For all the talk of an impending seismic shakeup, the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday afternoon with the Celtics barely registering on the Richter scale. Some fans were happy that future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will remain wearing green, and, presumably, retire as Celtics. Others were disappointed that none of the numerous rumors that were floated in recent days came to fruition.
The Celtics did make a minor deal with the Washington Wizards. They acquired young gunner Jordan Crawford for injured Leandro Barbosa and, might-as-well-be-injured, Jason Collins. It is hard for anyone to argue against this deal considering the Celtics gave up, virtually, nothing.
The one aspect I question is why Celtics team president Danny Ainge opted to trade for another outside shooter. This one comes with a questionable attitude and a reluctance to play defense. Despite my mocking Jason Collins, he was one of the few interior bangers on the Celtics roster, especially since Jared Sullinger went down. The trade leaves 22-year-old Fab Melo and 36-year-old Kevin Garnett as the only two players on the Celtics roster that are 6’11” or taller, and one of the two (can you guess which?) doesn’t play that much.
I mentioned in a previous column some of the rumors involving the Celtics that were being bandied about in the final days leading up to the trade deadline. One that didn’t have a lot of legs was Rajon Rondo to the Los Angeles Lakers for Dwight Howard. Another, which seemed to have more life, involved Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers for young point guard Eric Bledsoe and big man DeAndre Jordan. Another murmur was captain Paul Pierce to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith.
After I published that column, another rumor that gained steam in the final hours prior to the deadline was that the Brooklyn Nets were offering Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and a first-round draft pick to the Celtics for Paul Pierce. Judging from the reaction of fans and media on talk radio, there was more than a handful that were pleading to Ainge, “Take it!”
A popular opinion was that the Pierce deal to Brooklyn combined with the Garnett deal to the Clippers would allow the Celtics to get younger, rebuild, and return to prominence sooner rather than later. Under that scenario, once Pierce was traded to New Jersey, KG would waive his no-trade clause (why would he want to stay in Boston without Pierce?) and accept the deal to Los Angeles.
The two deals combined would have allowed the Celtics to trade Rondo for another piece during the offseason. It would leave the new-look Celtics with Bledsoe or Avery Bradley as the point guard, Brooks as the shooting guard, Green as the small forward, Humphries as the rebounding power forward, and Jordan as the defensive-minded center. Green and Brooks would be the scorers. The other roles would be well-defined. Humphries, Jordan, Sullinger would provide a boatload of rebounds. Bradley and Jordan would be the defensive stoppers. Bledsoe would be the distributor. Not a bad lineup with only Humphries not factoring into the Celtics long term plans.
Give Ainge credit– he didn’t deal from a position of weakness. I think it was quite obvious that no player on the roster was off-limits. Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo were available for the right price. At the same time, he wasn’t just going to give any one away. And he wasn’t going to make a deal just for the sake of making a deal.
Because Ainge valued his aging superstars so highly, no major deal went down.
Jordan Crawford won’t be the only new face Celtics fans will be seeing in the coming weeks. Last week, the Celtics signed swingman Terrence Williams to a ten-day contract. Various reports have the Celtics close to signing 6-foot-9 power forward D.J. White, a former first-round draft pick who has been playing in China this year.
Williams has a good chance of not only sticking it out all season with the Celtics, but also of being a factor. Williams was a first round pick, eleventh overall, of the New Jersey Nets in 2009. He had a promising end to his rookie season, averaging over 14 points, close to seven rebounds, and over five assists per game over the final two months of the season. He even had a triple-double in one of those games. The 25-year-old could prove to be an under-the-radar pick up for Boston.
Crawford is only 24 and has a lot of promise. He reminds me of a younger version of another NBA player named Crawford– Jamal. He can be a streaky shooter. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the Celtics team concept as he tends to be a loose cannon. His defense is also a major liability. But, like I said, Boston didn’t give up much to get him so it’s difficult to argue against the trade.
D.J. White will be a younger version of Jason Collins. White, who is not much of a leaper, will be called on to be the banger underneath in the tradition of Glen Davis and Jarod Sullinger.
So did Ainge do the right thing standing pat? I really like the scenario I outlined before with MarShon Brooks, Bledsoe, and Jordan in the mix. Do I think it is a championship formula? No. If you mix in an offseason free agent (Josh Smith? David West? Al Jefferson?), I think the formula gets closer.
What kills me is why did it come to this? Why did it come down to possibly trading team captain Paul Pierce to get MarShon Brooks? For about ten minutes in 2011, the Celtics owned the rights to the former Providence College Friars’ star. They drafted Brooks with the 25th overall pick in that draft. It amazed me that Brooks slipped that far in that draft and landed in Boston’s lap. He was just the type of young scorer the aging Celtics needed. But, then, the Celtics traded him to New Jersey for the rights to JaJuan Johnson and a future second-round draft pick.
And now here we are, a little under two years later, with many people saying that it might be a good thing to trade future Hall of Famer Pierce for him. Yes, I still have not gotten over that deal.
I think Ainge made the right decision riding this thing out with this squad. The time to trade Pierce was last year, when the league’s perception of him may have been closer to what Ainge perceives him as.
This team has played surprisingly well since Rondo went down. The overall intensity has improved. The defense is better. The ball movement is crisper. The shooting is more efficient. Jeff Green has blossomed. Other players have stepped up.
At this point, Pierce and Garnett should be allowed to retire as Celtics. Will this team win a championship in 2013? No. But, then again, not too many teams can make a legitimate claim that they will be able to challenge Miami this year. This current Celtics team plays hard and is, ultimately, very likable. They have played some highly entertaining games this past month. This may be the last go-around with Garnett and Pierce in Celtics green so sit back and enjoy the ride.