Post-game Reactions

It seems like every offseason since 2010 we’ve been through this: a myriad of questions and concerns about the Celtics’ roster that usually involve the possibility of the core of the team being dismantled. As we head into the summer of 2013, we’ve got a whole batch of questions, many of which will be familiar.  We’ll pose them over a few posts this week and, in the interest of going on record with entirely wrongheaded answers, we’ll also respond with unwarranted authority.

Let’s begin.

1. Is there any chance Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can win another title with the Celtics as currently composed?


As recently as Oct 2012, the answer to this question was yes. But after a season of decline (for Pierce and Garnett), injury (Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger) and disastrous underperformance (Jason Terry and Courtney Lee) we’re beyond any reasonable if everything goes right scenarios where the Celtics can advance through four rounds of the playoffs. This is particularly true with the ascendancy of LeBron James to a level of performance that compares favorably with the anyone who’s ever played the game. And all this is true before we look at rising powers in New York and Indiana and the inexplicable Chicago Bulls, who’ll have Derrick Rose back in the fold no later than next October (we think).

For you loyalists, none of that is an argument against returning Pierce and Garnett if there’s not sufficient value to be found for them on the market (or, more to the point, if dealing them requires taking on longterm salary). But if they do come back, we should be clear what to expect next year: a mediocre record, nagging injuries, exhaustion and an early-round playoff exit. They just can’t repeat their strong performances consistently anymore. How bad do you want to see these guys stagger through another season in the name of loyalty?

2. How should we feel about Brandon Bass?

A whole lot better than we did six months ago.

Bass had a classic performance arc this past season. After an early-season spell where he seemed lost on defense and a non-entity on offense, he rebounded with a strong close to the season and, in a wonderful new wrinkle, proved himself a useful one-on-one defender against Carmelo Anthony in the first round against the Knicks. Bass is no more than a complementary player and if the Celtics don’t return their stars, he may end up on the trading block. The good news is his second-half recovery and inspired post-season play should stabilize his market value. With only two years left on his contract, Bass is a legitimately moveable asset and in the event the Celtics need him, a passable rotation player. It’s not exactly cause for celebration but it’s more than we could have hoped for back in December.

3. Are we done talking about Josh Smith?


We’ve talked about Smith each of the last few offseasons and the Celtics discussed him at this year’s trade deadline, but we may be through with that because of his awkward fit with any potential 2013-14 Celtics team. In a marginal free agent market, Smith will command star-level money, when that role has proved unsuitable for him over his time in Atlanta. He can be harnessed into a defensive game-changer but he’s best deployed as a third or fourth scoring option on offense. That was a legitimate possibility in Boston a couple of years ago. But pairing him with Rondo on a post-KG/PP roster puts him in exactly the wrong situation: one where he’s responsible for leading the team in scoring as often as not. He can’t do that efficiently enough to justify his coming salary and he and Rondo are a terrible match in the half-court without an array of shooters around them. And if Pierce and Garnett are back, the Celtics would again return the core of a terrible offense and, I’d argue, need more scoring from Smith than he’s capable of giving.

He’s a terrific player in a lot of respects, but under the new CBA Smith may be priced out of the comfort zone for any team that hopes to win a title. It’s time to let our collective dreams of Smoove pass.

Come back for parts 2 and 3 later this week.

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Ryan DeGama

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  • hax

    "the ascendancy of LeBron James to a level of performance that compares favorably with the anyone who’s ever played the game. "

    Is this the same LBJ that needs the best team in nba history to win the title, and got outplayed by the celtics ex-third string PG last night?

    • Josh_5

      Yes, this is just mind-boggling. Hes the same guy who needed Wade to win and let's not forget last year BARELY getting by our old scrappy C's in 7.

      • Anthony

        I rather think of it as how good the Celts were and not how bad Lebron and the Heats were.

        I hate Lebron as much as the next Celts' fan but he undeniably the best player in the league.

    • complexity

      I hate lebron james, but you can't argue that anyone in the league could have took that horrible cavs team to as many wins and playoff runs as he did.

      • Jonathan

        It's just odd how a Cavaliers team can win 60+ games a season, lose in the playoffs, and everyone says that the team sucks. They lost in the playoffs because everyone, even Lebron, Choked. There's no reason to believe that a team that won over 60 games in the regular season didn't have a good squad.

        • Rav

          It's also odd that they could return nearly all their important personnel the next season, except Lebron, and suddenly become one of the worst teams in the NBA. Oh wait…

    • Vincent

      I don't like LBJ, but he's easily the best player in the NBA.

    • wow, I mean I hate LBJ… but you have to be kidding. He is by far and away the best player in the NBA and just put up ridiculous numbers this year. He won a title so that monkey is off his back, and he clearly doesn't care what all the naysayers and haters say anymore.

      The heat are not the best team in NBA history… what are you 15 y/o? I could come up with a long list of teams from the 80's, 90's and early 2000's that have far superior supporting casts.

      They lost game 1 after 8 days off… do you really think they're going to lose that series?

    • CG12

      It is also the same guy who dropped Game 6 on the Celtics last year.

    • skeeds

      the best team in NBA history? What, so Bosh, Wade's ghost, Ray's corpse and a bunch of never-has-beens are better than Magic's showtime Lakers, Bird's Celtics or MJ's Bulls? The only player other than Lebron actually playing at a high level right now is Bosh, and he ain't even a top 5 PF.
      Nah, have my reasons to hate Lebron, but I can't help acknowledging that he's in a league of his own right now.

  • cos

    I've been a long time Celtics fan dealing with the dark days, and inexplicable have a soft spot for sherman douglas. That said, it'd be tough to see KG and especially PP play somewhere else.

    I totally get that its really on Ainge and what he wants to do with Pierce that will dictate the off-season but there is something I keep thinking about….

    I recall Ainge saying previously that in order to be great you need to get top tier free agents (which many say won't happen in boston (and I hate that we keep rehashing this – we've reached a point where the name Celtics matters and its time people speak of free agent and boston in this manner)), or get a high lottery pick. Next years draft is believed to be one of the best in many years with many franchise changing rookies. I can't help but think danny's either going to try to get a high pick for next year, or bottom out the team in a slim chance to win the lottery. I don't see him wanting to get into the playoffs and getting a 16th pick.

    This offseason is going to be tough to deal with. this blows.

  • hax

    The trade rumor is now pierce/garnett for griffin/jordan/bledsoe/butler. LOL. I don't see how the Clippers would do that trade. And the Celtics would have Rondo-Bradley-Green-Griffin-Jordan, 5 emerging stars. Then sullinger, randolph, etc. for frontcourt bench & crawford/terry/lee/bledsoe bench and butler bench for SF.
    And a new offensive head coach to make the underperformers perform.

  • elroz

    1st why is a discussion about J. Smith creates a false image of him and RR, with Smith being the 1st option as a scorer – is Jeff Green still on the team? Both Green and Smith need touches. Both of them are good offensive options.

    2nd. KG and PP can be back, but the team does not need to lean on them heavily – Green has emerged, Bradley will be better with Rondo around. Sullinger is rising. Bass has shown to be a defensive presence. the Celtics have a 16th pick. KG would be valuable at 24 mpg…Pierce can average up to 30 at SF and SG spots. Pierce playing with Rondo is going to have an easier time out there.

    3rd. Why into consider moving Terry, Crawford, D.J. White to save about $8.4 million total and then package the 16th pick to either move up in the draft or to trade for a quality big man who can rebound. If needed, they can also include Fab Melo to bring the total to about $9.7 million + 16th draft pick and trade them. Or perhaps Fab Melo will emerge to NBA level over the summer and training camp and pre-season?

    • Jamie

      Because this year's draft is so bad moving up would do you no good

  • CG12

    KG could come back and give the C's what he has, whatever that ends up being, and they would be better off for it. PP, on the other hand, could come back as Game 6-vs.-Knicks Paul Pierce, with almost no recognition of the fact that this is 2013, not 2003. I love Paul, but he needs get to a place where he doesn't feel he has to be the man. He can't be the man for the C's anymore, and if they need him to be, they might as well move on. I'd like to see Jeff Green become the offensive hub of this team, with Paul embracing his inner swiss army knife and paying more attention to rebounding, passing, and D. He can do it with his savvy, but he doesn't have the athleticism to get points against defenses focusing on stopping.

    • Art

      The question is is it worth it to pay Pierce $15 million to take a back seat role and just "give the game what it needs"?

      and for all those advocating moving Pierce to the bench talk about the highest paid sixth man ever… not gonna happen.

      Pierce either starts in Boston or gets traded. He can came off someone elses bench for $15 million.

  • ant

    Stop trying to stir up rumors. Pierce n kg will be back next season. Mark my words

    If we had a healthy Rondo, everything changes. If we took Miami to gm 7 last season with the crappy role players we had (pietrus, dooling,etc) just wait till we have the true core—pierce kg RONDO bradley green terry n bass

    We’re a better team then most ppl think. N pierce is still capable of 20plus and kg has been giving us dbls dbls yr in and yr out. Nothing will change next season

    Oh and these type of blog posts are lame. Find something more creative to write about

    • Josh_5

      Pierce getting 20+ is not people's concern. It's how many shots it takes him to get there that worries us.

    • Vincent

      We had Rondo healthy for half the year and were under .500. Older players get worse, and PP and KG are not nearly as good as they were in 2008. How is this team "better than most people think?" We were barely over .500 for the year and earned a 7 seed and lost two home games in the first round of the playoffs against a lousy Knicks team with no Amare.

      If you think this team is good, you're basing it on hope and ignoring an entire season of basketball.

  • Sophomore

    No to Josh Smith. No. No. No. Unless you want a pouty player who disappears in big games. And if you think the Cs offense has trouble scoring now, just add mr. shot-selection to the team. Hideous.

    Here's the Daily Dime on his performance in the last game of the Pacers series:

    "LVP: Was Josh Smith aware that there was a playoff game tonight? The Hawks forward went 5-for-16 from the field, committed four turnovers and looked completely out of the game.

    That was … poetic justice: The conclusion to the Smoove era in Atlanta was scripted beautifully. Down five with about 40 seconds left, Smith took matters into his own hands. Instead of going with the play Larry Drew had drawn up, Smith hoisted a contested 3-pointer, which was blocked by David West. Atlanta wasn't able to recover. With Smoove's history of shot selection, this ending was just too perfect.

    • snow

      Plus Smith is a head case and we already have one.

  • george

    Wait… jeff green will be the 1st scoring option… not josh smith if they get him

  • Craig

    1.Bringing KG and PP back is not simply a matter of "loyalty". BB at its most glorious is a team sport. Team commitment is profoundly a matter of team culture — in the locker room, in the front office, and in the fan base. The Celtics can draw on one of the deepest wells in this respect. These days, KG / PP are the most central elements of that culture. Thus, how they transition to retirement (in green) is critical to how the franchise will respond to the lean times ahead. In other words, being "competitive" in the next year (with KG and PP) is quite valuable, even if the C's don't turn out to be title "contenders".
    2. Rondo is not a team foundation. Imagine his behavior on a losing team over the next, say, three years. Trade him for a player that can help a KG/PP anchored team be competitive for a year of, maybe two. Retire KG/PP. Then bottom-out for a couple of years and rebuid.
    3. That player might be Pau Gasol. KG gets to stop playing out of position at center (including the wear and tear of playing against the bigger boys). And he would get to return to power forward, with an excellent shooting and passing low-post center partner. Danny would have to figure out how to work the 7 million dollar salary difference. (Maybe the deal would have the Lakers come up with some/all of the financial difference.) Who knows, a KG/PG/PP front line might create some real havoc in the Eastern Conference (given some luck with the guard play).

    • GymRat

      You lost me at "Pau Gasol".

    • Anthony

      Gasol's salary for next year is $19.3 mil. NO THANKS

  • GymRat

    The real problem this team has this off-season is Ainge signed too many long term contracts going in to this season. PP and KG are not the problem. Neither of their contracts is terrible. For the amount of responsibility put on them and the way both of them impact the game when they are on the floor, I'd say they are both underpaid. Pierce had a miserable playoff run – but I'm still convinced it was due to injuries and his ridiculously high usage rate toward the end of the season when he was forced to play point forward.

    This team has 15 players under contract. Only 4 of them are serious contributors (Rondo, PP, KG, Green). Those total salaries are roughly $47 million. That's not great, but it's actually pretty typical that the majority of a teams salary is paid to their top 3 – 4 players. Pau Gasol and Kobe make that between the two of them. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Kris Humphries make $49m. LeBron, Bosh and Wade total $57m next year. Point being unless you are a young team benefitting from a succesful rebuild such as OKC and Houston, if you're a playoff competitor you've got all stars on their 2nd or 3rd contract making big bucks.

    It's what you do with those remaining 10 – 12 roster spots that defines a championship team. We have far too many overpaid role players taking up the remaining salaries. Miami filled out the rest of their roster with guys making $4m or less (only Mike Miller is set to make $6m – and I'll be shocked if he isn't traded).

    It's really the contracts of Bass, Lee and Terry that are the problem. That's $18m tied up in guys who are just decent, and in the case of Lee – didn't even play in important games. That's insane. You throw in Crawford you're now over $20m with 4 guys who hardly play. But since they all have long term deals with very little upside they are really hard to move.

    Yes PP and KG are past their primes, but there is nobody out there right now who can provide the same impact for their price tags.

    We'd have money to bring in guys around them if we didn't overpay the rest of the bench.

    • phoured

      gp, i completely agree.

  • Swissflix

    I just hope Danny has a strategy. What if pierces continues but garnett still retires? It is a really tricky situation. Plus there's Lee and Terry who probably noone wants at this point. Remember when Lee was considered a threat from the three point line? It has been only 6 months or so. Oh boy.

  • W2.

    Good post. Right on. Bring back the band minus Wilcox and some other spare parts. Ride the train until the tracks burn.I can't help but feel like with a healthier squad, reduce roles for PP and KG, and one more impact player (A big), we could make some more noise!

    And please forget it with the Josh Smith talk. I would rather roll with Uncle Jeff. Dude is a Celtic!