So, it looks like Sam Cassell is the answer to the long-asked question on the depth of the point guard position.
The Cís look to be on the verge of picking up the piece they most desperately needed -- insurance for Rajon Rondo -- and didn't have to give up anything in the process. (Gotta love the buyout system!)
And it's hard to argue that the Celtics could have had a better haul by March 1 than getting both Sam I Am and P.J. Brown.
I have to say, though, I have some reservations.
First of all, this is a tight team. They forged their bond in Rome, carried their "Ubuntu" philosophy over to the regular season, and for the most part have remained an unchanged unit since the preseason. They have a set starting five, and a set point guard. Rajon Rondo is that man, and has exceeded almost all expectations to this point in the season.
So, bringing in a cult of personality like Sam Cassell to be the "backup point guard" makes me slightly worried.
Why? Well, because of quotes like this:
"Can I be effective with that team?" Cassell said before the Clippers played Boston Monday night. "I think that team is lacking Ö Rondo is a great young talent. In the playoffs, it takes more than talent to win playoff basketball games. Leadership means everything. Knowing who to get the ball to, knowing when to run, knowing when to set it up. I have experience."
Sam shows his veteran craftiness on the defensive end. (Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff Photo)
Doesn't sound too much like a guy who plans on being a "backup point guard" come playoff time. Itís also not a ringing endorsement of Rondo's ability to succeed when the chips are on the table. And remember, it was Rondo who took Cassell out to the shed for a basketball beating when the Cís and Clips met a few weeks ago, ending with Cassellís mob-like attempt at Rajonís life after getting beat to the hoop for the 50th time in the game.
Anyway, you have to wonder how Rajon is going to respond if Sam is going to be the de facto point guard in any crunch time situation. Then again, Doc hasn't been playing Rondo in those situations much this year anyway.
Still, there's the whole Ubuntu thing Ö you know, the all-for-one and one-for-all Three Musketeers mentality the C's have been espousing all season. How does Sam I Am fit into that?
When lobbying for a buyout from the Clippers, he sure displayed a good dose of modesty.
"I know for a fact I've done tremendous things for this organization," Cassell told reporters in Los Angeles. "I've helped this organization have respectability in the city of LA, at least for a year, where everybody walked around with their chests out, and they can't tell me I didn't."
Yeah, the Clippers were decent because of Sam Cassell ... at least until Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston went down.
Am I being overly critical here? Probably. I just want to point out that this could be a locker-room changing type of guy, and I'm not convinced itís going to be for the better. On the plus side, both Ray Allen and KG have a strong past with Sam, and should be able to facilitate the transition. If fact, you couldn't ask for two better guys for that.
So now we'll have to wait and see how this thing plays out on the court. Can Sam still play at a level to warrant crunch time minutes? Offensively I have no doubt. Defensively I have many, many concerns.
Still, despite my concerns on and off the court, I'd much rather take Cassell over nothing at all. The biggest threat to the success of this team -- an injury to Rajon Rondo -- has been mitigated. Now the C's could conceivably handle an injury to any single player down the stretch without collapsing completely.
More Ďdeadlineí thoughts.
• Is there anything stranger than the ďbuyoutĒ deadline in the NBA? The whole system seems screwed up to me. Right around the same time you have a bunch of overpaid, disgruntled former stars on bad teams all lobbying to be paid a lot of money to be let out of their contract. What other industry does this happen in?
Sure, when a CEO of a large company takes a buyout and a golden parachute itís always incredibly sketchy, but at least those cash windfalls are always met with outrage from the general public. How come the same isnít true in basketball, where the payouts for leaving are in the millions of dollars?
Plus, the whole system just makes the rich teams richer and the poor teams poorer. For the really good teams, they donít have to give up anything more than the money it costs for a veteranís minimum salary to make a major acquisition. But no really good players go to mediocre teams or teams on the cusp of making the playoffs. So the mediocre teams remain mediocre and the really good teams get even better.
If the Cís didnít benefit so much from the system Iíd probably be a lot angrier with it.
• Speaking of buyouts, after Mike Bibby was traded to Atlanta, I had been secretly hoping that the Kings would buy out Tyronn Lue, who was part of the deal. It seemed with Beno Udrich, Anthony Johnson, and Lue that the Kings had too many experienced point guards after the Bibby trade.
And, I thought, if Lue was bought out, how perfect a fit would he have been for the Cís? Heís a bona fide backup point guard and wouldnít come in with any illusions of usurping Rondo in the pecking order. He also has a great relationship with Doc Rivers from their Orlando days, so getting on board the teamís philosophy wouldnít have been a problem, and he also provides much better defense than Cassell would bring.
Lue just grinned Sunday when asked about the possibility of going to Boston, making it clear that he already had been thinking along those lines. He already has two NBA championship rings (2000, 2001) from his days with the Lakers. He would like to get one more, possibly in Boston.
At this point, it looks like it wasnít meant to be, Tyronn. Maybe next year.
• I got a good chuckle out of this bit from Peter Mayís Celtics notebook on Monday:
A number of players on executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge's to-do list will become available, most notably Brent Barry tomorrow. Also possibilities: Sam Cassell (provided the Clippers buy him out and waive him by midnight Friday) and Chris Andersen (who would fit the need for an athletic big man, but who still is awaiting league and union approval on his reinstatement filings.
Chris Anderson?!? Wow, that would have been rich (itís a moot point now that P.J. Brown is a Celtic.)
Still, how great would that have been? Think about it: sharing space at the end of the Celtics bench would have been Scot Pollard, who once looked into an NBA sideline camera and said "Hey kids, do drugs!" and Chris Anderson, who was kicked out of the NBA two years ago for doing drugs.
I smell a new, potentially disastrous episode of Planet Pollard.
• A few thoughts on P.J. Brown: Itís hard not to love this signing. Hopefully it means a few things. First, it should (finally) squeeze Scal out of any meaningful playing time (sorry Matt). Scalís time had been dwindling as Big Baby and Powe have exceeded expectations this year, but with any more injuries Scal would have been back in the rotation. Itís hard to see that happening now. Thank goodness.
P.J. also provides the veteran inside presence the Cís are lacking outside of Garnett. Big Baby, Powe, and even Perk have played the best you can expect of them so far this year, but having P.J. push them for minutes and provide some much-needed veteran wiliness in the post. It is even more important since Scott Pollard has been such a failure this yearÖ I mean, how often is a Celtic more valuable as a comedian than as a player?
Delonte was a funny guy, but at least he could play.