The Celtics haven’t played a game in two months, and they won’t play one again for over three months. But after a free-agent frenzy that already landed the Celtics a complementary piece to add to the Big Three, it’s time to take a look at where the Green stand among the NBA’s elite.
Jeff Clark from CelticsBlog joined us to talk about all that has taken place with the Celtics over the first half of the summer.
NESN.com: Rasheed Wallace has said and done everything right in his first days as a Celtic, but do you think it will stay that way now that Danny Ainge has created “The Big Three and Rasheed?”
Jeff Clark: I was a skeptic at first, but the more I’ve read about Wallace, the more I believe he’s a model teammate. All his former teammates and coaches love him. The only issues are the technicals and the way he finished the season last year. With regard to the technicals, it would be hard for Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce and company to give him a hard time over that (glass houses and all). Besides, that’s the price you pay for Sheed. The guys all know what he is and what he does on the court and they all helped recruit him. Playing a part in the recruiting process makes it a lot less likely that they’ll have issues with him in the future.
The more troubling concern is how it appeared that Sheed mailed it in during the playoffs and coasted at times during the year. He probably wasn’t happy with the direction the team was headed and he’ll be in exactly the opposite situation in Boston, but it is still troubling on a fundamental basis.
The bottom line is that I think he will be happy to play a big role for a contender and I think he likes and believes in his coach and new teammates. So I’m not overly concerned about how he’ll fit in.
NESN.com: The Celtics have Wallace, the Lakers picked up Ron Artest and the Cavs got Shaquille O’Neal. Which team on paper is the best in the NBA right now?
Jeff Clark: I’ve been saying for a while now that the Celtics have the best starting lineup (on paper) in the league, but I think the other teams have at least narrowed the gap considerably. It all depends on the right fit. Artest might just kill the ball movement in L.A. Shaq might not give the Cavs what they think they need. You never know. What we do know is that the Celtics can win a title with their current core and they just added a critical piece to their bench. If I have to pick the Finals winner based on the on-paper lineups right now, I’m sticking with the Celtics. Call me a homer. I don’t care.
NESN.com: After all the trade talks, the Celtics refrained from shipping away Rajon Rondo. What do you think ultimately made up their minds in deciding to keep their young point guard?
Jeff Clark: They didn’t get the value they were looking for in exchange. That’s the bottom line. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure the Celtics were seriously considering trading him. I’m also sure that they placed a high price tag on him because he is a rising star at a position that is always in high demand. In another market, we might have seen someone bite and give Ainge the kind of value he was looking for, but they didn’t and we still have Rondo and I’m quite happy with that.
NESN.com: Right now Leon Powe and Glen Davis aren’t Celtics for 2009-10, but could they be? If not Boston, where will the two former role players find homes for next season?
Jeff Clark: I think Davis has better than a 50-50 shot at coming back. I don’t think there’s as much interest out there as Big Baby’s agent would like us to believe. Sure a lot of teams would like to get him, but they know they’ll have to overpay to make it happen. The Celtics might match offers in the $3 million or even $4 million range depending on the length of the deal. But is anyone out there willing to give him $4 million a year for five years to make the Celtics pass? If they do, Ainge will still have a week to look for sign-and-trade offers. I still think there’s also a chance that nobody is willing to overpay, so Baby and his agent can decide to accept the qualifying offer and hit the free-agent market next offseason.
As for Powe, I’m still a little emotional about that. I don’t understand why they couldn’t at least give him a minimum, partially guaranteed contract and tie up the roster spot on the chance that he’d come back. He still might come back if he can’t get that from anyone else, but I put the odds much lower. Maybe they really can’t afford the roster spot and they’ll have a stocked roster. But when the roster is full, I’ll be looking at the 15th player on the squad and wondering if he has a better upside than Leon would have.
NESN.com: Now that the second-tier free agents are being signed, who do you see the Celtics targeting among the remaining players?
Jeff Clark: That’s the big question, isn’t it? It sounds like they might like Jamario Moon. Matt Barnes would make a lot of sense. Ike Diogu sounds like a fallback plan if we don’t get Baby. None of this is new information; I’m just tossing out names we’ve all heard recently. I still don’t know what they’ll do at the point, but I’m hoping for something better than the Ty Lue option.
NESN.com: Which team has done the most this offseason to make a push to being a contender after spending last season in the middle of the pack in the league?
Jeff Clark: Well, I suppose the Pistons fit that description the best since they were floundering last year and made a lot of noise this offseason. How it all works together remains to be seen.
If you want a pick for the team that will make the biggest turnaround, look no further than the Wizards. With a healthy lineup and the additions of Randy Foye and Mike Miller, I think they could top 55 wins. Then again, I say that every year and each year they find a way to disappoint, so what do I know?
Thanks again to Jeff Clark and don’t forget to check out his blog, CelticsBlog.