota, where the Timberwolves are expected to offer the 26-year-old a contract too rich for the C’s blood once the Blazers match their offer to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum, according to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities. And somewhere Tommy Heinsohn is wondering how the Celtics could ever let the next Bill Russell go.

Meanwhile, Ryan Hollins and his 11 minutes a game seem destined for the Hornets, Nets or Clippers, according to a Times Picayune report, and the Celtics probably won’t shed any tears over his departure. Apparently friendship with Garnett and Paul Pierce only gets a 7-footer who can’t rebound so far.

And I’m guessing Jermaine O’Neal isn’t walking through those doors again, especially in the wake of his most recent complaints to The Globe about his offensive role in Boston, not that his name ever came up in discussions among Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers and the Celtics brass about solutions to their bigs problem.

“I’€™m not saying by any means I can go for 18, 20 a night,” O’Neal said. “But I know I’€™m still good enough to go for 20 on any given night, if given the opportunity. I wasn’€™t given the opportunity to post up at all. Not even in practice.’€

This isn’t the first time O’Neal expressed his frustration about primarily playing defense. Perhaps the platelet rich plasma therapy for his knees has gone to his head. He came to Boston to help win a title, and left two years later after missing 119-of-177 games (67%). When you do take the floor — and shoot 17.6 percent in post-up opportunities and 28.4 percent from beyond three feet — you’re not exactly earning touches from Rajon Rondo.

So, the Celtics return starting bigs Garnett and Brandon Bass from a team that owned the league’s third worst rebounding rate. Wilcox should help, especially if he picks up where he left off as an above average contributor on both ends of the floor just prior to heart surgery. His 6-foot-10, 235-pound frame and athleticism befitting a 29-year-old allows him to play both power forward and center. But nobody can play both positions at once.

Garnett and Bass averaged 62.8 of the 96 nightly minutes at the four and five. Assuming he’s healthy, Wilcox will eat half the remaining 33.2 minutes. Ideally, Melo and Jared Sullinger would seamlessly split the remaining 15. Williams and Johnson also remain options, although my guess is the Celtics pass on the former’s non-guaranteed contract this week, and the latter hasn’t demonstrated an Avery Bradley-like leap into his sophomore season.

Besides, do the Celtics really want to rely on Melo, Sullinger and Johnson — who have a combined 298 minutes of NBA experience — for 15 minutes a night? It’s not like first- or second-year players have earned much playing time in Rivers’ rotations. Hence, the pursuit of Darko Milicic. Yes, that Darko Milicic and his 4.6 points per game.

The Wolves waived Milicic and his $10.9 million price tag over the next two years with their amnesty clause, ironically to free up cap space for the likes of Stiemsma. You could do worse than Milicic at the veteran minimum (1 year, $1.23 million) or bi-annual exception (2 years, $3.91 million), and it appears the C’s will after reportedly falling from his list of favorites. Perhaps you’d rather have superzero Robin Lopez, 36-year-old Tony Battie, Hasheem “The Dream” Thabeet or Mikki Moore, who probably requires figurative heart surgery.

Of course, you could also sign the only draft pick of the past decade more disappointing than Milicic: Greg Oden, who has reportedly expressed interest in returning to the NBA. Needless to say, the pickings are slim.

Otherwise, it’s Garnett and Bass and pray for nitrous gas. Or Garnett and Wilcox and pray for the rising stocks of Melo, Sullinger and/or Johnson, because one of the three may hold a key to the Celtics success this season.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Darko Milicic, Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O'Neal
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