|Sizing up the D-League prospects||03.12.12 at 2:11 pm ET|
LOS ANGELES — The Celtics need help. Specifically, they need tall people. The problem with that, of course, is that there just aren’t that many of them to go around and there are even fewer of them available. But with Jermaine O’Neal injured and away from the team and Chris Wilcox awaiting further tests on a possible heart condition, the Celtics need to find someone, somewhere to help fill the void in the middle.
They have four players on the roster who qualify as big: Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson. (Stiemsma was wearing a walking boot after playing 13 minutes on Sunday. He said it’s precautionary, but that’s not a good sign for a team that can’t afford any more injuries).
Coach Doc Rivers made it clear on Sunday that the team is looking for help, but they are hampered by two realities. First, they are at the maximum 15 players on the roster and if they decide to add someone, then a veteran has to be waived. Second, they are reluctant to do anything to damage their future rebuilding plans.
“You don’t want to do anything silly,” Rivers said. “We’re building for this year and the future so we’re not going to do anything that’s going to hurt either one of those. Obviously we’re looking to grab a big from somewhere, hopefully not by giving away a player, by doing it another route.”
The most obvious place to look is the D-League, but while the development league is full of guards and wings it has a noticeable shortage of qualified big men.
“Usually there’s not a lot of bigs floating around the D-League,” Rivers said. “We’re going to look everywhere. Wherever we can.”
Here’s a snapshot of some of the better prospects, with a hat tip to Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside.
Mikki Moore: The most qualified by far, but he didn’t mess at all with Rivers in a brief run at the end of the 2009 season. There is a better chance of seeing Shaquille O’Neal back with the Celtics than Moore.
Keith Benson: A second round pick by the Hawks, the 6-foot-11 Benson is averaging 14.3 points and 7.7. rebounds for the Sioux Falls Sky Force.
Brian Butch: Stiemsma’s one-time teammate at Wisconson, Butch is averaging 18.2 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Bakersfield Jam. He has good range, making 42 percent of his 3-pointers.
Dan Gadzuric: The nine-year NBA vet has been off the radar for most of the season, but he made his debut with Texas on Sunday and scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Earl Barron: Currently playing in the Philippines, Barron has appeared in 112 games over six NBA seasons.
According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the Celtics and Lakers talked about a trade for Rajon Rondo. The discussions didn’t get anywhere, according to the story, with the Lakers evidently unwilling to include Pau Gasol in any deal. Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists in the Celtics’ 97-94 loss to the Lakers Sunday.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told The Big Show in his March 1 appearance that he was not actively attempting to trade Rondo.
|Trade Rumor: Celtics asked for Tyler Hansbrough, pick for Ray Allen||03.09.12 at 3:19 pm ET|
“Here’s the thing,” Bird said. “When Danny and I talked about trading for Ray, he wanted Tyler Hansbrough and a first-round pick. If that’s the value he’s putting on Ray Allen, he ain’t getting it. That tells me he’s in no hurry to trade him.”
That jives with other talk around the league that Ainge’s price is high for one of his four All-Stars. On The Big Show on Thursday, Ainge said that he wouldn’t deal future assets to fix his bench’s problems now. He’s not desperate to make a trade, in other words.
|Report: Josh Smith wants out of Atlanta||at 12:18 am ET|
Hawks forward Josh Smith is having one of his best seasons, averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for a team that has stayed in the thick of the playoff chase without Al Horford. But the 26-year-old Smith has had his problems in Atlanta, and Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Smith would like to be traded before the March 15 deadline.
By the end of last season Smith wanted out of Atlanta because he believed he was singled out for unfair criticism by coaches and media. Those concerns have died down for the most part this season but now Smith believes he needs a fresh start with a franchise where he can better reach his potential on and off the court, according to one of the people with knowledge of Smith’s thinking.
The Hawks have been fielding phone calls on Smith, with the Warriors mentioned as one possibility. The Celtics have been very loosely tied to the forward, but team officials shot down a report last week involving Kevin Garnett.
Smith, who played his high school ball at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia with Rajon Rondo, remains friends with the All-Star guard and he has one year left after this season on a contract that pays him $13 million.
|Trade Rumor: Celtics interested in Michael Beasley||03.08.12 at 3:06 pm ET|
Minnesota forward Michael Beasley turned 23 less than two months ago, and in four seasons in the NBA he’s averaged 15.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s also making 42 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Beasley has also been durable more than you’d expect. He missed only 14 games in his first three seasons in the league, and while he missed 11 games with a foot injury, he’s been back in the Wolves lineup since late January.
But Beasley doesn’t really fit with Minnesota, who have Kevin Love entrenched at the power forward spot and rookie Derrick Williams ready for more playing time. He will be a restricted free agent this summer with a qualifying offer of $8.1 million, per Sham Sports contract database. He can be had, but the question is for how much?
Ken Berger of CBS Sports notes the Celtics, Lakers and Orlando are interested in Beasley. A trade for free agent center Jermaine O’Neal straight-up works cap-wise, but the Wolves would certainly want more than an aging center contemplating wrist surgery. The Celtics will have two first round picks in this year’s draft — their own and one obtained from the Clippers, via the Kendrick Perkins trade. (The pick is top-10 protected through 2016, but the Clips are headed for the playoffs and have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference).
Celtics president Danny Ainge has never been afraid to take chances on talent that hasn’t fit in other places. Beasley was the No. 2 pick in the draft, but was dumped on the Wolves for cash and second round draft picks when the Heat cleared cap space to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Would he be worth a mid to late-round pick in what has been described as a deep draft?
In the same report, Berger also notes that the Celtics are “prepared to entertain offers for Paul Pierce,” and that while the Clippers may be interested in Ray Allen, they don’t have the assets for a deal. Finally, Berger writes that Ainge would have to be “blown away” for a deal involving Rajon Rondo.
|Get ready for the longest week of the season||at 2:10 am ET|
The momentum the Celtics had been riding hit an unfortunate speed bump in Philadelphia on Wednesday, when they were blown out by the 76ers, 103-71. It was the worst defeat of the Big Three era and a game they had no chance of winning, an realization that became obvious about six minutes into the contest.
It cost the Celtics a chance to move ahead of Philly in the Atlantic Division in the loss column. Winning the division has never been high on their list of priorities, but this season it’s the difference between home court in the first round and a possible matchup with the Bulls or Heat.
As disappointing as their performance was — and it was awful — the loss changes nothing as the trade deadline looms in one week. There will be more games with Philly, including a rematch at the end of their dreaded 8-games-in-12-days road trip that begins on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. By the time they return, we will finally have an inclination into what team president Danny Ainge has planned for next season and beyond.
Here are four possible scenarios:
1. Status quo
As outlined here, the Celtics don’t actually have to do anything to facilitate a major offseason overhaul. They will be far under the cap if they simply let their veterans contracts’ expire, rather than deal them away. This would be only the first step in a multi-year rebuilding project, but with cap space, two first round draft picks and Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce they would be in a far better position than when Ainge took over operations in 2003.
It took Ainge four years to assemble enough assets to make a play for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but that required tearing down a veteran team first and he has already laid the groundwork over the last few years.
2. The Rondo move
Both publicly and privately, the Celtics have been consistent about what it would take to get them to trade Rondo: Equal value. Short of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and a handful of other superstar players, they’re not inclined to go that route.
Assessing Rondo’s value is also a part of the equation and this is where it gets complicated. He’s undeniably talented, but teams around the league are fearful that A) he wouldn’t be as good without the shooting ability currently around him and B) his personality would be a difficult match for a rebuilding team.
There’s a lot of unknowns surrounding Rondo, not just for a team that may want to acquire him, but for the Celtics. Can you build a team from scratch when he is your best player? We may find that out soon.
3. The detonation
Trading any of the Big Three would be difficult and for different reasons. Pierce has been the franchise for a long time and that does count for something, even for someone as unsentimental as Ainge. He’s also still productive and the Celtics would want a huge return to even consider moving him.
Garnett’s $21 million contract is extremely difficult to trade and his play at center has opened up the possibility that he could have a longer future with the Celtics than once thought. If he decided to test free agency, he’d be in high demand.
Allen would seem to be the easiest to move. He’s in the last year of a $10 million contract and his shooting skill has held up well, even if the rest of his game has begun to diminish. Still, Ainge isn’t going to give Allen away and the price in players or picks may be too high.
4. Something on the margins
The Celtics desperately need someone tall to help their thin frontline. Jermaine O’Neal‘s absence while he contemplates wrist surgery has opened up a starting position for Brandon Bass, but they are getting annihilated on the boards. They may wait to see if anyone is bought out of their contracts after the deadline — think Chris Kaman — because they don’t have much to offer in trade.
This deadline season has been heavy on speculation, but short on actual names for two reasons. First, everyone is waiting to see what happens with Howard in Orlando. Until that situation is resolved, teams are reluctant to pursue other options.
Second, the abbreviated season has left many teams reluctant to make a big move. There simply isn’t enough practice time to integrate a new lineup and with no clear-cut favorite in the West, there’s less pressure to make a bold move. That won’t stop the rumor mill from churning, but as March 15 approaches there is little resolution.
|Trade Rumor: Six to eight teams pursuing Dwight Howard||03.06.12 at 9:22 am ET|
With less than 10 days to go until the March 15 trade deadline, the future of Magic center Dwight Howard is still cloudy.
It’s been known for some time that there are three teams on his list of preferred trade destinations: New Jersey, Dallas and the Lakers. It has also been known that Golden State would be willing to trade for Howard without assurances that he would sign an extension with them.
Magic GM told Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that “six to eight” teams were still calling. Orlando is still hoping to convince Howard to stay long-term.
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