It's been a week since the draft-day deal that brought Ray Allen to town, along with hints from Danny Ainge that the dealing isn't over. It's also a day before two of the C's new toys – Big Baby Davis and Gabe Pruitt - are unveiled on the court at the Las Vegas Summer League, along with familiar faces Rajon Rondo, Gerald Green, Allan Ray, and Leon Powe - all while Sebastian Telfair lurks in the shadows. There's a lot going on in Celtic land these days, so here are some scattered thoughts on it all.
Ray Allen: injury assessment
I haven't had anything to say on the deal since draft night. I know I promised a reaction the day after, but I've taken the last week to chew on it a little. And by "chew on it" I mean Google "bone spurs ankle recovery" for hours and hours. If this deal is going to work out for the Celtics, Ray Allen has to be healthy not only for the start of this season, but for the duration of the next three years. If that happens, then I love this deal.
Can it be done? I think so. Everything I've read seems to indicate it is a relatively minor surgery, and a good amount of NBA players have had it and come back to be productive.
Dirk Nowitzki had the procedure on his left ankle in May 2002 and came back to lead his German team to the bronze medal in the FIBA World Basketball Championships that September. Dirk has struggled through bone spurs in his other ankle for much of the past season, but that didn't stop him from winning the NBA's MVP award (he's getting the right ankle worked on this offseason, too. I don't think many are expecting a huge decline). Jason Williams, then of Memphis, had bone spurs removed from his left ankle in summer 2003 and didn't see much of a drop in his production or playing time the following two seasons. And our own Al Jefferson had bone spurs removed before the start of last season, after the summer league no less, and we all know how his season turned out.
Now, the big question is how well Allen's 32-year-old body will respond to the recovery, as the previous guys were carrying much younger bodies.
Sure, it's a slight concern when his age is taken into account, but how many 32-year-olds are in as good shape as Allen? The dude is chiseled and takes care of his body in every way, from working out to eating. I don't see a single warning sign that indicates he will have trouble recuperating and returning to his level of play from the past few seasons.
The key question may be: How likely is it that the bone spurs will return in the next three years? That one I have no answer to. All I know is that Allen also had ankle surgery in 2003 and went on to play 78 games in each of the following two seasons.
In the end, we'll just have to wait and see, because how he holds up health-wise will ultimately become how this trade is judged. But I'm a lot less nervous about this than I was a week ago.
More deals to come?
Last week Ainge indicated that he's not is done dealing, and he still holds Theo Ratliff's expiring contract and a bunch of young pieces to move in a deal. And although I'd love to see the C's add a guy like Andrei Kirilenko or Marcus Camby without giving up Jefferson, I have to wonder how they'd be able to re-sign Big Al after the season with another big contract added to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. I don't see an easy way of making that happen, especially with ownership's history of staying out of luxury tax land.
And the more I think about it, the less I want to do a Theo/Jefferson/future picks/etc. for Kevin Garnett deal. Although it may make the C's a better team for the next two to three years, it would be completely mortgaging the future for the now, and as I already wrote, even if Allen and Pierce don't get the C's to the promised land, they should leave behind a solid core of Celtics coming into their own who can be built around. It would be huge gamble to take Garnett and give up all the pieces to get him. I'd rather have a continually improving Al giving 75 percent of what Garnett would than bank everything on three guys in their 30s who have never played together winning a championship within three years.
Add a point.
In my mind, a top priority now should be to finally add an experienced point guard to help out Rondo, especially with the increased emphasis on "winning now." By all accounts, Pruitt is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, and although having a point-in-training who can shoot is appealing, I don't want to see too much learning on the job from the rookie this season (we've had enough of that already the past few years between Orien Greene, Delonte, Rondo, and Telfair). Plus, Rondo is still not an ideal first option, so having someone to either back him up or push him for the starting job is important.
One guy who has been brought up by some is Brevin Knight, who was released by Charlotte last week and, if signed, would come with a pretty reasonable price tag and not cost the C's anything aside from cash. I'm OK with pursuing Knight, although he's been released by two teams in three years and doesn't excite me too much.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the C's try and trade for Tyronn Lue from Atlanta. Lue played for Doc in Orlando and I remember hearing last year how he is a favorite of Rivers. The Hawks are now stacked at point guard, and will likely try and move one of them before the season starts. The problem is that the only guys with matching salaries who the C's would likely give up for Lue are Telfair and Scalabrine, and I don't see Atlanta taking back another point guard or adding to an already crowded frontcourt. The Hawks need wings. Gerald Green or Tony Allen could be packaged with a player or two, but the C's wouldn't (and shouldn't) give up either for the one-year rental of Lue. I'd still like the Celtics to pursue him, though, just to see what the price is.
Of course, the C's could go in the other direction and go for higher-priced guy like Mike Bibby by using Ratliff's contract and another player, but that brings a whole host of other problems, such as: "How will you re-sign Al then?" and "What will you have left to add another big man with?" So, I'd rather not go the Bibby route.
Looks like putting the full-court press on Knight may be the best option at this point.
What about center?
Almost as important as adding a veteran point guard is getting someone to either supplant Kendrick Perkins in the middle or be a serviceable backup. As it is now, Al will probably see a lot of minutes at center if no moves are made, and I don't want that to happen. ... Keep him at the 4. The problem is, unless the C's use Ratliff's contract and a stable of young guys to add a Gasol/Kirilenko/Camby, it will be impossible to find a cheap center on the free agent market who will sign for the mid-level exception, especially in Boston. And no, I don't think the C's will be able to woo Darko Milicic.
As crazy as it sounds, I think the Celtics are just as likely to try to see what Theo Ratliff still has in the tank as they are to trade him. If he can suit up and contribute, he would give the team a much-needed defensive presence and depth at center. There's no denying that his skills would be welcomed on this team. Still, I find it unlikely that he is physically able to compete in the NBA anymore, and would rather not bank on him being able to contribute. But as it looks now, with the market for big men the way it is, the Celts may have no other choice short of blowing up the rest of the roster in a trade for a high-priced big man. And with the way the money tree shakes around here, I don't see that as a strong possibility.
Yes, it's time for that annual display of pseudo-basketball, and this year, all the Celtics games will be televised on FSN New England, starting with Friday's tilt against -- gulp -- Greg Oden.
Still, I'm excited to get my first glimpse of Big Baby in green, and I look forward to seeing what kind of progress Rondo and Green made in the past few months. But most of all, I'm intrigued by the whole Sebastian Telfair saga. So, Telfair is in Vegas, practicing with the C's summer league team, and there's a roster spot open for him on the squad, but he likely won't play on the team? After all, he's still "on the roster," as Wyc Grousbeck put it. Well, if he's on the roster, he's surely a guy who could use the work in summer league. At the very least he could be showcased a little for a trade, no? I don't understand the whole thing. It's like a couple that's separated, have no chance of getting back together, but neither side wants to file for divorce.
Give Telfair credit, though, he's saying all the right things, and just may talk his way back into a Celtics uniform this year. And after the whole nameplate fiasco, that's pretty amazing.
Great sports words.
I have to say, the July 4 showdown between Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut in the Nathan's hot dog eating competition was about two-thousand times more entertaining than I thought it would be. In the history of sporting events involving teeth, it has to rank in the top three along with Tyson-Holyfield II (a.k.a. "The Bite Fight") and Tree Rollins biting Danny Ainge in the 1983 NBA playoffs.
But the best part of the Kobayashi-Chestnut battle was Kobayashi's dramatic "reversal" (a.k.a., "losing his lunch") as the buzzer sounded. Now, as disgusting as that was to watch on TV, it was equally as entertaining to know that there is actually an official word for vomiting that is used in eating contests. Which got me thinking, in many other sports, when a player fails to come through in the clutch, it's called choking. Well, in Kobayashi's case, he actually choked when he choked. As Mitch Hedberg would have said, "It's so damn literal!"
Anyway, I think "reversal" is too great a word to be confined to the world of competitive eating. This needs to be brought into the realm of basketball. OK then, how can it be incorporated?
My initial thought was "reversal" could describe a play where a player blocks a shot and his team gains possession after the block … in this case Bill Russell would had the most reversals in NBA history. But the problem there is that in the context of competitive eating, the word has a negative connotation, whereas blocking a shot and gaining possession is a decidedly positive result.
So, maybe a more appropriate use would be when a player makes a boneheaded play that leads to a turnover in the last minute of a close game. That works because it keeps the negative connotation, and could become a much more specific and appropriate substitution for "choke."
In competitive eating, you lose your lunch, and in basketball, you lose the ball. I think this works. For example, Isiah Thomas suffered an inopportune reversal at the end of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals when Bird swooped in for the steal and passed it to D.J. for the win.
Perfect. I think we have a winner.