CELTICS SHOULD KEEP CORE INTACT
Given that the Celtics are an inconsistent team battling frontcourt health issues, Danny Ainge will be left itching to make a deal at Thursday's trade deadline. But he should avoid the temptation to make a splashy deal, realizing that Boston's chemistry and continuity are its greatest strength.
As Doc Rivers noted during Sunday's loss to the Lakers, the Celtics haven't deserved to be mentioned among the true contenders in the East because of their up-and-down play. But Rivers cautioned against writing them off in the postseason.
"Anything is possible, as Kevin [Garnett] would say," noted Rivers.
And that's why Boston needs to keep its core intact. The Celtics should investigate a minor move at the back end of the bench in order to either bring in serviceable size or free up a spot to add an emergency big, but short of being bowled over by an offer the team can't refuse for truly elite talent, the Big Four should be on the floor Friday night in Sacramento.
The Celtics might have learned a valuable lesson last year when a midseason injury to Marquis Daniels forced the team's hand and, desperate to add wing help, Ainge pulled the trigger on a blockbuster that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City.
On paper the trade that netted Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a first-round pick made all sorts of sense for a Boston team ready to let Perkins walk in the offseason. What Ainge & Co. might have undervalued was the chemistry impact it had on the team.
In a season in which there is absolutely no practice time, integrating new faces will not be easy. It's one thing for the team to add a role player off the bench, but overhauling a starting unit could be disastrous with the playoffs starting roughly 45 days after the deadline.
Beyond that, Boston needs to avoid any trade that destroys the financial flexibility the team has worked so hard to preserve in recent seasons. The Celtics are set to clear a staggering amount of money when contracts for Kevin Garnett ($21M), Ray Allen ($10M) and Jermaine O'Neal ($6M) expire after this season and Boston needs to parlay that space into young impact players, not some cap-clogging veteran who could be had at the deadline to aid an already iffy postseason quest.
No, the Celtics should let the trade deadline pass without landing in the headlines this year. Give this core its last rodeo (after all, the green are 7-2 in their past nine games) and see what happens, then start the overhaul process in the offseason.
The clocks might have just sprung ahead on Sunday, but maybe the Celtics can turn the clocks back in May, finding some of that magic that aided them during two runs to the NBA Finals in the past four seasons.
It's their best chance to make something happen this year.
CELTICS NEED TO MAKE A TRADE
A week ago, Doc Rivers, pretty much knowing that Jermaine O'Neal would not be back anytime soon, said his frontcourt could not absorb any more hits. His exact words: "it would be deadly."
Then came Chris Wilcox's heart condition.
The Celtics have to make a deal if for no other reason than the hopes of making a run in the playoffs, however delusional that may now seem, depend on getting someone to replace Wilcox. That's the least of it. O'Neal does not appear to be walking through that door anytime soon and if he did, he probably would hurt himself doing so. Greg Stiensma is a hearty lad, but does not appear to be ready for prime time.
Knowing you need to get someone and actually getting that someone is why Danny Ainge makes the big bucks. Suddenly, Rajon Rondo has to be put on the back burner. But Ainge does have to fortify the front line if this team has any realistic shot of getting out of the No. 7 hole, let alone making an implausible, 2010-ish run in the postseason.
So, yes, the Celtics must make a deal. It could be expanded to include one of the Big Four, for that may be the only way Ainge can get back anything significant. It'd be nice to think that Hornets boss David Stern would surrender Chris Kaman for, say, O'Neal and another body or two. Ain't happening.
As Rivers himself noted, teams aren't lining up to help the Celtics.
By the way, where's Nenad Krstic when you need him?
Prior to the news of Wilcox's condition, the Celtics seemed as if they might ride this thing to the end with what they have. Rivers had that memorable line in Philadelphia ("this is the best place we've been in all year") and said that if the team stayed healthy, it could inflict some damage in the playoffs.
But even the pre-Wilcox-ailment Celtics could not realistically be viewed as a legitimate title contender, no matter what the spin. That's why Ainge was reportedly shopping Ray Allen and probably anyone else not named Paul Pierce. There was no way to make a rational case for the Celtics beating Chicago or Miami in a playoff series. There still isn't. The realistic Celtics fan is hoping for an entertaining second-round series. Anything beyond that would be frosting.
But now the situation has changed dramatically and requires a move. The alternative is to watch Kevin Garnett calcify before our very eyes. Ainge has a proven track record of (A) saying "nothing is happening, it's very quiet" in the days leading up the trade deadline and then (B) going out and making a deal on trade deadline day.
He's already fulfilled Part A of the ritual. Now he has to go out and fulfill Part B.