NBA AM: Do The Celtics Need To Make A Trade?
Even before receiving the devastating news of losing All-Star guard Rajon Rondo for the season, the Boston Celtics had been linked to a plethora of trade rumors due to their surprisingly slow start to the campaign.
Prior to Rondo’s injury the Celtics had been linked to having interest in Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins and Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol. Since the news of Rondo’s injury broke the team has been linked to Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay to make a playoff push this season.
Despite losing Rondo, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes the team already has the pieces on the roster to compete at a high level and he reiterated that the team wouldn’t rush to make a trade.
“I don’t think there are any (players) we can get who are better than what we have now,” Ainge told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “We’re not doing anything unless we have another injury. I don’t think we have to do anything. We’ll look into all possibilities as we always do, but anything we can do is going to have an effect on the hard (salary) cap.”
“We don’t have anything on the trade cooker. We weren’t going to trade Rondo,” Ainge added. “But I’m not going to bring someone in now who is just going to sit on the bench. “Right now, I’m looking to give the guys we have a chance to play. Then we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.”
At 21-23, the Celtics are just four games behind the Indiana Pacers who are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Simply put, the race for playoff positioning is still very competitive in the east and there is plenty of time left for Boston to make a move up the standings.
The question is if the Celtics aren’t looking to completely blow up their aging core, then do they even need to consider making a deal for the short term in the first place – with or without the services of Rondo?
From a financial standpoint the team invested heavily in order to strengthen their backcourt depth.
Last summer the Celtics invested $38 million in revamping their backcourt bringing in Jason Terry ($16m), Courtney Lee ($21m) and Leandro Barbosa ($900k).
All three guards possess a wealth of experience playing under the bright lights of the postseason – 183 games to be exact. Terry (87) and Lee (21) have both played in the NBA Finals, while Barbosa (75) has logged time in three Conference Finals.
However the player team officials in Boston are hoping grows up quickly with Rondo out of the lineup is third year guard Avery Bradley. The former University of Texas product missed the team’s first 31 games while recovering from a shoulder injury.
The NBA regular season is a long and grueling marathon. Injuries are commonplace and often allow players lurking in the shadows of stars to emerge and establish themselves in times of desperation.
Case in point, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George earned his first All-Star game selection this season after team leader Danny Granger was forced out of the lineup with a knee injury. The Pacers knew they had a player but it took Granger’s injury to thrust him into a more prominent role in the rotation.
Bradley has already established himself as one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. But can he take his game to the next level to help save the Celtics’ season?
The Celtics are hoping from growth within their current roster because from a salary cap standpoint the team is limited in their options without making a blockbuster deal. The team sits roughly six million over the league’s luxury tax and other than free agent signings at the veteran’s minimum there aren’t many other alternatives to reload on the fly.
The Celtics invested heavily in the backcourt this past offseason and now is the time for Barbosa, Lee and Terry to step up to the forefront. But the pressure is also on Bradley who has an opportunity to emerge from the shadows of his All-Star backcourt mate and increase his profile.
Lakers’ Pau Gasol Still Frustrated With Role In Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably playing their best stretch of basketball of the season. The team is on a three game winning streak and in each of those games Kobe Bryant has recorded double-digit assists totals, sacrificing his individual scoring in the process. The personal sacrifices also spreads to veteran point guard Steve Nash who has morphed into more of a catch and shoot option as of late.
But one player is still having a hard time adjusting to a diminished role despite the success.
Pau Gasol, a four-time All-Star, has been demoted to a reserve role in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. In the team’s latest win over the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday, Gasol was benched during the fourth quarter in favor of forward Earl Clark.
“I’m a competitor, I’m a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don’t like, I don’t appreciate,” Gasol told Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.
“It’s a challenge,” Gasol said. “We’re challenged every day, and I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”
The Lakers have been rumored to be shopping Gasol dating back to last season but the reality is Gasol is on the books for $38 million through 2014 which makes getting solid value for the veteran a challenge.
The Lakers aren’t interested in junk contracts for Gasol. They would want an impact player in return and the reality is at the moment Gasol in a Lakers uniform in the best option for the team, from a basketball standpoint.
D’Antoni brushed off playing Gasol down the stretch Tuesday night putting it on matchups.
“They (Hornets) went small,” D’Antoni said. “I couldn’t get Pau back in there because of the lineup change.”
The timing of Gasol’s latest public admission of frustration is questionable, especially in the midst of the team seemingly putting it all together and getting on the same page. Gasol is playing the lowest minutes (32.9) of his career since the 2004 campaign. But his playing time is only down five minutes (27.5) since being relegated to the bench full-time.
For Gasol, the gripe is more about not being on the floor in crunch time.
“I think the finishing is more important (than starting),” Gasol said. “I think the best players should finish off games. That’s just the way it’s got to be. When the game is on the line, you want to be on the floor. That’s more important.”
The Lakers (20-25) are four games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Rockets are also on a three-game winning streak so the Lakers have been unable to gain ground in the standings despite their recent run.
Greg Oden Draws Interest From Cleveland And Miami?
Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, is working out and attempting to make a NBA comeback starting next season. The center is expected to meet with Miami HEAT team president Pat Riley according to a report by CBSSports.com.
The report also lists the Cleveland Cavaliers as a potential destination for the former No. 1 pick who has had to endure three microfracture surgeries on his knee.
According to the report, Oden expects to be ready by the 2013-14 season opener. Oden was productive when healthy during his career, averaging 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks but how much can he still contribute after all of the injury woes?
In Miami, the expectations would be low in a lineup with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The HEAT could likely offer an opportunity to play limited minutes in a niche role on their interior. On a rebuilding Cavaliers squad, there would be more of an opportunity for a prominent role on the inside. Plus the financial incentive would be more lucrative than the HEAT who are projected to be $16 million over the salary cap next season.