|Joe Smith traded to Hornets||02.17.09 at 4:15 pm ET|
First Dikembe Mutombo re-signed with the Houston Rockets. The Alonzo Mourning retired. This afternoon ESPN reported the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Joe Smith to the New Orleans Hornets as part of a deal for Tyson Chandler. And like that, three potential big men acquisitions for the Boston Celtics were off the market.
There had been much speculation that the Thunder would buy out Smith, allowing him to sign with another team. However they shot down those talks weeks ago and held on to Smith for trade bait. Smith offers a P.J. Brown-like mid-range game, versatility that proved critical for the Celtics in last season’s playoffs. The Cs traded Sam Cassell today to the Sacramento Kings, making room if they decided to add another player for the postseason. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.
|One less option||01.22.09 at 3:16 pm ET|
When rumors began buzzing about the Boston Celtics need for a back up center. Alonzo Mourning’s name had been mentioned in the mix of veteran big men. On Thursday, Mourning put those rumors to rest when he announced his retirement from basketball.
“I truly feel it’s best that I retire,” Mourning said at his press conference. “When you’ve got something you love and you’re passionate about, it’s hard to let that go. But at 38, I feel I’ve physically done all I can for this game. It has been an amazing ride.”
Mourning had been rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered over a year ago with the Miami Heat. The 15-year veteran, who had already overcome a kidney disease to win an NBA championship in 2006, decided to leave the game with a positive attitude.
“It’s not a sad day, but it’s a day to celebrate,” he said. “I can think of a million people right now that would have loved to walk the path I’ve walked. The ups and the downs made it even more joyous.”
In addition to Mourning, the Dikembe Mutombo and Joe Smith were also mentioned as possible acquisitions for the Celtics. Mutombo re-signed with the Houston Rockets in December after losing patience with Cs. Smith is still under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
|Mutombo couldn’t wait for Celtics||01.07.09 at 5:13 pm ET|
Dikembe Mutombo wanted to play for the Boston Celtics. The problem is, he wasn’t sure how much the Celtics wanted him to play for them. Mutombo was on the list of rumored possible mid-season acquisitions and the big man was on board to play with the champs. But the Celtics weren’t ready to commit and Mutombo, 42, didn’t feel like waiting around any longer.
Prior to Tuesday’s Celtics-Rockets game, he explained why he went back to Houston on New Year’s Eve:
“In the last minutes, especially on the 24th and 25th, I was feeling like I was not the only one in the picture no more that they were looking at,” he said. “It kind of discouraged me a little bit. I said ok, I have about seven organizations here that want me and this organization that I want to go to, I thought they wanted me but they’re looking at somebody else. Should I be on the waiting list or should I just go take another offer that was there on the table? And I think by having a talk that night with Yao and T-Mac and calling me on the phone saying, please come on man. We want you here. I was like ok. Let me just go be with guys who are talking to me who want me to be part of their family than wait for the organization who are waiting on their decision making. I think they were in between. They were looking at, I heard about Alonzo (Mourning), then I heard about Joe Smith, then I heard about P.J. Brown. I was like ok, I’m not going to be in the middle of this. I just have to walk away the way I want to walk. I wanted to come to your cold city, but they did not want me.”
This is Mutombo’s 18th season in the NBA. He has a career average of 9.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
|Destination Championship: Why Boston has become a hotspot for NBA vets||01.03.09 at 9:53 pm ET|
Come to Boston and win, that’s how the Celtics organization is seen by many around the NBA. It has become a paradise of victory, a hotspot for veterans who want a legitimate shot at a championship. But it is also a place where selfishness and egos are checked at the door. Personal accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.
So what makes the Celtics, who downplay individual achievements, so much more appealing to vets than other teams who celebrate superstardom? Why settle for blending in when you could stand out next to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? For those who have made the sacrifices, the explanation is very simple.
“Coming here you get to fit in and be a cog in the wheel,” Ray Allen said. “It’s not about any one individual here on this team. We play together and we beat teams together. We lose together. Everything is together.”
Over the past few weeks the Celtics have been named as possible destinations for veterans Stephon Marbury, Robert Horry, and Dikembe Mutombo, among others. Even though they could have a legitimate shot of winning all with the Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston has been a primary destination in the rumor mill.
“I think what’s appealing is that we play together. We have three stars and they actually play together and I think that shows more,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “But honestly I think they would play with Kobe as well and I think they would play with LeBron as well. We may be more aggressive in the market, let’s say, than some of those teams. And maybe we’re not. I think they would play for any of them. At least I would if I were the player.”
Eight-year vet Eddie House, who has signed two contracts in two years with the Celtics, can understand why these players would be interested in Boston. The journeyman had already played with plenty of big names before — Elton Brand, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd, to name a few – and was lured back by selflessness rather than headliners.
“When you’re playing with one guy then the ball’s dominated by one guy,” House explained. “Here, you’ve got a group of guys who like to share the basketball, who can take the load if they’re asked to take the load. They aren’t depended on the take the load, but if they are asked to take the load that night they will do it.
“But for the most part, it’s very unselfish and it’s not a ‘me’ attitude. With those guys (Bryant and James) it’s more so they have to dominate the ball and you have to play off of them. To where these guys will get you the ball and play with you, instead of you playing off of them.”
The Celtics are set apart from the rest of the league by more than just their trophy. The success of Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce sent the message that being the superstar doesn’t guarantee being the best. It was only when these vets took a step back that they won it all.
“The point of us coming together last year, we were at a point in our lives, in our careers where we were somewhat content with what we had done individually,” Allen said. “We could continue at that pace and finish our careers out that way being a great scorer on a team that never won. But if we didn’t [let go] of our egos and come together, we would have been doing that for the rest of our careers. That’s why, at that time, it seemed like it was a great moment for all of our careers. And I think there’s that progression for most athletes.”
Should the Celtics make any mid-season moves, they already know how to adapt to new additions. Last season veterans P.J. Brown emerged from semi-retirement and Sam Cassell accepted a buyout from the Los Angeles Clippers for the prospect of a ring. These acquisitions could have rattled the Celtics, but those already on the team didn’t see less playing time. They saw a better shot at the title.
“The late in the season addition when you’re already the number one team, you could have some grumbles about that and guys might not welcome guys in,” House said. “But everybody knew this is a business and not only is this a business, but we were on a mission to a hang a banner in the rafters. So we had to accept what was going on for the greater good.”
39-year-old Cassell re-signed with the Cs fully aware that he could be inactive the entire season. At this stage in his career, he doesn’t need 20 minutes per game to be happy.
“It’s about winning,” he said. “For me, I don’t know what [other veterans'] agendas are, but for me it was about winning. I just got a nice taste of winning so I just wanted to win. This was the best opportunity for me to win again.”
As long as the Celtics continue to win with their unselfish play, Boston will stay on the map for veterans who want to capture a championship without having to do it all on their own.
“We welcome the help,” Allen said. “Our egos, we’re pretty selfless here on this team when it comes to playing basketball. We just want to win.”
The door is open for eager vets, just as long as they leave their egos behind.