Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: What if Brad Stevens was the Celtics’ most tradeable asset?

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COMMENTARY

Long question, great question … and I hope you’ll appreciate that it has nothing to do with a slightly deflated football (but perhaps the slightly inflated value of a coach) …

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to phrase this Celtics question, so hopefully it makes sense:

Okay, imagine for a moment that Danny Ainge has decided to go get that “superstar” player. He’s going to do so by taking trade offers from other teams for the C’s head coach, Brad Stevens. To make this work, let’s say he can only make a one-for-one deal, no packages. I’ve also ruled out anyone in this year’s draft, because I think it’s pretty safe to say that Danny would never give up Stevens for Okafor, Towns, or anyone else in this class.

So, with those ground rules set, I can only come up with one, possibly two, names: Anthony Davis. Maybe LeBron? I think LeBron from 3 or more years ago is a no-brainer, but the 2015/16 version will have too many miles on his legs to be considered for more than a brief moment. Plus, bringing James in with a coach who hasn’t already established himself is probably too much drama at this point. Now, on the other hand, Davis? He just turned 22, so for all intents & purposes, he’s got a few more years until entering his prime. Scary good. I think if you’re Ainge you’d have to think long & hard about trading Stevens in that scenario. Anyone else? Curry? Don’t see it, simply because I fear the wear & tear will catch up to him at age 30 (he’s 27). Griffin? No way. Harden? Stop laughing. I don’t think he’d consider anyone else. With the assets the Celtics possess, the Eastern Conf. being bad, & the cap headed where it is, Boston is in a unique position to build a contender pretty quickly. Plus, Stevens is only 38, meaning he’s a safe bet to be guiding your contender, & guiding it very well, for the next dozen years, at least. I also believe he’s about to become *that* coach in the NBA, who guys want to play for &/or stay in Boston for. What’s harder to find, the next perennial All-Star or the next perennial Coach of the Year candidate?

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— Tom F.

I dig this question almost as much as I dig Stevens, but I just can’t see it the same way. A great coach in the NBA — a truly great coach — probably means, what, 3-4-5 wins for his team at the most over the course of a season? (Do we need WAR for NBA coaches? With replacement-level being, I don’t know, Dave Blatt? I don’t think we need this.) Stevens is a great coach. Already. He is great, and that Cleveland series was confirmation of what we’ve suspected since he got here and instantly began getting the most out of flawed players. (Remember Jordan Crawford, point guard?) But that Cleveland series also reminded us that it’s ultimately a superstar players’ league. Talent and a replacement-level coach won out — with relative ease — over a replacement-level roster and a brilliant coach. I believe Ainge is thrilled with Stevens and wouldn’t trade him for any other coach in the NBA. But I believe there are a few rosters’ worth of players he would trade him for, players who would make the Celtics at least a contender-on-the-fringes right away. Curry, for sure. Maybe even Klay Thompson. Probably for Russell Westbrook. I bet he’d even play the lottery on Durant. Kyrie Irving. (I’m digging through this now, in case you can’t tell.) Here’s the really fascinating question — would he trade Stevens for Boogie Cousins? I say yes. And without any remorse, too. I believe Ainge thinks he can identify the next excellent coach, the next Stevens, Kerr, Budenholzer or Joerger, much easier than he can get into a position to acquire a true cornerstone star.

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Sorry, Brad. Gotta do it. Enjoy Sacramento.

On to …

THE MAILBOX

How long of a leash does Mike Napoli have? At some point, you would have to consider trying HRam at first and moving Rusney Castillo or Jackie Bradley to the outfield.
— Arthur

Arthur, the more pertinent question is this: Will he ever hit with his new face as well as he hit with his old one? His old face could rake. In all seriousness, I assume he’ll be fine. He’s prone to long, messy slumps in which he looks so lousy at times that it’s hard to envision him getting a hit ever again. And then he goes .320/.410/.660 for a three-week stretch and carries the entire lineup. I thought we were seeing the emergence of one of those streaks when he hit that bomb against the Blue Jays last Sunday, but he’s hitting .143 with a .393 OPS in the week since. He’s 33, and maybe we’re getting to the point where the bad streaks are more frequent than the good. But I’m not ready to say that yet. He’ll go on a tear soon. I think.

You say the bashing of Michael Felger is unfair but its true. Mike loves to point out how soft hitting beat writers are and how much of the media is homers. But he has the avenue to have guests on and ask tough question or go to a locker room to ask a tough question and he never does. He gives Neely a bath when he is on.
— Brian

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I said the bashing was unfair? Must have been the stunt double I use for the chats. I’m all for bashing any of these guys, especially when it’s show-on-show crime. You’re absolutely right, Brian. Felger does back down — it’s practically a running gag — when he has to talk to someone he’s been hammering. The example that always jumps to mind is when he had Mike Cameron, who he’d been justifiably ripping, come on the show in 2010 or ’11. You’d have thought they were frat brothers the way Felger toadied up to him. I’ll say this, though — Felger is in you guys’ heads. For all of the gripes I hear about that show, you’re still listening. And you’re not only listening, you’re anticipating what he’s going to say when something happens. Most hosts would quit Doritos for life just to have that kind of impact.

Chad, when do you think we’ll hear from Tom Brady himself? He told Jim Gray it would be soon.
— Sam Malone

I doubt we’ll hear from him any time soon. Don Yee, his agent, is doing the talking for him. I’m fine with that. Lay low and save the defense for when the time comes to bury Goodell. Explaining himself now is a no-win situation for him. Those who don’t believe him and are enjoying his comeuppance aren’t going to believe him anyway. Minds won’t be changed one way or the other.

Saw Steve Bulpett write that an NBA GM told him yesterday that if James Young was in this draft he’d be in the mix for top 10, and that got me excited. Not that I didn’t know that, but that I hadn’t really thought about the potential value in Young to move up in this draft if Ainge wants. If a GM feels that James Young is the equivalent of a top 10 pick (he is only 19), then Ainge has more chips than I was even thinking. I’m now more excited for the draft cause if Ainge targets a guy in the 7-10 range in the draft, he can possibly offer Young and 16 and move up (along with 28 and 33 if needed). The flexibility for Ainge this offseason is crazy.
— Mark

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That’s definitely a reasonable suggestion — Young was Kentucky’s most reliable player in the tournament as a freshman, the offensive talent is obvious, and so there’s a very likely chance he would have elevated up the draft even higher. Didn’t the car accident knock him down the board a little last year? Talent-wise, he’s probably the biggest wild-card on the Celtics roster because he’s so young. He’ll clearly be at least a decent scorer. He was lost on defense as you’d expect, and there were times when the effort on D was lacking. (Saw Lance Thomas beat him on a back-door play in the early-season OKC game in which Young wasn’t in the same area code after the cut.). He needs to have a good summer and show up with a little more maturity next year, but there is plenty of reason for hope, sure.

Wherever Bill Simmons ends up, I hope his first piece is a scathing take down of Roger Goodell and his kangaroo court of reactive justice. Seriously, even with the likelihood that the balls were deflated on purpose, the NFL turned this into a much bigger issue than was necessary.
— Ghost of Steve Grogan

If he ends up doing the independent thing, absolutely. That will draw a ton of attention — even more than if he chose to crush ESPN instead — and we know it will be authentic, because he’s done a damn good job of calling out Goodell already, even with the strict limitations ESPN put on him about what he could and couldn’t say. I’m skeptical that Fox Sports would allow him to rip Goodell if he ends up there instead. They’re an NFL partner too. But perhaps for the attention it would bring to Fox Sports 1, they might permit it as a one-time thing. Might even get me to watch the channel.

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Until next week, the Mailbox is closed. Exit music, please:

“This long-distance dedication is going out to Robert in Foxborough from Roger in the Manhattan Ivory Tower …”

I’m all out of love, what am I without you …

C’mon, you know Goodell loves these guys.

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