As individual players, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are pretty good. On paper, each should be able to fill in somewhat for the loss of Ray Allen, and help keep the Celtics among the league's better teams.
Whether their contributions help the Celtics remain a championship contender, however, is uncertain. Bill Russell knows a few things about building a winning formula, and for the 11-time NBA champion, team chemistry is just as important as individual talent.
As part of an interview in which he called his recent open-heart surgery "routine," Russell imparted some of that knowledge when he was asked in an NBA.com interview about how Terry, Lee and the rest of the players added or retained by the Celtics this offseason will impact Boston's chances to emerge from the East this season.
"You don't know how they will play together," Russell told NBA.com. "Getting a better player doesn't necessarily make you a better team. That may sound kind of weird. You may acquire a player with better statistics but may not make you a better team. Red Auerbach and the Celtics, we used to talk about that all the time.
"The question you have to ask yourself, 'How does his style fit with what you are going to put him with and will it make you a better team?'"
A couple of times, Russell said, Auerbach added a veteran player hoping that the player's experience could give the Celtics an edge for a year or so. Often it worked, as when the Celtics acquired former Lakers All-Star Clyde Lovellette, who came off the bench for two of Auerbach and Russell's nine titles together as coach and player. Willie Naulls won three championships in Boston after the Warriors sold him to the Celtics in 1963, Bailey Howell joined the Celtics at age 30 and was a key scorer on two championship teams, and Don Nelson won five titles after signing with the Celtics before his fourth professional season.
But occasionally the experiment failed and the Celtics cut ties with the player after only a season, as with former Knicks All-Star Carl Braun, whose injury-plagued 1961-62 season represented the extent of his time in Boston. Wayne Embry helped the Celtics win the 1968 crown, yet both of his seasons in green were disappointing statistically before he went out with a bang in his final season with the Bucks.
It is possible that Terry and Lee could end up filling crucial roles for a championship-caliber club. Russell has no way of knowing, though, so the rest of us can only guess.
Photo via Facebook/Courtney Lee
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