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Mickael Pietrus or Dionte Christmas?

 

Three years ago prior to the 2009 NBA Draft, I had two guys pegged as potential picks for the C’s.  It didn’t matter though, the Celtics had one pick (58th) and it was likely going to be a player who wasn’t going to be around that long.  Still, because I like the draft and fantasize about finding sleepers late in it, I had narrowed the Celtics options down to two prolific college scorers: Lester Hudson and Dionte Christmas.

Both players were a bit undersized for their position, but what did that matter?! They could put the ball in the hole!  It’s the 58th pick!  The Celtics could afford to take a flyer on one of these guys.

And they did.  As you all know, they selected  Hudson who has become the score first point guard the Celtics miss with Rondo on the floor is now trying to fight his way on to the Denver Nuggets’ already-full roster.

As you can imagine, part of me was a bit sad that the Celtics didn’t select Christmas when Hudson didn’t end up becoming a 58th Special.  Luckily due to the majesty of summer league dominance, Christmas is getting a second chance to steal my heart with his scoring ability and his unquestionably questionable shot selection.

Now, though, I am older, more cynical, and more Zach Lowe-like in my approach to end-of –the-bench players.  What does it matter?  Won’t Christmas just let me down the way Hudson did when he didn’t start averaging a triple-double?  Perhaps.  But what might make me more angry is when the Celtics have a rash of injuries (almost a given) and need a big shooting guard who can defend the two and three positions and is at least capable on the offensive end because Christmas has proven ineffective for the big leagues.  At that time, my thoughts will turn to Mickael Pietrus and the veteran’s mimimum he took to play for one of the many contending teams over the salary cap threshold.

WHY CHRISTMAS SHOULD MAKE THE TEAM

Now that Christmas has taken his #leapoffaith and set aside lucrative overseas offers to chase the NBA Dream, karma should almost reward him for taking this chance and give him a roster spot.  He’s working hard.  He’s playing fearlessly.  He’s young, cheap, and doesn’t come with a long injury history.  With three other guys on the Celtics roster ahead of him on the shooting guard depth chart, it seems only natual to take him on as a low-risk insurance policy.

Not only does Christmas play hard and play fearlessly, but he’s also thick enough to guard NBA small forwards and fast enough to get by them on the offensive end.  Christmas would also be a welcomed additon to a team like the Celtics who have struggled to find players who can create their own shot.

Pietrus used to be that guy.  The type of player who attacked the basket with reckless abandon.  The type of player to take one power dribble forward, only to step back and drain a three.  The Celtics got the watered-down version of that last year.  They got the “hey, there is so little Hersey’s syrup left that I’m going to just fill the container up with milk, shake it, and squeeze the delicious mixture straight into my mouth.  Sure, it won’t really be close to chocolate milk but it’s not every day I get to drink out of the Hersey’s syrup bottle” version.  What’s worse is that his shooting abillity completely disappeared during last year’s playoffs.  So much so that every time Pietrus actually connected from deep, Celtics’ fans would convince themselves that he had found it again and this added dimemsion would make them unstoppable.  He never really found it and the Celtics were not unstoppable.  The reason for Pietrus’ demise last season was clearly a laundry list of nagging injuries that he never fully recovered from.  Who knows how healthy Pietrus will be this season?

Even if the Celtics did want to add Pietrus, the most they can give him is their biannual exception which is only slightly more substantial the veteran’s minimum.  With Pietrus’ agent emphatically telling the league that Peaches is not a minimum player, it’s unlikely the biannual exception will be enough.

Christmas, on the other hand, will techincally be a rookie and will preserve the Celtics’ biannual exception for next season.  This will give the C’s more flexibility next offseason when they need to fill out a more bloated roster.

WHY CHRISTMAS SHOULD NOT MAKE IT

While it was painful to watch Mickael Pietrus miss three after three in last year’s playoffs, it was almost always reassuring to see him check LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.  Knowing that the Celtics could rely on a solid, atheltic defender like Peaches to take the burden of defending Wade off of Ray Allen’s ankles was definitely reassuring.  Aside from a few boneheaded fouls, Pietrus played really well against those two juggernauts.

It’s almost given that Christmas will not be able to defend James or Wade with the same level of success as Pietrus.  Christmas has the size and speed to defend players of Wade and James’ ilk, but he lacks the valuable experience to be relied upon in a tight playoff game.  Pietrus does not.

Pietrus is also running out of options.  I’m sure he wants to play for a contender and we know he wants more than the veteran’s minimum.  He may not get a better offer than the Celtics’ biannual exception and he may not even get that.  With Pietrus’s experience and being slightly bigger than Christmas, I can actually envision a Celtics’ small lineup that would include Terry/Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, and Pietrus.  I can’t do the same thing with Christmas.

One should also consider what Christmas’ ceiling may be and how that type of player has traditionally fit in with the Celtics during the Big Three era.  Christmas, being a shoot-first pass-almost-never guard reminds me a lot of another Philly product: Flip Murray.  Murray spent eight years in the league providing instant offense off the bench for mediocre teams but little else.  This type of player has only been moderately successful in the modern Celtics era with the lone outlier being Nate Robinson.  Bear in mind, Robinson’s effectiveness for the C’s had a very short shelf-life.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  The odds of playing time for either Pietrus or Christmas are really stacked against them.  Bradley will be the starter when he fully recovers from his shoulder surgeries and the Celtics didn’t trade all of their roster flotsom and the Jeff Green Broken Heart Compensation (early second rounder) for Courtney Lee so he could sit on the bench.  The Celtics have such a surplus at the shooting guard position when you consider the addition of Lee and the notion of Rajon Rondo and Jason Terry sharing the court.

It’ll be interesting to see how training camp shakes out.  Perhaps the fourth shooting guard spot will be much clearer by then.  Until that time, who would you rather have occupying the bench this season: Dionte Christmas of Mickael Pietrus?

  • Phil

    I'd rather have Pietrus than Christmas, mainly because I think Pietrus can help in the playoffs if necessary, and I can't envision any scenario where Christmas helps in the postseason, barring a catastrophic run of injuries.

    That said, I'm not sure that's the choice. When you look at the roster breakdown at the end of the bench, there was room for all of the young guys 'and' Pietrus after the Lee trade. Bringing Dooling back is what closed that space up. I think its safe to bet that Pietrus will be a more valuable player than Dooling, which leads me to believe that the Cs didn't expect to be able to sign him. If the BAE wasn't enough, he was never really on the table.

    • dslack

      It's not clear that the BAE was in play for him. It might have been that they had the vet minimum available and Pietrus wasn't interested in playing for that.

      It's also true that none of the Bradley/Terry/Lee group are true point guards. And Bradley might miss a month or two of the season, and you never know when Rondo, Terry, or Lee might suffer an injury, and having a backup point guard on the roster isn't the worst idea, especially with Moore off the team.

      So I'm not sure that Dooling even is the worse choice for this team. He's clearly not as good a player, but he might provide more important insurance for the team than Pietrus would at this point.

      • Rav

        Lee is 6'5" – he's a full-size shooting guard, and never plays the 1. Terry can, if needed, play the point guard as well as Dooling.

  • Peter D

    I find myself continuing to fantasize that Pietrus will realize nobody's going to offer him more than the veteran's minimum, and deciding to stay in Boston rather than go to LA. I agree with all your points here – that minutes are likely to be so scarce at the end of the bench that Christmas makes the most sense as a cheap and young alternative, but that if/when we really *need* to get a playoff stop against James, Wade or (hopefully) Bryant, Pietrus is the guy you want in that situation.

    The funny thing is, I haven't read a word about Ainge saying he wants Pietrus back. Considering that he's said he WANTS to stay in Boston, and that he reportedly wants to play for a contender, it seems like a no-brainer to keep tabs on him.

  • thunderlizards

    I'd love to roll the dice with a complete gamble like oden or adam morrison but christmas has earned his place I feel and I'd be happy for him if he makes the team

  • mugi

    Pietrus, simply because of familiarity with the system. His d is abit overrated, but familiarity goes a long way.

  • skeeds

    I like Cinderella sports stories as much as the next guy. But if I try and be realistic, Christmas is not the guy I want on the team.
    If it's only the last man off the bench, then I'd rather it was a very good, experienced defender that can't create his shot, instead of an aggressive shooter. Christmas's weakness is that he's nowhere near as good an offensive player as he thinks he is. He's certainly fun to watch, but I wouldn't trust his shot selection (or overconfidence) in any important situation. As Etawn Moore showed early in the season, you might like a kid that comes in with swagger and shoots like he owns the court, but you're giving the minutes to the guy who takes care of the ball and plays better D (Dooling).
    Also, things turn around quickly. PP will at some point strain an ankle or something like that, and then what? we're gonna play Green 48 minutes at the 3 or have Bradley and Lee pick up those behemoths playing SF around the league?
    If there's a way to get MP cheap, then there's no question who should make the team.

  • High Rollers

    Danny might be wanting to see how the first couple months go with the apparent depth he has now, then find an additional wing defender if necessary down the road. Peaches, on the other hand probably doesn’t want to play cat-and-mouse for the next six to eight months. We all know how that turned out for the surefire hall-of-fame candidate we once knew and loved. If there’s no clarity regarding role or money, expect Pietrus to look elsewhere.

  • Batman

    I want Pietrus because I think veteran experience would be better for this team, along with his size and D

  • Vince

    I like Christmas…. who knows what this team can do with a healthy player under 30. Besides, I doubt either one would see the court much.

  • Jkrowling

    Christmas, I saw such a big potential in offense And defense via summer league. This dude is aggressive and smart.

  • Morpheus

    Pietrus all day. Experienced vet. this is a no brainer to me. And a healthy Peaches is nothing to sniff at.

  • Rondo

    Just wanted to say that I like the picture for this article. It's quite creative. And there's not much of that these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BiggestCelticsFanEver Nick Kelly

    I'm done with Mickael Pietrus. I couldn't have been more excited for an added Christmas present after his Suns buy-out last December, yet his inefficiency during the playoffs and seemingly lack of basketball IQ did not earn him anything above the veteran's minimum moving into this season.

    My frustration in the playoffs stemmed from his defense against smaller guards (Jrue Holliday/Lou Williams) in the 76er series where they'd draw contact on a drive and shoot over him for the "and one" without a contest yet against Miami he wouldn't stay down on ball fakes and ultimately foul on contests against all-stars when he had no chance of altering their shots.

    When we lost Avery Bradley's slashing ability and needed someone who could cut behind defends, run on the break, get to the hoop and draw fouls I would have preferred Marquis Daniels to Pietrus stepping back and chucking terrible shots. I'll avoid discussing his mental lapses and fouls while the Celtics were in the penalty yet for a veteran with his years in the league I was at a loss on many occasions.

    I would welcome Dionte Christmas for having earned a chance this summer to prove himself again in training camp and compete to be the 14th or 15th man on next year's squad as well as saving our biannual exception. Regardless, I have ultimate faith in Danny Ainge and Doc River making the correct decision.

  • bigblack1954

    I like Christmas over Pietrus. He's a young and aggressive player, and that's what Boston needs right now.

  • JR99

    Christmas is NOT a "shoot-first pass-almost-never guard." I'm puzzled where and how you got that impression. In SL, he was a very willing passer, even dazzled a couple of times… 'dazzled' like Rondo dazzles. By the time playoffs come around in '13, he could be a decent PG backup… something we don't actually have right now.

    Christmas also showed some tenacity on D in SL. Sure, Peaches is taller and therefore theoretically more useful…. but Christmas is younger (26 vs. 30), quicker, and… and this is the real difference between these guys…. BRAVER than Pietrus. It seemed to me that after his (admittedly frightening) injury, MP lost some of his aggression, some of his previously-somewhat-wild abandon. He may or may not ever get it all back.

    So bottom line: Cs have a history of trying guys out and dumping them when they don't shine. I think MP will be one of those guys. Time to give the hungrier Christmas his shot. I like the guy. I love the way he ATTACKS. Celtics need more of exactly that kind of aggression… exactly the kind that Pietrus has lost.

  • CG12

    Looking at it in a vacuum, there isn't much question that Pietrus currently brings more to the table. But Christmas is currently a better match for the C's needs and what they have available. Pietrus has had some real success in this league and won't go somewhere to be an end-of-the-bench guy. There just aren't a lot of minutes available right now at the 2/3 spots. The team went with Lee and Bradley as the top two guys at the 2 spot and PP and Green at the 3 spot. As long as Bradley is out, Pietrus might play some meaningful minutes, but once he is back it is hard to imagine Pietrus getting anything more than spot minutes based on things like injuries and match-ups. I see that as the bottom line – why would Pietrus want to sign with the C's at this point?

    I see the best-case scenario as Pietrus can't get what he wants in the NBA, goes overseas with a buyout clause, and the C's keep him on speed-dial for a mid-season signing, in the case of injury. Danny is too smart to drive up Pietrus's market value by expressing any interest in him.

  • Connor

    I thought last year, and still think this year, that Delonte West should be our back-up point guard. Although I like Keyon Dooling, West is a better player. We definitely missed him last year.

  • MPH

    It makes me sad that Pietrus hasn't been resigned yet…Bring him back, Danny!

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