Somewhere along the way, the Celtics' search for a backup big man got mislabeled. What should have been affectionately known as "The Search for a Warm Body Taller Than 6-Foot-6" came to be known as "The Quest for Frontcourt Help."
The second one sounded so much more illustrious and game-changing. It brought to mind an image of P.J. Brown riding in on a white horse (it probably would have to be a Clydesdale) to solidify Boston's rotation up front.
In reality, though, this is about due diligence. If there is an able-bodied, slightly taller than average human who can put an orange sphere into a metal circle three out of five times from 2 feet away, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did his homework on the guy. Not even heart trouble — of which the Celtics have had their share this season with Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox — was enough to turn them away from Ronny Turiaf.
As much as the shamrock-loving public came to despise the sight of Jermaine O'Neal, no one the Celtics can add will be as good as O'Neal. How much of a premium is there on competent NBA centers? The Pacers came just short of lowering their flags to half-mast when news came down Wednesday that Jeff Foster would miss the rest of the season with a back injury.
The Celtics' options were not great from the get-go, and they become fewer by the hour.
Fan favorite Leon Powe was pretty good with the Celtics, as our passionate readers love to remind us in the comments section, and he is only 28 years old. But he is also only 6-foot-8 (the same height as Sasha Pavlovic) and the Celtics were one of 30 teams who took a pass on signing Powe prior to the season.
Powe reportedly left his Puerto Rican team and has attracted interest from the Bulls. An undersized guy who works hard is a perfect fit to receive (extremely limited) minutes for the Bulls, who are stacked at center and power forward. At least he plays hard, so he would help the Celtics, but he would have a much better chance to win a ring with Chicago. If fans credit guys like Powe and Brown for coming to Boston because they care about winning, the same fans can't turn around and blame them for signing with a stronger contender.
J.J. Hickson signing with the Warriors made arguably the most talented player available unavailable. At 6-foot-9 and only 23 years old, Hickson is only two years removed from posting 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 80 games with Cleveland, but his production plummetted after he was traded to Sacramento. It would have been interesting to see what Kevin Garnett's influence could have done for Hickson in the last 20 or so games of the season, but Hickson chose the team that could pay him more money and has a more defined path beyond this season.
In a perfect world, Boris Diaw would be committed to conditioning and would shoot the dang ball every once in a while. Of course, in a perfect world, he would not be available, since those two traits combined with his high basketball I.Q. would make him one of the top post players in the NBA.
Still, the 6-foot-9 Frenchman might be the best fit for a veteran team like the Celtics that shares the ball and plays infectious defense. It therefore stands to reason the Spurs, who also fit that description, would be interested. Reports say they are interested, and that they are the front-runners for Diaw.
With Diaw and Turiaf, there was a double catch-22. Both players are flawed, but if they weren't flawed, they wouldn't have been waived. Secondly, the Celtics had competition for those players' services because, ultimately, Diaw and Turiaf had a few redeeming traits beyond their body mass.
Ryan Hollins doesn't bring that second catch, for better or worse. He's a 7-footer who has not been linked to any team other than the Celtics, and it reveals a lot about a player's perceived worth when quality teams are thinking of bringing in 6-8 guys from Puerto Rico to fill out a bench instead of the 7-foot guy who was just let go by the Cavs. The only blights on Hollins' reputation are that he can't rebound or defend. Other than that, he's a regular Hakeem Olajuwon.
With all that said, any of these players would be beneficial for the Celtics. Even a shell of a 7-footer is one more body for Doc Rivers to put on the floor when Greg Stiemsma inevitably gets into foul trouble. If Celtics fans hold their noses, squint their eyes and tilt their heads just right, the newcomer — whoever it is — might resemble O'Neal on an off day.
That may sound ominous, but it's the best-case scenario.
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