Four months ago, we saw the beginnings of a rivalry brewing between the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. The two teams met in the first round of the postseason for an unforgettable playoff series, playing seven overtimes in seven games, and the spark was there.
It was a rivalry centered around point guards. The Celtics had Rajon Rondo, 23, averaging nearly a triple-double a night and carrying a Celtics team depleted by injuries and forced to go small. The Bulls had Derrick Rose, 20, undergoing a defining series in the formative years of his career. A rookie surrounded by veterans, Rose played with poise beyond his years.
Now, four months have passed, and the two teams still have a rivalry based on point guards.
The man in question is Carlos Arroyo. The 30-year-old career backup played eight seasons in the NBA between 2001 and 2008; he then jumped ship and moved to Israel, getting a one-year gig with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Now, after a year away, Arroyo wants back into the NBA.
The Celtics are the logical landing point for Arroyo. The C's are currently without a suitable backup for Rondo at the point — and after two years of picking one up in midseason (first Sam Cassell in 2008, then Stephon Marbury this past season), they could really use a year-round solution. The team has reportedly agreed to terms with Marquis Daniels, but Daniels is more of a swingman-type than a point guard. He's not the answer.
Arroyo is a good fit. He's relatively cheap, he plays hard on both ends of the floor, and he'd be more than happy as a backup on a good team. He's done it before — he backed up Mark Jackson in Utah, Chauncey Billups in Detroit and Jameer Nelson in Orlando. He doesn't need a starting job to be happy in the NBA — he'll just take minutes any way he can get them.
Rumor has it that Arroyo is in talks with the Celtics about becoming the newest backup for Rondo.
Unless, that is, the Bulls steal him away first.
Rumors began circulating this weekend that Arroyo was headed to Chicago. One newspaper in Puerto Rico, Arroyo's birthplace, reported that "Arroyo was close to signing a deal with the Chicago Bulls" and that "the agreement would be for one season and $1 million."
Something's not right here. It's been pointed out that Rose is in no need of a backup — in fact, he already has three of them in Kirk Hinrich, Jannero Pargo and Lindsey Hunter.
The Bulls already have plenty of money committed to next year's team. With the big fat contracts of Hinrich, Luol Deng and Brad Miller already sitting on the books, we're not liable to see the Bulls spend any more cash unless it's on an absolute necessity. And bringing in a fifth point guard is not a necessity. Neither is signing Arroyo to block him from the Celtics.
Arroyo's stock is high right now. He just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Israeli Premier League Championship, earning Finals MVP honors in the process — and he deserves to make his NBA return on a team that will respect and use him. The Celtics, who are looking for the next Cassell or Marbury to pick up some much-needed minutes in relief of Rondo, will give Arroyo what he wants.
Carlos Arroyo would have a tremendous impact in Boston. He'd probably turn out to be the best backup Rondo's ever had in his time as the Celtics' starter — he can play defense, he can play the point with selflessness and intelligence, and he can put the team first. The Celtics' depth chart is where he fits best.
But that won't stop other suitors from chasing after him. If the Celtics really want Arroyo, they had better step up and prove it.