August 2, 2007
That's it? Someone actually thinks this Celtics team will win the East and contend for the championship? Really?
I am reminded of the classic line given by Ronald Reagan in "Kings Row." He awakens in a hospital bed and becomes aware he has no legs.
"Where's the rest of me?" he wails.
Tell me something. Did I miss the memo in which David Stern proclaimed that in the 2007-08 season the NBA will be a three-on-three competition? And did I also miss the other memo, the one in which Stern revoked the charters of some NBA Eastern Conference teams, most notably Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Washington, and defending conference champion Cleveland?
Apparently I did. There can be no other explanation for the mass giddiness that has engulfed this region from the minute it was confirmed that Danny Ainge had acquired Kevin Garnett. Yes, I will certainly admit that Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are a fine 1-2-3 combination, arguably the league's best (Phoenix, San Antonio, and Detroit would certainly object). But, to borrow a phrase, "Where's the rest of me?"
Unless it really is going to be a three-on-three NBA, the Celtics will be forced to place two additional players on the floor, and not just occasionally, but for every one of the 48 minutes.
That concerns me. That concerns me because what I am about to say is nonnegotiable: What's left on the Celtics' roster is by far the worst collection of proven talent in the NBA. Not one of the remaining 29 teams in Stern's world would even consider trading its fourth through 12th players for Boston's. There is no way Danny, Doc, Wyc, Steve, or Red's Ghost could look anyone in the eye and say otherwise.
Oooh, I forgot. Danny's not done. Isn't that what I heard? He's going to import a veteran point guard. Brevin Knight, for example. Brevin Knight? Look, he's a proper Stanford guy and a fine individual. He would provide incremental improvement (3 percent? 11 percent?) in the point guard department. All things considered, I'll stick with Rajon Rondo, thank you very much.
And speaking of Rondo, what I am about to say is equally nonnegotiable, as well as being quite scary: Rondo is the fourth-best player on the Celtics' roster. No team in the league has such a colossal drop-off in talent and NBA desirability.
What is the matter with everyone? Are people in these here parts so starved for some legitimate NBA excitement they have immediately abandoned all reason in their quest to anoint the reconstituted roster as a potential champion?
The folks in Las Vegas are likewise caught up in this euphoric nonsense. Depending on which tout you favor, the Celtics trail only the Suns, Mavericks, and Spurs as championship favorites, and are favorites to win the East. In normal times I fully respect what the wise men in Las Vegas have to say about sporting events.
In this case I fear they've all been lobotomized. None of this makes any sense. Then again, I may have missed that three-on-three memo.
Please, somebody, calm down, take off the green-and-white underwear and take a good look at the rest of the roster. It consists of Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Rondo, Leon Powe, Eddie House, Jackie Manuel, and rookies Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Gabe Pruitt, and Brandon Wallace. Over on the side there is free agent Michael Olowokandi.
I can just hear the "No mas!" from the Pistons, Heat, Bulls, Wizards, and Cavaliers right now.
Perkins is a hard-working banger who might as well have a sign tattooed on his forehead saying, "Career Backup." Powe is pretty much the same thing. That doesn't mean I don't like either one, but to appropriate another popular local phrase, they are what they are. Scalabrine might - might - have some value if he can consistently hit the 3-pointer. Note the words "might" and 'if."
I like Rondo. He'll be around the NBA for a long time with his speed and defensive tenacity. But he needs experience, and there is the stupendous, "Yeah, but," concerning his shot. Backing up a major point guard, he could be a very nice asset. He is simply not ready to be a leading man in this league.
House can shoot, and that's something this team desperately needs. I'm sure that, under the circumstances, he'll be overbilled, however. Manuel was a great defensive player at North Carolina, but there is a reason he has yet to play his first NBA game. We'll be told it won't matter that he has no NBA offensive skill. I'm just telling you what to expect.
The rookies? Who knows? Yes, I like Big Baby, and he could bring a lot to the table. That's "could." Wallace was a Summer League sensation who played his way into a surprise contract. Congratulations, son. Pruitt? Maybe, possibly, someday, perhaps. Who knows?
That leaves Tony Allen. He is recovering from the dreaded torn ACL injury. He may very well make a full recovery. He'd damn well better, not just because he injured himself with a phenomenally stupid indiscretion for which he was never properly chastised (dunking well after the whistle), but also because his game is built on superior athleticism. If he comes back at 90 percent of his preaccident self, he is finished as a viable NBA commodity. He's 6 feet 4 inches, not 6-9. He has no future without his full athleticism.
So tell me what's so enticing about this roster. If Danny had kept Ryan Gomes, I'd be far more optimistic. And why did Danny have to relinquish two No. 1 draft picks? Am I the only one who thinks this stuff matters? There is nothing to suggest the Celtics won't once again be a horrible defensive team. There is no guarantee Rondo can run a team and keep order among the star trio. There is no guarantee, for that matter, that Ray Allen will play 70 games, or even 60.
Once again we'll be back to the two-teams thing. You'll have the Old Guys and the Kids. You'll have the Veteran All-Stars who arrive at practice with chauffeurs and the guys who hitchhike to work. Once again Doc Rivers will earn every cent of his salary, this time trying to make a bizarre mismatched conglomeration of real and supposed talent into a proper team.
I am amused at what Danny has done. He has basically blow-torched his entire body of work here in Boston. Forget the youth/athleticism/grow-together thing. Forget 2009, 2010, and 2011. Load up now.
OK, if that's the case, I'll live with that. But the job is only half done. This core group of marquee players needs to be supported by the right cast, and it's not here yet. The Celtics are fascinating. They are intriguing. They are a borderline freak show. They'll definitely be more fun to watch.
They might even make the playoffs.