The Celtics will squeeze in one more game before Thanksgiving Wednesday night vs. Memphis, so we're giving you one more Celtics mailbag before you stuff your face with turkey and green bean casserole.
The first question is one I've gotten several times over the last week, so it's a good place to start.
While I anxiously watch the Celtics standings this season, I also watch that of the Nets. In the case of the Celtics, I want to see them play well and win, but part of me also wants to see them have a poor record for a better draft pick. In the case of the Nets, I am gratified to see them do worse that the Celtics, given that the Celtics own their draft pick for 2014. Is the Nets' pick protected (i.e. from 1-3 picks)?
Robert, Albany, N.Y.
You're right to root against the Nets, Robert, but there's a wrinkle involving the Atlanta Hawks. From RealGM.com:
Brooklyn will convey the less favorable of its 2014 1st round pick and Atlanta's 2014 1st round pick to Boston (via Atlanta's right to swap for Brooklyn) [Atlanta-Brooklyn, 7/11/2012 and then Boston-Brooklyn, 7/12/2013]
Because Atlanta has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn, the Hawks can swoop in and take the pick if, say, the Nets end up with a top-five pick. If both teams are bad, though, the Celtics will wind up with a good pick either way, but at 8-7 the Hawks are currently third in the Eastern Conference. The pick is unprotected, but Atlanta is unlikely to be worse than mediocre.
What the heck is going on with the Nets, by the way? Saddled with the league's largest payroll, at 4-10 they're the NBA's biggest disappointment. Jason Kidd can't coach. Paul Pierce's 13-point average is the lowest of his career. And have you seen Kevin Garnett's shot chart? With Brooklyn leaning on so many older players, there may not be an easy way out of this, either. Danny Ainge's trade is looking better and better.
The mid to bottom of the East is stinking and the Atlantic Division is a mess. My beloved Celtics are 6-10. We have played some pretty good basketball teams the past week or so and I must say I am impressed. With the C's playing better, 11 of our next 15 games at home, and let's hope Rondo returns mid-December, do you think the C's would push for a playoff spot or just tank it all away? I am a delusional fan and I am not in support of tanking.
Hafeez, Arlington, Texas
I wrote about the tanking argument Tuesday, but your points about the schedule and Rondo are good ones. They've got some very winnable games in there, so you're right about them being able to tread water.
That being said, I believe it's better for the franchise if the Celtics lose more games than they win and get a higher draft pick in 2014. Rondo may help that cause. I doubt we see him in mid-December -- he hasn't returned to playing 5 on 5 yet -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Celtics ease him back in. Without Rondo, no game is a slam dunk for this team.
This is a good time to transition into three semi-related Rondo questions:
Is there any way Danny allows this team to win 20 Games? I just cant see it with the supposed loaded draft for 2014. I think they will all play hard but Danny will make sure Rondo, Sullinger and Green never play together. What do you think?
With all the rumors about a possible trade of RR...what's the reason for him to stay with the C's? He probably could earn more money elsewhere, and also the chances for his 2nd ring might be better with another team.
Alex, Vienna, Austria
I found it interesting that the first time Rondo met the media this season, on media day, he mentioned Rose within the first 90 seconds of his interview. To me that was a sign that he might take it slow. Fast forward to now, and Rondo could be cleared soon for 5-on-5. If all goes well, a return in a few weeks seems possible, though it wouldn't be surprising if his return was delayed until after the first of the year.
Ainge "allowing" this team to win 20 games falls on the more conspiratorial side of the tanking argument than I'm comfortable with, but it's clear this roster has redundancies and deficiencies that make it difficult to win the maximum number of games now. Rondo's return would remove one major flaw, which is the lack of someone to run the offense.
As for trading Rondo, it's always possible, but his value is lower right now than it could be at the deadline in a few months or at the draft. Danny Ainge is not going to ship his best player out for pennies on the dollar just to lose a few more games.
We'll close with a more pragmatic question.
Do you think there's a possibility of Olynyk playing with Humphries & Green and/or sometimes Wallace in the frontcourt at times this year? I think he can really play the four or five ... if that could happen and be successful, then would the C's move Bass ... like to figure out a way to get bigger up front at times ... Even though I am from Northern Calif. I love the C's.
You've hit on all of the problems with the Celtics' frontcourt in one question. Bass has been the team's best big man this season. Humphries should play more, but he, Bass, Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger all occupy the same position. Vitor Faverani is the team's only true "center", but he's not as good as the rest of those guys (he's played well, I just think the others are better). Olynyk needs NBA court time to develop, and he's shown brilliant flashes, but when the Celtics have used him at center their defense has suffered. Any one of these players are fine at power forward, but the pairings leave something to be desired. I'd love to see Humphries and Sullinger get more court time together.
Thanks to everyone who has written in. Happy Thanksgiving.