|2012-13 Celtics free agent options at center||06.25.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Eleven of the 15 players on the roster against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals can begin negotiating with the Celtics or any other team as NBA free agents on July 1. More importantly, they can sign anywhere on July 11 once an audit determines the salary cap. That figure is expected to be close to the 2011-12 number of $58 million, and a large chunk of that will be dedicated to one of the C’s biggest needs: Centers.
The Celtics started last season with two true centers (Jermaine O’Neal, Greg Stiemsma), mixed in a little Chris Wilcox early and settled on Kevin Garnett, who finished the year as the best remaining center in the playoffs. Now, a year later, nobody remains from that list. While Garnett, Stiemsma and Wilcox are all options depending on their mindset, health and value, respectively, the C’s may need anywhere from 0-3 guys who can play the five.
The Celtics have four players under contract in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rajon Rondo, $11.0M; Avery Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Stiemsma, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.
As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at center, separating the current free agent players into four categories.
|Rajon Rondo being Rajon Rondo on Jimmy Kimmel Live||06.20.12 at 9:29 am ET|
Well, it turns out the Knicks can’t even beat the Celtics at a scavenger hunt. Appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” via Skype, Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo ran around their homes in search of three items: 1) The last book they each read, 2) an embarrassing item their teammates would make fun of them for owning, and 3) a wig.
Rondo being Rondo, he instantly located, “The Other Wes Moore,” a book by one Wes Moore (an Oxford alum, U.S. Army Captain and host of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Beyond Belief”) about another Wes Moore (a convicted cop killer). Naturally, Chandler found a basketball-themed book by Jerry West. Advantage Rondo.
Chandler’s decorative flying pig won Round 2, although Rondo’s old school red telephone is pretty amazing.
Finally, both searched for wigs. Neither found one. Chandler put a towel on his head. Rondo returned to his King Louis XIV-style chair in a shower cap. Game, set, match Rondo, regardless of whether Kimmel called it a tie.
Thought you would catch a glimpse of the enigmatic man behind the Rondo mask during his appearance on a talk show? Think again. For all we know, Rondo receives all calls from Danny Ainge on his red rotary dial phone while wearing a shower cap and reading upon his throne. Classic Rondoism.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics or bust for Kevin Garnett||06.11.12 at 1:30 pm ET|
While the Miami Herald would have you believe “Garnett fades away in the biggest moment” — without mention of his Game 7 first-half foul trouble — the fact is he changed the culture of the C’s organization and carried them within a game of the 2012 NBA finals at the age of 36, and any team would welcome that presence into their locker room. Celtics coach Doc Rivers reminds us of this every time somebody calls Garnett a dirty player.
‘He’s been everything for my career, just his locker room presence, his desire, his determination, his leadership,’ C’s captain Paul Pierce told reporters on Saturday night. ‘I’ve said before, when Kevin first got here, he really changed the culture of everything we did around here, from the practice habits to the on-court discipline. He made everybody accountable, from the ballboys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane. Everybody was accountable. It was just tremendous to have him around, just the culture he brought.
‘It would be great for me to end my career with Kevin,” he added. “I have a couple of years left, and who knows what his future is going to bring. Hopefully, management can do something to bring him back, maybe add some pieces to this team that we need to get us over the top. If not, it’s been a tremendous ride.’
No wonder recent reports name the Spurs and Nets as suitors. No kidding. You don’t need to tell us Rosie O’Donnell is interested in Ben & Jerry’s free cone day. Let’s throw the other 28 teams in the mix while we’re at it.
Eliminate 14 teams off the bat. Does anyone really think Garnett is leaving Boston to finish his career rebuilding a lottery team? Cross off another eight playoff teams that — barring a significant increase of the $58.0444 million salary cap — enter the summer over the limit (Bulls, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Thunder), regardless of their amnesty options. He’s not going elsewhere for the $3 or $5 million mid-level exception.
In addition to the Celtics, that leaves the Clippers, Jazz, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pacers, 76ers and Spurs as potential destinations. Quickly, let’s run through the salary cap situation for those seven teams.
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|Irish Coffee: ‘Let’s go Celtics,’ one final curtain call||06.08.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
Ask Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about Game 7, and like Good Will Hunting he’d probably throw Shakespeare at you, right? “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” But he’s never been near one.
Neither have most Miamians, at least not since 2005, although they surely have many more to come in their playoff future. Meanwhile, these Celtics and their fans have experienced six Game 7’s in this five-year run of the Kevin Garnett era, including their previous series, but the “Let’s go Celtics” chants echoing to the banners above in the final minutes of Game 6 seemed to suggest: This could be it for awhile, so give us one more. Please.
‘I want to say to all the fans, ‘Thank you guys,'” said Garnett in the wake of the 97-78 loss. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this, in any sport. I’m just truly blessed to be a Celtic and be a part of the city of Boston. That’s what’s up to all the New Englanders around here. It’s crazy. It’s [fudge]ing crazy.’
After three straight Celtics victories in the Eastern Conference finals, Thursday night was supposed to be a Garden celebration — the undressing of the fraudulent Heat in The Emperor’s New Clothes — but instead King James ascended to his NBA MVP throne. When it was over, LeBron James had 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and one elusive victory in an elimination game that saw his Heat lead by as many as 25 points.
|Dwyane Wade on LeBron James: ‘This isn’t last year’||06.08.12 at 12:24 pm ET|
Dwyane Wade didn’t see it coming. “I’m not a fortune teller,” he said. Erik Spoelstra sensed it coming. “Everybody notices the game,” the Heat coach said. “We saw the last 24 hours.” Either way, LeBron James arrived.
“I hope now you guys will stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn’t play in big games,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He was pretty good tonight. Now that’s to bed. We can go ahead and play Game 7.”
Therein lies the rub. Sure, his Game 6 evisceration of the C’s was a transcendent performance by a transcendent player, but all 45 points and 15 rebounds are for naught if he and the Heat can’t replicate it on Saturday night.
James willed his team to a must-win playoff victory, finally. That’s what the NBA MVP is supposed to do. But James won’t be remembered for Game 6 if he can’t will them to a must-win series and, really, a must-win NBA title. Surely, it’s a lot to heap on a man with shoulders broad enough to carry the load but a heart that, until Thursday night, seemed unwilling to do so, but it’s not as though he didn’t ask for it in Miami.
“This is not last year,” said Wade. “He’s really been locked in. He’s been playing unbelievable in the playoffs. He’s taken it upon himself. Like I said, he’s been MVP of the league right now. He’s showcasing it on a nightly basis.”
|Fast Break: Heat, James LeBlow out Celtics in Game 6||06.07.12 at 11:10 pm ET|
LeBron James submitted perhaps his greatest game as a professional — his most clutch, anyway — amassing 45 points (19-26 FG) to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists, breaking even a raucous Garden crowd’s spirit and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 7.
Six minutes before the 98-79 defeat in Game 6 was over, Celtics fans already headed for the exits. Doc Rivers rested Paul Pierce (9 points, 4-18 FG), Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6-14 FG) and Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers) for the last half of the fourth quarter, letting them stew on what just happened.
The C’s fans who stayed, though, deserve respect, closing out the final two minutes with a prolonged “Let’s go Celtics” chant that lasted until the final answer, sending a message to the “good job, good effort” Heat fans and Boston’s Big Four for Game 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Through the first 11:42 of Game 6, James played the Celtics dead even by himself. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting; the Celtics netted 14 on 7-of-16 from the field. While the C’s offense seemed stagnant for long stretches, James attacked from the opening tip. His effort effectively quieted a deafening Garden crowd and forced the Celtics to play from behind. If not for James, the Heat don’t take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter, as Dwyane Wade started 0-for-4 and finished the first frame scoreless.
Long play the king: Since James started a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor, it’s worth discussing further. His emotionless face said it all. If the Heat were going down this time, it wouldn’t be on his shoulders. Playing all 24 minutes of the first half, he scored 30 points, and it would have been more, if not for his 5-of-9 free throw shooting. As the Heat took a 55-42 into the break (on a ridiculous four-point swing of a no-call when Shane Battier mugged Rondo), James owned an 85.7 field goal percentage. The rest of the Heat? Thirty six percent.
Foul mood: With 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, Pierce picked up his third foul, continuing his foul prone ways over the past seven games. Rivers had no choice but to sit his captain until halftime. Pierce had as many turnovers (2) as he had first-half points, and considering James’ performance, it wasn’t his finest effort on either end. Sitting for a long stretch certainly didn’t help his flow. Pierce missed his first three shots out of the break, too. Not to mention a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead to eight and could have changed the game’s complexion late in the third quarter.
|Mumbles Menino thinks KJ and Hondo play for Celtics||06.07.12 at 9:40 am ET|
You know, New England is doing a real good impression of Miami these days. First, we had the Maine TV reporter who thought the Celtics and Heat tied Game 4. Now, we’ve got the honorable Mayor Thomas M. Menino announcing, “KJ is great, but Hondo’s really the inspiration,” or something like that.
This isn’t the first time Mumbles has fumbled Boston’s “ionic” sports figures, so rest easy Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Remember “Varitek splitting the uprights“? At least he got the sport right this time. Kevin “KJ” Johnson and John “Hondo” Havlicek did play basketball once. Heck, one even played for the Celtics, and the other is a mayor, just re-elected in Sacramento, so you can see how he might be easily confused about a pair of NBA superstars who have played basketball in his city for the last five-plus years.
Or maybe Mumbles is just one step ahead of us all. He is the mayor after all. He can’t be that stupid. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just doing the best impersonation of a Miami sports fan ever. That’s real “Saturday Night Live”-worthy stuff right there.
After all, before the miraculous Red Sox comeback of 2004, he did deliver the greatest political speech in history: “Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble, and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.” Bravo, Mumbles, bravo, indeed. That’s up there with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and, “a date which will live in infamy.” Long live the mayor! I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Bill Russell statue.
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