Ray Allen’s Impending Free Agency, Playoff Format Leads to Confusion for Celtics Fans

Ray Allen's Impending Free Agency, Playoff Format Leads to Confusion for Celtics FansNeither rain nor sleet nor a spotty Internet connection will keep us from delivering the Celtics mailbag.

There are just three games left in the regular season, and the Celtics are keeping it interesting right up to the finish. There is home-court advantage to chase, if they so desire, as well as this week's report that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were nearly sent packing at the trade deadline.

Let's hope right into some of your questions. Not surprisingly, a few of them deal with Allen, who could be a key piece for the Celtics if he comes back healthy.

Why would they want to trade Allen and Pierce? Let them go for a last run! — Wilbert, Orange County

We delved into what the trades would have meant had the Celtics done them, and what it meant that they did not do them, on Wednesday. Danny Ainge has said over and over that he would trade any member of the roster if he felt it would make the team better, but "better" is open to interpretation. Those trades would certainly have made the Celtics worse in the short run to possibly strengthen the organization in the long run.

One question that was brought up in Tuesday's Twitter Q&A, but was too complicated to try to explain in 140 characters, was why Allen affected the Celtics' offseason payroll plans at all. After all, since Allen is due to be a free agent, doesn't his money come directly off the books anyway? Not quite. Under the collective bargaining agreement, a free agent like Allen has a "cap hold," which is essentially money the team cannot spend until it re-signs its own free agent or the player signs elsewhere.

For Allen, that amount would be $15 million (150 percent of his current salary), according to ShamSports. Depending on how confident the Celtics are about quickly negotiating a new contract with Allen, that is a lot of money tied up in nothing. By trading Allen to Memphis, the Celtics would have been ridded of his cap hold as well.

If I am correct, and I believe I am, the Celtics and Hawks are not battling for the fourth and fifth seeds. Boston winning the Atlantic Division assures them of being seeded no lower than fourth. The only way Atlanta can finish fourth is if they somehow catch the Pacers. For a complete list of the 2011-12 NBA playoff seeding rules, you can search it through Google, like I did, so you can accurately report such. — Matt, Southington

This issue dominated the questions in the last week, so I figured I'd just go with the most condescending one. As we have mentioned many times, the Celtics are assured of a top-four seed if they win the Atlantic Division — which they did with Wednesday's win over the Magic — but they are not assured of home-court advantage.

Home court in the NBA always goes to the team with the better record. I have reworded this a thousand different ways in an attempt to avoid being repetitive, but it's entirely possible that I added to the confusion with poor wording or a flat-out error. Feel free to tweet me the link so we can fix the mistake.

Now, I have a question for you: What's a Google?

Do you think there is any way the Celtics beat the Bulls with Ray Allen bringing the spark off the bench? — @speedin09, via Twitter

Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: It remains to be seen whether Allen's impact is a moot point. Celtics coach Doc Rivers conceded that Allen's continually troublesome right ankle is becoming a concern, because it is not recovering the way they would like. The safer alternative may be to count on Mickael Pietrus as the sixth man, and then be pleasantly surprised if Allen comes back at full strength. The Bulls defend the 3-pointer as well as almost any team, so the more the Celtics can spread the floor, the better.

Are the Celtics good? Are they bad? Can they win? Do they need a good draft pick? So confused about this team. — @rap2jr, via Twitter

You've hit the nail on the head. They are all four, really. When the jumpers are falling, which they have been of late, the Celtics are very good. When their stroke is off, they're bad. They can win if they keep playing defense at the rate they have been, and they do need a good draft pick to begin rebuilding for the inevitable end of the Big Three era, whether that comes this summer or years from now.

Your last point might be the best one, though. Who beats the Heat and Hawks in back-to-back nights and then loses to the Raptors after a day's worth of rest? The Celtics, that's who.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.