Will Da Glove Dis Da Green?
Ainge will not entertain questions about the prospect of trading players should Payton not play for Boston, though it's apparent the current roster is a work-in-progress. He will not speculate about veteran point guards available as free agents. With regard to Payton, the very public stance of the Celtics has been "wait and see." But what fun is that? Besides, at some point, the wait must end.
What if Payton retires and spends the season at home in Los Angeles shooting mean looks at Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak? Do Ainge and Celtics coach Doc Rivers really feel comfortable with Marcus Banks starting at point guard, backed up by Delonte West?
There are veteran point guards out there ready, willing, and able to play for Boston. Consider Kenny Anderson and Travis Best. Anderson spent four-plus seasons with the Celtics. Best starred for Springfield Central High School and drew interest from Ainge last summer before Boston signed Mike James. Best also has had a strong supporter in Paul Pierce.
"I've always kept my eye on Boston," said Best. "It might be a nice story to finish up in Boston, back at home, seeing as how I've pretty much played my entire career after high school away from home.
"But sometimes in order to play somewhere you have to feel wanted. At this point, I just have to find a good situation where I'm going to be playing with a solid team that has an opportunity to make the playoffs. I'm not in any rush. There's still a lot of time left in the summer and I'm just getting in shape."
When Best, 32, says he wants to "feel wanted," that means the veteran minimum $1 million for a player with nine years of experience will not do. But a little extra spent on Best could come back at the gate, with the home-grown talent a box office draw.
"With the position that I'm in right now, not really being able to have a lot of playing time and not playing for winners the last couple years, teams kind of forget about you and want you to prove yourself all over again," said Best, who averaged 2.8 points and 1.8 assists in 12.5 minutes per game with Dallas last season. "In order for me to get paid the money I feel I'm worth, I have to get into the right situation and have more playing time."
A team that signs him, he said, "would be getting a veteran point guard who knows what it's like to play in the NBA Finals, a guy who played in the fourth quarter, who's played in high-pressure situations and come through, who's going to take care of the basketball, a guy that can score and be one of the better defensive point guards in the league, if need be. But I'm really focused on getting offensive-minded again. I want to reintroduce myself as more of an offensive player because I have it in me."
Before being traded to Seattle in the Vin Baker deal, Anderson helped lead Boston to the 2002 Eastern Conference finals. He signed with Indiana as a free agent last summer and was a starter until a calf injury knocked him out of the rotation. Limited playing time and a less-than-inspiring playoff performance pushed Anderson, 33, to the far reaches of the radar.
"I still love the game and I know I can still play," said Anderson, who averaged 6.0 points and 2.8 assists in 20.6 minutes per game last season. "I just didn't get the opportunity I thought I would in Indiana. It kind of messed me up a little bit.
"I want to play. I'm not ready to wave the towel right now. I've got at least two or three more years, and I don't want to be at the back of the bench. I can still run a team if the situation is out there. I left Boston on a high note and I wouldn't mind going back there. I enjoy guys on the team like Mark Blount and Paul. I think people there still enjoy me."
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