It will take 15 guys for the Celtics to win a championship in the spring of 2011, and 14 of those job openings have already been filled with camp still weeks away.
That 15th and final spot is still up for grabs, though, and filling it would appear to be the main item on the to-do list for Celtics president Danny Ainge before his employees show up to work next month. How will Ainge round out the Celtics' starting 15? He's got a few different avenues he can try, and he's been careful not to commit to any of them just yet.
"We’re just continuing to explore available players and trade possibilities and see what sort of options are there," Ainge told The Boston Globe this week. "There are some trade discussions that we’re having. I don’t know the likelihood of those happening, but we’ll continue to not rush into something unless it's something that we’re really excited about."
There are quite a few options out there, to be sure, although you can't say that any one of them looks particularly thrilling. Below are some options on Ainge's menu as the offseason winds down.
Trade for Rudy Fernandez. It's become clear this summer that the 25-year-old Spanish swingman isn't happy in Portland, and he's considering heading back to Europe rather than playing out the final two years of his contract with the Blazers. A trade to Boston might be exactly what he needs, giving him a change of scenery and a chance to rebuild his career with a solid group of veteran teammates who can give him new direction. Fernandez is a solid outside shooter who could make a name for himself a role player off the Celtics' bench.
Sign Larry Hughes. There's another wing scorer who could find a home in Boston. Hughes is nothing if not well-traveled, having played for seven teams in his 12 seasons in the NBA, and at 31 he's now looking for a situation where he can be a bench contributor on a good team. He's not the most consistent producer and he'll occasionally make some harebrained decisions, but Hughes does offer some veteran chops and a little extra scoring punch for Doc Rivers' second unit. It's an idea.
Bring back Scal. It's now late August, and longtime Boston fan favorite Brian Scalabrine still hasn't found an employer for next season. Is it too late to keep him around the Celtics' locker room for another year or two? It would have to be for a discount as Scal was grossly overpaid by the Celtics last season at around $3.4 million, but at the right price, he might be able to stick around and be the 15th man on a jam-packed C's roster. If nothing else, it would give fans something to chant in the fourth quarter of blowouts. Convince Sheed to come back. Rasheed Wallace says he's retired, and he's managed to do a good job staying off the radar since the Celtics lost Game 7 of the Finals in Los Angeles over two months ago. But occasionally news will break that Sheed is flirting with the possibility of a comeback, like when Paul Pierce dropped the line "See you in February" in an interview about his former teammate last week. Sheed's likely done, but there's always the slight possibility that the C's should save him a roster spot and hope he's able to make an impact down the stretch in 2011. Delonte West? Granted, there are numerous questions about his character. He's battled personality disorders all his life, he got in big trouble for being pulled over a year ago with loaded firearms on him, and who knows what he did behind the scenes to tear apart the 2009-10 Cavaliers. But he was also spotted in Boston on Thursday morning, rumor has it, and maybe there's a chance he could make an impact as a backup for C's two-guard Ray Allen. It may sound crazy, but crazier things have happened.
Leave the spot open for now. Main reason this might work best is that the Celtics have two players — Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney — playing with unguaranteed contracts, and neither is among the 14 Celtics already penciled in to make the team. Both were signed on the last day of the regular season in 2010, and Lafayette even played, turning in seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, in the C's season finale against the Bucks on April 14. Both guys have an outside shot at making the roster for this upcoming season, and if Ainge leaves that 15th spot open, he's giving the two youngsters a chance to play their way into the Celtics' plans for 2010-11 and beyond. As Ainge has said, there's no need to rush into any of the six options. The Celtics have their nucleus already assembled for this season, and they're just putting the finishing touches on now. Since no course of action excites them at the moment, they're not going to force their hand. But between now and opening night, you'll likely see one more piece of the Celtics' puzzle fall into place.
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