NBA PM: What’s in Store for Boston?
The Boston Celtics have always ebbed and flowed between greatness and wretchedness, and that’s the crossroads the franchise is faced with whenever the lockout does come to an end. The Big 4 era (don’t be insane, this team doesn’t win a title without Rajon Rondo) can’t go on forever. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen aren’t signed beyond 2011-2012, and even young players like Jeff Green and Glen Davis still need new deals before next season. The question is, can the Celtics stick to the pattern and ultimately swing the pendulum in their direction again?
It’s a trick the organization has pulled more than once.
A decade before Bill Russell’s arrival, the Celtics were a fledgling member of the BAA, and would stay cemented in the basement of that league and the NBA until Ed Macauley and Bob Cousy invigorated the franchise in the early 1950s.
Even after the 11 rings of the Russell era, Boston found itself out of the playoff picture for two seasons as team president Red Auerbach reloaded the roster. Thanks to some holdovers (John Havlicek and Don Nelson) and new some new faces (Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Paul Silas and Don Chaney), the Celtics churned out two more titles in the 70s before falling toward the bottom of the league again in 1977.
This time Auerbach didn’t have the luxury of many holdovers (Cowens retired at 31 after a disastrous stint as player-coach the season before. He later made an ill-fated comeback attempt with the Bucks). What he did have was Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Bob McAdoo, Cedric Maxwell and the rights to Larry Bird. From there Auerbach flipped McAdoo to the Pistons for two first-round picks, both of which—Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown—were traded to Golden State for Robert Parish and the draft rights to Kevin McHale. Auerbach went a step further by trading Billy Knight to the Pacers for Rick Robey, who would later be packaged for Dennis Johnson and the rights to Greg Kite.
Long story short, Auerbach had built a third dynasty in a sport where it’s hard enough to build one.
But the regularity of the Celtics’ revivals was disrupted in the late 1980s and 1990s. Maybe it was the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis; maybe it was the negligible free agent signings (Xavier McDaniel, Dominique Wilkins and Pervis Ellison, to name, well, all of them) or mismanaged draft picks (i.e. Acie Earl, Eric Montross and Ron Mercer). Whatever happened, Boston lost it’s edge as Auerbach advanced in age and relinquished control of the team.
The Rick Pitino era didn’t do anything to change the situation and it wasn’t until Danny Ainge began stockpiling assets that the team was able to cash in with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and a slew of excellent role players (James Posey, P.J. Brown, Tony Allen, etc.).
But nothing lasts forever and Ainge knows this better than anyone. So what can he possibly do to avoid a prolonged playoff drought while building the team’s future?
Obviously Rondo, at just 25, is capable of being the floor general for the foreseeable future. Paul Pierce is signed through 2013-2014, although the final year of his contract isn’t fully guaranteed. Besides promising youngster Avery Bradley, who failed to nail down a rotation spot during his rookie season, the future is pretty much a blank slate.
Davis has been valuable for the Celtics, but his shot selection and focus come into question frequently and he might not be worth much in the next NBA economy. Green, on the other hand, was the prize of the Kendrick Perkins deal, and while the initial returns haven’t been good, there is still a lot of potential to be tapped. And if Boston is going to have any future in the Eastern Conference, they’re going to need an athletic, 6-9ish guy to cover LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Clearly a 24-year-old like Green offers some hope of being the guy.
But the big question doesn’t revolve around the decision to keep Green and/or Davis. Rather, Ainge must figure out a way to unload his plummeting stock before it hits zero. Yes, Garnett and Allen were as deadly as ever last season (both players actually improved their Player Efficiency Ratings from the previous season), but that doesn’t mean the end isn’t coming. Whenever the next season rolls around, Allen and Garnett will be closer to 40 than to 30. The pair will be on expiring contracts if there is an NBA season this year, so how can Ainge parlay that into his favor? Will he simply allow both deals to expire before throwing as much money as humanly possible at Dwight Howard in the summer of 2012?
The obvious risk is that Howard re-signs with the Magic or goes to some other desirable location. That would force Ainge to decide between bringing Garnett and Allen back—and who knows how much of the cap that would require—or simply letting them walk and watching the franchise slide into mediocrity. And if that’s the case, Ainge would logically be hitting the phones to find a final destination for Pierce to play out his remaining games in the hope that the assets the Celtics got in return could fuel the next great Boston dynasty.
There is reason to believe that the 2012 NBA Draft will be one of the better collections of young talent in recent memory (lots of interesting players stayed in school rather than sit through an NBA lockout), and with that in mind, it might be nice to have a few lottery picks. Whether or not anyone is willing to take on three 30-somethings is a different question entirely, but it’s something the Celtics have to solve before this franchise can move forward.
Breaking News: Lockout is Bad for Business
The Knicks parent company, Madison Square Garden Co. (which trades under “MSG” on the NASDAQ), has been downgraded to “neutral” by Bank of America Merrill Lynch partially because the lockout is cutting off cash flow to the Knicks.
“Despite our continued belief in MSG’s robust long-term story… we think the shares will be unlikely to outperform over the near-term with $90 million of adjusted operating cash flow at risk from a full-season NBA lockout and possible LA Forum acquisition on the horizon,” the analysts wrote, according to Marketwatch.com.
MSG was down around 3.4% to $22.02 per share at around 3:45 PM EST.
Obviously a company that owns a major arena in the heart of Manhattan, two major sports franchises and a cable network is a safe bet in the long run, but the fact that MSG can be downgraded should serve as a warning to the other owners. The market doesn’t like prolonged labor turmoil.
Check Out: Kermit Washington
Former Blazer big man Kermit Washington filled in for David Aldridge at NBA.com in a big way. The American University product recounts his experiences in Rwanda in the mid-1990s and it is definitely worth a read. Washington may be remembered for by many for punching Rudy Tomjanovich in 1977, but he should be known for his humanitarian efforts in one of the worst conflicts this planet has ever seen.
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