Steve Bulpett has a nice piece in the Herald today where he looks at a few Boston options as we approach the trade deadline. It’s refreshingly free of loyalty-for-loyalty’s sake.
When Doc says, “I want to see what we can do when we’re all healthy,” it’s another way of saying he hasn’t yet seen consistent signs the Celtics are capable of standing up in a seven-game series against any of the top-tier teams. Maybe for a night or two, but not better in a best-of-seven.
Close your eyes. Is there any scenario you can picture that has the Celts beating Miami or Chicago in a first-round series? Or a second?
We’re willing to bet Ainge can’t either. And to admit so wouldn’t make him or you disloyal or, worse, like one of them damn media wretches. It would mean that you’ve done a cost-benefit analysis based on facts in evidence.
Bulpett is likely right about Ainge’s viewpoint. Ainge has been on WEEI a number of times this season and his comments have been blunt: the Celtics do not have championship potential based on their play. Doc’s health concerns are unquestionable. The Celtics are already Pervis Ellison-thin at center and it’s only a matter of time before we learn Jermaine O’Neal is done for the season. It’s no stretch to assume Boston would be pummeled on the glass by any number of playoff teams even with Kevin Garnett turning in a Herculean effort.
Of course, the Celtics are playing better since the break and if they pick up road wins against most or all of Philadelphia, the Lakers and the Clippers this week, you could reasonably argue the team needs to add a player or two and make a run at it. The Celtics are the darkest of horses, but an injury to any of Miami’s Big Three, along with Boston adding a bench scorer and a rebounder could make the spring interesting.
I believe Ainge has to make a move one way or another. If he sends this group into the playoffs as-is, they’re a second round out, at best. They may not make it out of the first.
Adding a low-cost Michael Beasley-style scorer to the bench and a center who can rebound and/or protect the rim gives the Celtics a puncher’s chance.
And of course, if that’s too difficult to pull off, there’s the other way to go. Bulpett:
The belief here, too, is that the Celtics wouldn’t mind getting worse to get better . . . you know, buy a lottery ticket. If they could find a deal that got them something for the future (a draft pick or the rights to a currently entwined foreigner) but hurt them this year to the point they missed the playoffs, a lucky bounce of the ping-pong balls might be the best thing that could happen to this club. Or do you forget what a Mr. T. Duncan did for San Antonio’s fortunes?
The Celtics are stuck in the unproductive NBA middle right now. I expect Ainge to chart a course away from it by March 15. One way or another.