The Boston Celtics; otherwise known as “Team Streak” on these pages; are back at it again as they won their third straight game since coming back from the All-Star break, as they defeated the New Jersey Nets on Friday, by a final margin of 107-94. The victory puts the club one game over the .500 mark with a record of 18-17, as they head into a crucial game on Sunday as they host the New York Knicks. New York currently trails the Celtics by a half game in both the Atlantic Division as well as in the chase for Post Season spots; as Boston is currently the seventh seed while the Knicks are in eighth. A win by New York on Sunday would turn the equation around with the Knicks ending on top.
“Team Streak” went into the break dropping five straight games and undoing all the good that they accomplished after going 10-3 and reaching their high point of the campaign with a mark of 15-12. It also reignited all the trade talk that was so prevalent earlier in the season, but had faded into the background as Boston started winning.
Celtics President Of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, is not a sentimentalist as was former Team President the late, great Red Auerbach. Earlier this season the former Boston player turned team executive, recounted a story from his playing days. It seems that at a team Christmas party, Auerbach told Kevin McHale, Larry Bird and Ainge that he had been offered a bunch of young talent if he would ship Bird to the Indiana Pacers and McHale to the Dallas Mavericks. Auerbach turned both deals down, even though the two players were at the tail end of their careers.
Ainge was flabbergasted that the man who had pulled off some of the best deals in the history of the Association, refused to pull the trigger. Auerbach however wanted the pair to be able to retire for the only team they had ever played for, as a reward for their three NBA Titles. The former Celtics coach’s loyalty to the pair would cost the team dearly for years; as after Bird retired in 1992, the club had some of its worst seasons in the history of the franchise.
That will not be the case with the “New Big Three“; Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The only question that is open now is when will the aging stars leave the team for a new home; will it be before March 15, which is the trading deadline; or does Ainge believe that his current roster can make some noise in the Playoffs this year? They entered the Post Season in 2010 as the fourth seed and lost the Finals to the Lakers in seven games; when lots of NBA observers believed they would be knocked out in the first round by the Knicks.
Although Celtics Nation will be sorry to see the three All-Stars who won the team their first NBA Championship in 22 years back in 2008, leave the team and play elsewhere next season. However, those who remember the eighties teams and then suffered through the regimes of M.L. Carr and Rick Pitino will understand that the club’s window of opportunity has closed and it is time to move on.
There has also been a lot of talk recently about the team wanting to move starting point guard Rajon Rondo; because allegedly he is too high maintenance. Ainge as well as head coach Doc Rivers deny the reports and Rivers says he and his All-Star have maybe their strongest relationship of Rondo’s career presently. Fans of the team must have wiped their brows in relief when they heard the statements from the duo, as Rondo should be one of the cornerstones of the next era for the squad.
Boston knew that their point guard had a bad temper before they drafted him, as he went toe to toe with former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith when he was playing for the university. That temper maybe the reason he is one of the top five point guards in the Association at the present time. In the “Golden Age Of The Point Guard” in the NBA, it would be a terrible move for the team to allow him to leave.
If Ainge asked my advice I would tell him that he should keep Pierce, but it just maybe time for Allen and Garnett to part ways with the franchise. The club desperately needs a center and if the two veterans are out of the picture, they will need a shooting guard and a power forward as well. Brandon Bass is having a nice season, but he should be playing off the bench and neither he or Mickael Pietrus are starters at the four-spot for a team looking to head to the Finals.
Two players that they may be able to get at bargain rates for next season are center Chris Kaman and forward Lamar Odom. Kaman who is a former All-Star becomes a Free Agent at the end of this season while Odom has little chance of the Mavericks picking up his option for next season. He is having a lousy year, but there is no way that last season’s NBA Sixth Man Of The Year, lost it overnight.
It is always tough to take a step back to take two steps ahead, however the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies have shown how quickly it can be accomplished. Even two longtime cellar dwellers; the Clippers and the Timberwolves have started to look like real NBA teams this season. There is no reason in the world that with a few good moves Ainge can have Boston back among the élite in the NBA in a pretty short time.