Touching All the Bases

Which Players Should the Celtics Pursue?

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So the Spurs are done, having lost the most thrilling sporting event of that epic Saturday docket. Chris Paul channeled the original Isiah Thomas and changed the narrative on his career. Though it was just the first round, it’s fair to suggest the Clippers at last did the same with their tormented, lose-at-all-costs history.

That was everything a Game 7 should be. The morning after, it feels like it belongs on the short list of the best basketball games I have ever seen. I suspect it will remain there after the immediate afterglow dims a little, too. This was an instant classic that will sustain.

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I do hope the Spurs aren’t done done, though, if you know what I mean. I’m not ready to watch the NBA’s version of the Patriots fade into the sunset. (I’m somewhat bummed that the Warriors won’t have to go through them en route to the Finals.)

As a connoisseur of basketball played the way it is meant to be played, I need one more last hurrah from this group, one more run, one full season to say goodbye if nothing else. Gregg Popovich said the “paycheck is pretty good” last night when asked if the team will remain intact. Tim Duncan, whose contract is up, is obviously the key. But the aging, incomparable Manu Ginoboli is a free agent. So is Danny Green (how was he ever out of the league for a stretch?) while the irreplaceable Kawhi Leonard is restricted.

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Of course, any desire to see the Spurs make one more run falls somewhere behind this hope: I’d love to see the Celtics pilfer them. Green would look great in green, while Leonard, the defensive player of the year, ranks near the top on my wish list of free agents and potentially available stars I want to see Danny Ainge pursue.

That list, in order:

DeMarcus Cousins: He’s supremely talented, and I trust that Brad Stevens could wean him off some of his knucklehead tendencies. To put it another way: He could be to Danny Ainge what Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson were to Red Auerbach.

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Leonard: He’s becoming his generation’s Scottie Pippen, and he doesn’t turn 24 until July. Bet he stays with the Spurs, though — perhaps without even testing free agency.

Marc Gasol: He’s a little old at 30, but that toughness, savvy, passing skill, rebounding and defense — I mean, he’d be perfect.

Kevin Love: Presuming he opts out and has two functioning shoulders. He seems like a crappy teammate — pretty sure he led the league in eye-rolls again this year — but the talent is undeniable.

LaMarcus Aldridge: Actually believe he’s the most likely to end up here.

Jimmy Butler: Should have just drafted him over MarShon Brooks (who was swapped for JaJuan Johnson, he of 36 NBA games) in 2011.

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DeAndre Jordan: Should have just drafted him in 2008 instead of J.R. Giddens.

Which order would you put them in? Let me know via the usual routes of correspondence.

On to …

THE MAILBOX

I’m going to throw out some names and you tell me how much growth/impact/upside we can expect this coming season: Jonas Gray; Dominique Easley; Cameron Fleming; Malcom Butler; Aaron Dobson; Dont’a Hightower; Jamie Collins; Zach Moore. I think we get a lift out of many of those guys.
— Ben

Interesting list. I wouldn’t put Hightower and Collins in with this group, since they both made that huge leap forward last year. They’re both established and headed toward stardom if not already there. (That’s presuming Hightower is healthy. I’m not sure he got enough praise for playing the way he did in the Super Bowl with that shoulder injury.) They completely believe in Butler by all accounts and he certainly looks like he’s lined up to be a starter. Easley needs to stay healthy, but the talent is there, and so is the opportunity — I expect a breakthrough this year. Fleming and Moore look like depth. Wouldn’t shock me if Gray and Dobson contributed, and it wouldn’t shock me if they both got cut. I’ve liked Dobson, but it sure looks like he’s been surpassed by Tyms.

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Had probably a dozen questions on the following topic this week. Here are a few of the gems …

Chad, when the NFL releases its Deflategate findings at 11:59 pm on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, will anyone in the media call them out on what a farce this has been? I hear the commish is available to the media every day he’s at work, so no problem getting his take, right? Seriously, what a joke. Do you think that the owners — behind the scenes — are actually happy with the job he’s doing because in his own way he is “protecting the shield” (aka the owners) and taking all the bullets for them?
— Goodell Family butler

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I would say 31ish of the 32 owners are generally happy with him, though appeasing all of these billionaire egomaniacs at once is probably an impossible feat. The money is pouring in and Goodell holds up his precious shield and deflects the bullets for them, and so long as both of those things continue to happen, he’s safe in his job no matter how incompetent and tone-deaf he repeatedly proves to be. But for obvious reasons he seems to have taken up residence on Bob Kraft’s bleep-list, and Kraft is probably the one owner he wants in his corner above all others. As far as the media calling out the farce? That’s been going on for a while. Everyone thinks this is a joke, at least outside of Indianapolis.

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Look, my job is to get it right. Right, I must get it. My job. Get Right. Investigate. All Facts. Is Goodell just a less amusing version of Dana Carvey’s Bush?
— Leader in the getting booed space

Now that you mention it, Phil Hartman or Darrell Hammond would have done a perfect buffoonish Goodell, presuming he isn’t beyond caricature since he is a caricature …

So, the Wells report is coming out soon. Let’s say that they find no major or intentional wrong-doing. The Patriots and Kraft do deserve an apology in that case. I’m just not sure it should come from Roger Goodell, at least as far as the investigation. Goodell had to do something, much as I hate to admit it. Where the apology should come from is ESPN, the Colts, and any other party who helped turn this thing into a raging dumpster fire. I doubt that apology comes though.
— Dan

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Well, Goodell has said he won’t apologize, which is no surprise. Doesn’t he just strike you as someone who considers admitting a mistake some kind of character flaw? Being commissioner means two things: 1) getting the first slice of pizza. 2) never having to say you’re sorry. Actually, it probably means more than two things. But those are definitely the important ones in that warped fantasy land known as GoodellWorld. Anyway, the hunch here is that the report comes down very soon — perhaps even Monday at roughly 5 p.m. And the Patriots will be fined a small amount for some silly and minute transgression — not having enough needles for their air pumps, something like that — in order to justify the time and expense. By the way, no one tell the dipstick that if he had real power, he’d always get the last slice of pizza.

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Would Sox have any interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia for cheap money?
— Skip

Doesn’t look that way. They were pretty down on him — particularly his game-calling and pitch-framing — by the end of 2013. It’s too bad, because he seems like a decent dude, worked hard to overcome his throwing problems, and had some productive stretches here. But there was a perception that he was the literal embodiment of the phrase “tools of ignorance” behind the plate. More damning for him, he hasn’t hit in a long time — he was slashing .069/.182/.207 this year in 34 plate appearances after putting up a .221/.317/.318 line in the second half last year. I’ve always liked Salty, but the smarter play is to give Blake Swihart a first look.

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Anyone who has watched Marcus Smart play and isn’t encouraged about his future just clearly doesn’t understand basketball beyond “he can’t shoot, Mike!”. The guy is possibly the best guard defender I’ve ever seen come in as a rookie. Better than Tony Allen at that point in his career as a defender. And his shooting ended up being much better than people thought. He started to develop his driving to the hoop at the end of the year, and he hit HUGE shots all year. He constantly played biggest in the big moments. How do people not realize it was his ROOKIE YEAR? They talk about him like some finished product that’ll never be a star. Sure he has plenty to work on, but this kid will hopefully be in the C’s backcourt for the next 10-15 years.
— Mark

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A-freakin’-men, Mark. Anyone who doesn’t like Smart either doesn’t know basketball or is pretending that they actually watch the Celtics. He reminds me a lot of Joe Dumars — an edgier Joe Dumars. I’m not saying he’ll have an identical career — he still has a long way to go — but some of the skills are very reminiscent. Plus, don’t forget he got a late start this season because of the ankle woes. Smart is going to be a winning player — I’d bet on him being a key player on a championship team before his career is over.

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True or false: The Pawtucket rotation is better than the Boston rotation.
— Guest

Hmmm, good one. Maybe the Sox should flip them, five for five, and find out for sure. Facetiousness aside, the answer is false, but with this potential caveat: I’m starting to think Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 1.82 ERA, 22/2 K/BB ratio in 24.2 innings) ends up helping the Red Sox varsity more this season than any of the current starters, save for possibly Porcello. What a nice gift from Dan Duquette he’s turning out to be. I don’t believe Henry Owens (who is having command and control issues) and Brian Johnson (a low-ceiling mid-rotation type) will solve anything in Boston this year, though. I’d deal either without a second thought in a package for Cole Hamels. Man, we almost got through this without mentioning Cole Hamels, didn’t we? So close.

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Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Simple math: Fogelberg + Derby = America, man.

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