My pal @talkinAllSports was kind enough to lend his Boston Celtics expertise and do the 2012-2013 Boston Celtics preview.
2010-11 record: 39-27 (1st place Atlantic Division, 4th place Eastern Conference – Lost in the Eastern Conference Final to the Miami Heat 4-3)Under Contract:
Rajon Rondo – $11,000,000 – 3 yrs $35,863,636 total
Avery Bradley – $1,630,800- 2 yrs, team option for 2nd year $4,142,232 total
Jason Terry – $5,000,000 – 3 yrs $15,675,000 total
Courtney Lee – $5,000,000 – 4 yrs $21,350,000 total
Paul Pierce – $16,790,345 – 2 yrs – $32,123,679 total
Kevin Garnett – Re-signed $11,566,265 – 3 yrs 36,000,000 total
Jeff Green – Re-signed $8,385,000 – 4 yrs $36,240,000 total – player option for 4th yr
Brandon Bass – Re-signed $18,000,000 – 3 yrs 19,350,000 total
Chris Wilcox – $1,352,181 – Celtics pay $854,389
Jared Sullinger – R – $1,306,920 – 4 yrs $6,366,420 total
Jason Collins $1,352,181 – Celtics pay $854,389
Darko Milicic $1,352,181-Celtics pay $854,389 (Amnestied by Minnesota*)
Fabricio “Fab” Paulino de Melo – R – $1,254,720 – 4 yrs $6,183,367
(*Under amnesty rules, Minnesota pays $5,228,000 contracted salary less the $1,352,181 veteran minimum).
Jamar Smith G -– $473,604 – $25,000 partial-guaranteed on a 2 yr contract
Kris Joseph G/F– R – 473,604 non-guaranteed on a 2 yr contract
Dionte Christmas G/F– $473,604 – $236,802 partial-guaranteed on a 2 yr contract
Micah Downs- F – non-guaranteed camp invitee
Rob Kurz -F– non-guaranteed camp invitee
Ray Allen – Signed with Miami
Keyon Dooling – signed $1,352,181, then is waived at his request and retires.
Greg Stiemsma – Signed with Minnesota
JuJuan Johnson – Traded to Houston
E’Twaun Moore – Traded to Houston
Sean Williams – Traded to Houston
Sasha Pavlovic – Traded to Portland
Marquis Daniels – Signed with Milwaukee
Mikael Pietrus – Unsigned FA
Ryan Hollins – Signed with LA Clippers
Jermaine O’Neal –Signed with Phoenix
Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, has now elevated his game to an Auerbachian level. As been oft-repeated, the Celtics came within one game of the NBA Finals last season, with a team that was playing with Garnett at center, Ray Allen on bad ankles, Pierce with a torn MCL, Brandon Bass, and Rajon Rondo. The bench had a rookie backup center (Greg Steimsma) on bum wheels, Keyon Dooling at back up PG, two rookies in E’twaun Moore and Jujuan Johnson and Sasha Pavlovic. Out with season ending injuries were Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Jermaine O’Neal. Yet they came within one game away, in large part because of Doc Rivers, their coach and as Garnett termed it, “grit and balls”. As the season ended, uncertainty about the Big Three era, and the Celtics as contenders for the NBA title were replete.
The Celtics were at a crossroads. They had cleared a tremendous amount of cap space, perhaps with the unlikely thought of obtaining a premier free agent, such as Dwight Howard. Regardless, they had a lot of room, and a short roster. But how will Ainge use it? Questions abounded. Will Garnett come back or retire, having had his last hurrah in a monumental but unrequited quest for a championship? Will Ray Allen stay in a diminished role, having lost his starting position to Avery Bradley and his ferocious defense? Will Pierce play out his days on a middling team, marking time until retirement, while the team rebuilds?
Free agency was looming for Garnett and Allen. Green and Wilcox, both recovering from heart surgery were both free agents, as was Brandon Bass. What was Danny Ainge going do? He had Peirce, Bradley and Rondo under contract, but that was it. The remainder was end of bench. Rondo had an outstanding season becoming arguably one of the top 3 if not the top point guard in the league. Pierce and Bradley however were both healing from injury.
Okay…How about making a call to Kevin Garnett? Garnett’s intentions were indeed the lynch pin to the direction of the Celtics. He had found resurgence at this stage of his career at the center, a position he refused to accept in concept but a position he became dominant in execution. It was a major factor in the late season run by the Celtics. Could Garnett be convinced to continue this grand experiment?
In Garnett’s own words of choice: DAMN STRAIGHT, MOFO’S! Garnett re-signed with the Celtics, not just for one year, but for THREE YEARS – with a no trade clause, one of four now in existence with the league. Piece one done.
Ainge next turned to Doc’s request to get someone who could score off the dribble. Ainge set his sights on Jason Terry, recently unsigned free agent of the Dallas Mavericks. Everybody knows, JET can score outside, he can score off the dribble, and he can just mother score! Plus he can play both guard positions and he can defend. The 6th man of the year was years removed from wining the NBA Championship with the Mavs and was a major factor as to why they did. Doc called Terry at 12:01 AM of the beginning of free agency. Terry appreciated the love and signed with the Celtics for their mid level exception.
So wither Ray Allen? Ray’s 3 point prowess is butter. Deadly. A dagger. He is the greatest 3 point shooter EVER. He however, was becoming a liability on defense and could no longer score inside with consistency. One of the best conditioned athletes in the league, age still was taking its toll on Allen at 37. Ray professed feeling disrespected by the Celtics first attending to Garnett, as absurd as that sounds. He was smarting from being trade bait the last two seasons and reportedly had a falling out with Rajon Rondo. All this was prelude to Raymageddon. Allen rejected the Celtics 2 year offer of $6 million per year and a NO TRADE CLAUSE to sign for $3 million for 3 years with the Heat. Kevin Garnett promptly lost Ray Allen’s telephone number. ‘Nuf said.
So now Danny Ainge had another hole to fill with Allen’s leaving and no mid level exception to do it with. Vet’s minimum is not going to cut it. So what does he do? He packages his flotsam and jetsam at the end of the roster, and enlists Portland to be the facilitator in a sign and trade for Courtney Lee with Houston. Portland gets Sasha Pavlovic for Justin Beiber, er no, Jon Diebler, who goes to Houston for JuJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore,and Sean Williams, and the latter two are promptly released by Houston in their misguided quest for Dwight Howard. In other words, Ainge created another mid-level exception for the Celtics out of thin air. Enter Courtney Lee, aged 27, with a deadly corner three, above average defense and an ability to go to the rim.
Ainge next signs Brandon Bass to a three-year deal, rewarding him for a breakout season for an unheralded power forward, with a very reliable outside shot, rebounding and emerging defense. Free agent signings of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox follow along with Jason Collins and (wait for it) DARKO MILICIC! Collins gives the Celtics a 7 footer who can play defense. He is the designated Dwight Howard 6 fouler. Don’t expect offense, accidental or otherwise. Ainge doesn’t and you shouldn’t too.
Darko is much more intriguing. The poster child for unrealistic expectations, Darko was drafted number 2 by the Pistons after Lebron and ahead of Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, in arguably the best draft class in recent history. He was 17 years old, 275 pounds, 7 feet tall. It was a crazy unfortunate move by Joe Dumars of the Pistons, and one that saddled Darko with infamy since.
Darko is seeking redemption and rejuvenation with the Celtics and he has put in the time and effort this past summer. The Celtics are taking an interesting approach with Darko, addressing the mental ahead of the physical and it appears to have glimmers of success in the pre-season, with Darko blocking shots, playing defense, passing, scoring and rebounding. Time will tell, but if any two people can bring Darko into the light, it will be Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett.
Ainge acquitted himself quite nicely on Draft Day too. Jared Sullinger was a projected lottery pick as a freshman (top 5 last year) who decided to play one more year at Ohio State. Unexpectedly, on draft day, GMs across the league had a communal brain fart, forgot who Sullinger was and what he had done in leading Ohio State to a Final Four appearance. Sullinger tumbled down the draft ladder all the way to the Celtics at 21. A ferocious rebounder, and more than adequate scorer, Sullinger has Doc Rivers singing this rookie’s praises. I will say that again. Doc River’s is extolling the prospects of this ROOKIE. Doc Rivers does not believe rookies even exist on his roster, much less does he shout to the world about how good this kid is going to be. But that is what Doc is saying right now and the nascent pre-season performance by Sullinger has done nothing but support it. Simply a friggin’ steal by Ainge in the draft.
Fabricio Paulino de Melo. Love this name. Fab Melo is a project but an intriguing one. Thanks to his soccer background, he is nimble on defense, much to Garnett’s glee as KG is tutoring this 7 footer. Fab showed he can block shots and rebound well at the college level. It remains to be seen if he can develop into at NBA quality center. Playing basketball only since junior year in high school, having grown too tall for soccer, Fab was picked in the draft by the Celtics at 22, right after Sullinger, and is out of Syracuse. Great upside, great attitude. Look for him in the Celtic D league affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
The Celtics have a number of pre-season invitees. Kris Joseph, second round pick from Syracuse, is a swingman with scoring prowess. Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith are both free agent signings from the Euro league. Christmas had an outstanding summer league and is a leader to make the team out of camp. Jamar Smith can simply fill it, but that may not be enough to make the roster. Micah Downs and Rob Kurz fill out the training camp roster.
So after Danny was done, the Celtics got much younger, quicker, deeper, and became a legitimate contender. So much for rebuilding. How about Locked and Reloaded? Paul Pierce is ecstatic, delighting in the prospect of going out for the remainder his career with a contender, saying he will now retire when KG does. Rajon Rondo has a team that can RUN, RUN, RUN with him. His backcourt partner, Avery Bradley, has defensive skills has made him legend in the NBA, at least in the short-term, for this and this. Bradley should be healed up by December from the shoulder surgeries that sidelined him in the playoffs and return to the form that benched Ray Allen.
The Celtics will score inside with Bradley, Lee, Wilcox, Green, Christmas, Joseph, Sullinger, and Melo to form their own version of Air Boston. They will score outside, via Pierce, Terry, Garnett, and Bass. They will play their trademark, league leading defense, now with younger legs. They will spread the floor, create turnovers, run the break, and defend. Rondo, the league leader in assists last year, given all these options, will be transcendent. As Pierce tweeted after the first practice: We’re going to be scary good!!