|Get ready for the longest week of the season||03.08.12 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.
|Trade Rumor: Clippers interested in Ray Allen||03.05.12 at 10:03 am ET|
The Clippers have been looking for backcourt help ever since Chauncey Billups went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, and they have their eye on Celtics‘ guard Ray Allen, according to Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick. However, as Amick points out:
“The price is likely too high, as Boston wants a package that includes a young talent and a draft pick.”
The best young player the Clippers have — besides Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, let’s be serious, folks — is second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, and he’s out with a knee injury. The Clips also don’t have a draft pick to offer because it already belongs to the Celtics, who acquired it in the Kendrick Perkins trade.
There doesn’t appear to be a match here, but expect more chatter to follow Allen who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $10 million. His overall game has fallen off a bit, but Allen remains one of the best shooters in the league.
|Report: Celtics-Hawks talks were ‘purely exploratory’||03.03.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
Wojnarowski’s report comes one day after another rumor suggested that the Celtics were interested in acquiring forward Josh Smith from the Hawks while dangling Kevin Garnett.
|Paul Pierce consoles Rajon Rondo: ‘I was part of trade rumors… four or five straight years’||at 9:35 am ET|
As captain, Pierce felt the time was right before Friday night’s game against the Nets to deliver a message about the persistent trade rumors involving Boston’s mercurial point guard.
‘Well it’s nothing we haven’t been through before,” Pierce said after dropping 27 on the Nets in Boston’s 107-94 win that once again put the Celtics above .500 at 18-17. “Rondo’s been through it, I’ve been though it a number of times. The thing is you have to do your job, you can’t let that affect you. I kind of mentioned it to Rondo today, you know I was part of trade rumors for probably four or five straight years. I just didn’t let it affect me on how I approached each and every game. You know whatever happens, happens, it’s business. Sometimes you don’t have control of it.’
Rondo ignored the noise and went out in the first half and showed that as long as he’s in Boston, he will be the game-changer that Celtics fans have grown accustomed to. Like in the second quarter, when Rondo told everyone to get up-tempo on D and pressure the ball coming up the court.
The result: Five turnovers in a 14-0 Celtics run that – for all intents and purposes – put the game out of reach. Rondo finished with 14 points, 13 assists and five steals, with all five coming in the first half fury.
“He said before the game, ‘Let’s be aggressive. Defensively, let’s be active.’ And we followed his lead,” Kevin Garnett said of Rondo.
Rondo had help as Mickael Pietrus was a defensive force, implementing Rondo’s plan to perfection and getting nasty on whoever was trying to take the ball up the court.
‘Well you know Pietrus has started some games for us before and he’s been spectacular,” Pierce said. “He is able to come off the bench or start and give us great minutes for his defensive and shooting ability.
‘I think it definitely goes to another level, because he’s our energy guy that we use off the bench . You know when he’s out there to start the game he gets us off to a great start, he’s such a great rebounder for his size, and he can spread the floor with his point shooting. It was a real big lift to have him out there. We knew we were missing Ray tonight but we knew Pietrus could fill in.’
Now, the Celtics and their newfound pressure D will be tested by Jeremy Lin and the Knicks on Sunday, with Boston riding a three-game win streak.
‘I think we are moving the ball a lot better and hopefully hitting our stride right here at home,” Pierce said. “We are playing better basketball. We have a huge West coast trip coming up for us in the next couple weeks, so it’s important for us to get as many wins as we can under our belt before we hit the road.’
|Trade Rumor: Celtics eye Josh Smith, possibly for Kevin Garnett||03.02.12 at 3:31 pm ET|
The New York Daily News threw out the suggestion that the Celtics would be interested in Atlanta’s Josh Smith “and other young studs,” while using the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as bait.
“With the Big Three’s window now shut, Ainge is trying to land Atlanta’s Josh Smith and other young studs, while offering up Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can also be had, for young players and draft picks. Rajon Rondo might be leaving, too, with the Lakers and Utah seen as possible destinations.”
The interesting part of this rumor is the suggestion of Garnett, which is the first time his name has been linked in any trade rumor since he’s come to Boston. Garnett is in the last year of a contract that pays him $21 million and Smith has another year left after this one at $13 million, so that wouldn’t work straight-up. The Hawks have other short contracts like Kirk Hinrich, who is in the last year of a deal that pays him $8 million.
Smith was high school teammates with Rajon Rondo at Oak Hill Academy and the two have remained close. He’s still just 26 years old and many felt that he deserved a spot on the All-Star team. He’d be the kind of player the Celtics would be looking to acquire if they move forward with Rondo.
|Irish Coffee: Rating ridiculous Celtics rumors||at 2:59 pm ET|
So many trade rumors, so little time.
On Thursday, NBA teams could officially deal players signed this past offseason, and March 15 is the deadline, so Celtics president Danny Ainge‘s phone bill is probably higher than Lindsay Lohan‘s attorney fees at this point.
While Ainge denied actively shopping Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in an interview on WEEI’s Big Show, he’s made it clear Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and everybody else — including captain Paul Pierce — are available for the right package. So far, the price hasn’t been right.
We’d be remiss not to mention the current rumors, but let’s be serious about the possibilities. Here goes.
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