NBA AM: Celtics Sending Ray Allen To Bench?
Never count out established veterans, especially when they’re a trio of future Hall of Famers.
The Boston Celtics appeared to be toast and on their last legs as a collective unit during the first half of the season which led to headlines regarding the team to be slanted more toward the future.
Amidst the onslaught of rumors, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was reported to be aggressively shopping the aforementioned trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for younger talent and draft picks.
Ainge was also rumored to be dangling All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on the trading block.
Despite all of the hoopla on whether team would start a massive rebuilding project midseason, the Celtics remained on the sidelines and weren’t players as the NBA trade deadline expired.
Patience, indeed still remains a virtue.
The once believed to be ‘too old to make another run’ Celtics now find themselves winners of five straight contests and holding a 1.5 game Atlantic Division lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Making the club’s current winning streak even more impressive is the fact the victories have come without services of Allen who hasn’t played since a March 23 loss to Philadelphia.
Second year guard Avery Bradley has stepped into the lineup in Allen’s absence and performed admirably well, especially on the defensive end while teamed with Rondo.
Offensively, Bradley is pouring 14.6 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor during the winning streak.
The Celtics current groove rounding out the season has head coach Doc Rivers contemplating sending Allen to the bench in a reserve role in favor of the red hot Bradley.
“We’ve talked about it,’’ Rivers admitted to Frank Dell Apa of the Boston Globe on discussions with Allen about a reserve role. “We think about stuff like that all the time, no doubt. That, and other guys. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe it will be somebody else, we’ll see.’’
Allen is in the last year of his current deal with Boston and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The widespread belief is that Ainge will still drastically reshape the roster during the offseason, which may mean Allen is playing his last games donning a Celtics uniform.
Garnett will also be a free agent this summer.
For now, Allen is comfortable with whatever role Rivers has laid out for him as the team makes its final postseason push – even if it means coming off the bench behind a second year still relatively unproven player.
“Whatever we need to do as a team,’’ Allen said. “I think the effort that I’ve seen over the last week and a half, two weeks, is great. Whatever combinations we work out there, we’re all good enough, we’re all professional enough, to understand it. We know our plays. We’re at a point in the season where everybody knows who each other is. So, remembering plays and positions is second nature now for all of us.’’
Starting April 4, the Celtics will face six playoff teams in a row with San Antonio, Chicago, Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta looming.
Allen may not get the starting nod if Rivers goes through with his latest idea, but it would be hard to imagine a healthy Allen not receiving major minutes during this crucial time heading into the postseason – during the trio’s figured to be last hurrah.
The Celtics currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Bulls GM Says Coach Contract Non-Issue: Reports began surfacing last week that Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was “frustrated” about not receiving a contract extension from the team.
The Bulls signed Thibodeau to a two-year deal prior to last season and hold a team option for the 2012-13 campaign.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman has set the record straight and says the team envision Thibodeau pacing the sidelines in Chicago for a long time, despite the gap in contract discussions.
“We want Tom to be our coach for a long time, and I know Tom wants to coach the Chicago Bulls,” Forman told Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times. “We initiated extension talks with him last fall, which really is probably unprecedented in the NBA after one year, but we think that highly of Tom. Our talks were very productive. When our season started, both sides agreed to table those talks until after the season. It’s our objective to have Tom as coach of the Bulls long-term, and I think its Tom’s objective to be the coach of the Bulls. Usually when your objectives are the same, you should be able to reach a resolution.”
Chicago finished with the best record in the league last season and Thibodeau took home Coach of the Year honors.
However, this season may be his best work yet.
The Bulls have played without the reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for 21 games this season and have also been without key free agent acquisition Richard Hamilton for all but 17 contests.
Yet, the team still holds the league’s best overall record as we enter the final month of the regular season.
Forman credits Thibodeau for getting the most out of his players consistently without burning guys out in the process.
“One of the many things Tom does well is he has a great feel for how to pace our team,” Forman said. “A lot of fans don’t see that because they see how hard we play on game night. But during the course of the season, Tom has a pretty good idea of when to turn the heat up as far as practice is concerned and when to take a step back and give guys some time off. It’s really not a concern.”
Aaron Brooks’ Future In Phoenix Cloudy? Two-time league MVP and unrestricted free agent to be Steve Nash recently laid down the gauntlet on his long term plans.
Nash stated he’d be willing to re-sign with Phoenix this summer, but added he must see a true commitment from the club in revamping its roster before doing so.
Nash wants to challenge for championships.
The question is are the Suns equipped to satisfy the demands of Nash, who will also see plenty of big time interest in the free agent market?
While Nash is obviously Phoenix’s top priority, one player’s future with the team remains uncertain – point guard Aaron Brooks.
Brooks signed with a China club while the lockout was in full swing, but will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Suns will be able to match any offers from around the league to retain him.
But with Nash as priority and Brooks figured to receive decent offers in free agency, the Suns need to make a decision on which point guard they’ll be investing in over the long term.
Suns general manager Lance Blanks acknowledged the club must address these issues before moving forward and is still unclear himself on Brooks’ future with the organization.
“It’s put us in a situation where we need to have some serious conversations, internally and potentially with Aaron, about the state of where we are and what’s going to make the most sense with the organization,” Blanks told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “I can’t give you A or B right now, but it certainly needs to be discussed. He’s a NBA-level point guard and a pretty good one. Does it make sense now or later? Those things need to be talked about, and that’s a lot easier to do that when you have spent a week with a guy seeing him live in basketball games and talking to him.”
Blanks recently took a trip to China and watched Brooks up close during the Chinese Basketball Association Finals. Even though Brooks’ team lost, Blanks walked away impressed.
“He looked like Aaron, especially in (Game 5),” Blanks said. “He had a substantial moment or two in the second half where he took over. It was virtually impossible to stay in front of him, similar to when he was here. He looked in good shape and engaged. The things Aaron was doing would translate into the NBA well.”
But whether those skills will be on display with the Suns next season and beyond remain to be seen.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats on the schedule today. Kicking things off at 11am will be the coach, Anthony Macri, who is a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center. Next, salary cap guru Larry Coon who will host his chat starting at 3pm EST. Submit a question for Larry here. Next up, I will be hosting my weekly chat at 8pm EST. Feel free to drop me a line on anything NBA related. You can always find our upcoming chats HERE.