With the Boston Celtics making big changes to their roster this summer, the biggest issue going forward for the team is what to do with point guard Rajon Rondo. Currently recovering from season-ending knee surgery, Rondo no longer has the talent around him to make the Celtics a championship contender, but he himself might be too good of a player to allow the team to tank and get a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Next year’s draft is supposed to be the best draft since the LeBron James/Dwayne Wade/Chris Bosh/Carmelo Anthony draft in 2003, and there are a lot of terrible teams in the NBA, so tanking is not going to be easy.
Rondo, while very intelligent and very talented, has some major flaws in his game that would prevent him, in my opinion, from being the elite franchise player many Celtics fans think or hope he is. He is a bad shooter, which makes him a liability at the end of games since he is afraid to go to the three point line. While Rondo is a great performer in big games, his complacency in games that are not nationally televised is staggering. People seem to forget that before Rondo got hurt last season, the Celtics had a losing record and were out of the playoff picture. Rondo has gotten into conflicts with his coaches at every level, whether at the University of Kentucky or the Boston Celtics or Team USA. While he is talented, the idea of having him be your best player should scare Celtics fans.
One of the most frustrating things about Rondo’s game is that he’s found a way to make the assist into a selfish statistic. He is a phenomenal passer and his ability to distribute the ball adds a great dynamic to the Celtics’ offense. The problem is that sometimes it looks like he’s choosing the plays he makes based on what will most likely credit him with an assist and not necessarily the most efficient scoring play. Too many times I’ve seen him have an open look to drive to the hoop, only to make a flashy pass behind his back at the last second instead and risking a turnover instead of taking the easy two points that were in front of him. Rondo is also one of the most overrated defensive players in the NBA today a as he cheats and plays for the steal instead of focusing on the man he should be covering. These are fixable flaws, but NBA stars tend to get stubborn the longer they play and the more people tell them how great they are.
The issues with Rondo being a franchise player go beyond Rondo himself. In recent years, it seems that basketball fans and writers have overrated and overvalued the point guard position. The last team whose best player was their point guard to win the NBA Finals was Isiah Thomas’ Detroit Pistons in 1990. Take a look at the best PGs of the last 30 years excluding Thomas and Magic Johnson. John Stockton is the NBA’s all time assist leader and widely considered the best pure point guard (since Magic could play any position if needed) in the history of the game. Stockton has as many championship rings as I do. The same can be said for Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. While one of the best point guards of all time, Jason Kidd was 38 years old and the fourth or fifth best player on his team when he won his championship ring in 2011. Rondo’s one ring came as a young player and the fifth or sixth best player on the Celtics behind Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and (arguably) James Posey. Tony Parker is a great player and has three rings, but Tim Duncan has been the man in San Antonio as long as he has been there. For all the hype these players have gotten, it hasn’t amounted to championship glory when they were their team’s best player.
It will be interesting to see how the team handles their star point guard this season. They could sit him out for an extended period of time to make sure his knee is fully healed. New coach Brad Stevens will need to assert himself with a player notorious for undermining even established coaches like Doc Rivers and Mike Krzyzewski. If things are not going well, maybe the Celtics could move him at the trade deadline. It would be nice to have Rondo around to help the new lottery player the Celtics could potentially draft, but the prospect of Rajon Rondo being the leader and the best player in the next Celtics championship team seems far fetched.
The Celtics are likely going to be bad this upcoming season, but there’s plenty to be excited about. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Doc Rivers all not walking through that door, it’s a new era in Celtics basketball. Although things didn’t turn out so hot for Mr. Pitino when he told it like it is regarding the Original Big Three, there is hope for the latest college coach the Celtics have hired.
Brad Stevens has six years of head coaching experience at any level. During that time, he took the Butler men’s basketball program to the NCAA National Championship game twice, losing to schools with much greater recruiting power in Duke and UConn. People in college hoops circles thought he’d eventually leave for a prestigious program like Duke or Indiana, but the most prestigious NBA coaching job was made available to him before that. At 36, he’s younger than Kevin Garnett, and he has never dealt with egos as big as the ones in an NBA locker room (To be fair, neither have most NHL coaches. NBA players on average are some of the most spoiled athletes you’ll find anywhere.), but his track record of success has shown that no moment is too big for him so far. The Celtics have been at their best when innovating. They were the first NBA team to sign black players, pioneers of the fast break, and of team defense. There will be growing pains, but Danny Ainge may have hired the next great Celtics head coach this week.
In a lot of ways, Stevens reminds me of Chip Kelly. The former Oregon Ducks football coach was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles last winter without any experience playing or coaching in the NFL. The New Hampshire native developed an exciting and creative brand of football as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater UNH which caught the eye of the University of Oregon. After two years as Oregon’s OC, he was promoted to head coach and took the Ducks to a BCS game four times in four years. His fast paced no-huddle offense was adopted by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, and not the Eagles are looking to turn his collegiate winning ways into NFL wins. It’s a risky hire for sure. Not a lot of college coaches land on their feet when jumping to the NFL, but after the success Jim Harbaugh experienced with the 49ers, it was a risk Philly was willing to take. As a fan of Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks, I am really excited to see what he does in the pros this year, and I’m also more excited about this Celtics season than the last couple for the same reason.
The Celtics will likely be tanking this season to get a high draft pick next year, but that doesn’t mean they cant develop the young players on their roster in the meantime. Who could be better than a college coach to make these kids better while there isn’t any pressure to win now? Doc Rivers struggled in making guys like Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo much better, but he was also focused on winning as much as he could while he still had his aging stars on the roster. The Celtics gave Stevens a six year contract, which means they are serious about having him rebuild the Celtics. This means veteran players like Rajon Rondo need to either fall in line and behave or expect to get traded.
It’s not going to be the best season in Celtics history, but it could be the start of the next great Celtics team.
As if this week couldn’t get any worse, the book closed on the Paul Pierce Era in the history of the Boston Celtics when the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets agreed in principle (the trade can’t be finalized until July 10 per NBA rules) on a trade that would send Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn in exchange for Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband, a bunch of players I’ve never heard of, and Brooklyn’s 1st round draft picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Ultimately, this is a good deal for the Celtics, who need more draft picks to improve their roster and ran the risk of being sentimental and letting The Truth and The Big Ticket retire without getting anything in return. It’s not the Celtics’ job to be sentimental (although they are as an organization, as evidenced by their bajillion retired numbers, but that’s another blog post for another day), but as fans it’s still sad even if it was the right thing to do.
Paul Pierce has been playing for the Celtics since I was in 3rd Grade. He was a key piece in the organization through good times and bad times. Grew up a Lakers fan in Inglewood, but went on to be one of the greatest players ever to wear Celtic Green. He stuck with Boston even after getting stabbed. People across the country found out how great he really was after he started playing with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but Celtics fans knew what he was long before that. He was a good scorer, and underrated defender, and he was never afraid to take the big shot at the end of a game.
Garnett was the guy who changed the culture in Boston back to a winning one. He was drafted by legendary Celtic Kevin McHale, and the two of them are both top five power forwards in the history of the NBA as well as top fifteen (at least) Celtics of all time. McHale, who was the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, traded KG to his former teammate Danny Ainge in Boston, and along with the acquisition of Ray Allen that same summer, the New Big Three Era in Boston began. Pierce, Allen, and Garnett won the NBA title their first year together in 2008, and they should have won a second, but it never happened due to age and injury. Ever since the Celtics lost Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010, fans knew it would only be a matter of time before this day came.
Pierce and Garnett will be joining a Brooklyn team coached by their contemporary and former rival Jason Kidd, who most recently met them in the playoffs this past April as the impossibly old yet surprisingly effective point guard for the New York Knicks. They are joining a talented roster in Brooklyn and have a chance to compete with Miami yet again, but no matter what they do, they will always be Celtics. Garnett said himself that he bleeds green, and they are most definitely the last Celtics ever to wear the numbers 34 and 5. They were such selfless superstars that it’s fitting that their last act as Boston Celtics was getting traded to put the team in a better position to be a contender sooner. Thank, guys! We’ll miss you, but best of luck in Brooklyn. I’ll play you guys out.
Something was going to change with the Boston Celtics. It was only a matter of time. As sad as it may be seeing the New Big Three Era being slowly dismantled, we all new it had to happen for the team to get better. I thought it would happen as soon as the Purple and Gold confetti started falling at the Staples Center in 2010, but Danny Ainge had other ideas. He tried to keep the core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and head coach Doc Rivers together as long as possible, and they probably got their “one last shot” a few times too many. Ray Allen left last summer to take his talents to South Beach, and this week, he earned his second championship ring with a scoreless effort in Game 7 (although he did hit a clutch three pointer to get the Heat to overtime and save their season in Game 6), and Pierce and KG’s futures with the Green remain uncertain. Rivers didn’t want to be part of a rebuild, and did not commit to the Celtics despite being under contract for three more years. Today the Celtics agreed to release him from his contract in exchange for a 2015 1st round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers.
While I love Doc as a coach, it does not make sense to pay 7 million per year for a coach who doesn’t really want to be here on a team that is no longer a lock to make the playoffs. It’s time to start acquiring assets, draft well, and accumulate enough talent to make the next KG trade. Despite their rich history, the Celtics don’t have the advantages Miami and LA have of being a desirable location for NBA players, who prefer to live and work in places with warm weather and/or low taxes. The next Celtics championship roster can’t be built overnight, but this is an important step.
There will be more to write about when the Celtics make trades and hire a new coach, but for now it’s a good time to appreciate the Doc Rivers Era for what it was. The Celtics were not great when he started. He had trouble developing young players and keeping veterans disciplined, but once he had a good roster, he ran with it, and in 2008, the Celtics raised their only championship banner in my lifetime. In the years that followed, they were never an easy out, but were never able to finish the season with a win again. For a long time, they were the biggest thing standing in LeBron’s way. Kendrick Perkins was Dwight Howard’s personal kryptonite. Ray Allen was in Rip Hamilton’s head…and in Kobe’s head. Garnett and Pierce were the veteran superstars that players around the NBA hated, but were beloved by their own teammates. When Jason Collins publicly came out of the closet last month, Paul Pierce was the first former teammate he told. There was a lot to love about this team, and it all started with Doc Rivers. He had a knack for saying the right thing, and not just because it was what we wanted to hear. He, David Ortiz, and former Patriot Joe Andruzzi were the most eloquent and inspiring voices in Boston sports after the tragic Marathon Bombing in April. It’s for that reason that it hurts for me to see him pack his bags for Los Angeles so soon. You got the impression that he truly was a green-blooded Bostonian, but the prospect of coaching Chris Paul and Blake Griffin seemed more appealing than rebuilding around the moody Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics might be bad next year and the years to come, while Doc is coaching another contender, but we shouldn’t make the way he left his entire Boston legacy. Nobody coaches in the same city forever anymore. Gregg Popovich is the last of a dying breed in that regard. The next great Celtics team will be coached by someone else someday. It was great while it lasted. Ubuntu. Anything is possible. Good luck in LA, coach!
Warning: this post contains spoilers from the Game of Thrones Season 3, episode 9, The Rains of Castamere, as well as details from the novel A Storm of Swords that it is based on.
There’s so much on my mind this week that I could probably divide into three or four mediocre posts, but there are enough parallels to combine them into one. As the NBA and NHL playoffs continue, Game of Thrones had a moment book readers have been waiting for years to see.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the LeBron James and Dwayne Wade of hockey. Two whining stars as John Tortorella aptly put it. While incredibly talented, Crosby and Malkin really make it difficult for us to like them. They’re arrogant, they get hung up on the things they can’t control, and through two games, as soon as they meet a team that isn’t afraid of them, they melt like the winter snows in Dorne. ESPN is ready to put these guys in a discussion that have no business being in yet, which leads me to my next analogy…
Sidney Crosby will never be Wayne Gretzky for the same reason LeBron will never be Michael Jordan. Seriously! Enough with these stupid discussions. Does the NBA need every superstar to be the next Jordan? I don’t feel comfortable comparing Kobe to Jordan, let alone LeBron. The same goes for Crosby. Since the day the Penguins won the 2005 draft lottery, Crosby has been hyped as the next big thing. Gretzky captained the Oilers to four Stanley Cups before being traded to Los Angeles and making the game exponentially more popular in the NHL’s biggest non-traditional market. Gretzky’s wedding was nationally televised in Canada, getting as much hype as a British Royal wedding. Gretzky had so many assists, that he wouldn’t even need his goals to be counted to still be the NHL’s all time points leader. Even if Crosby wasn’t the arrogant whiner he is, his legacy would never be as important to hockey as The Great One’s.
The Bruins are the Walder Frey’s daughters of the NHL. At least according to Jarome Iginla. Look, I’m just as mad at what Lord Frey did to The Young Wolf as the rest of you, but I can see where he’s coming from.The Bruins had been on Iggy’s original list of teams he’d like to be traded to, but then Sidney Crosby gave him a call. Robb Stark swore to marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters to be able to cross the river without Lord Frey blabbing to Tywin Lannister (a steep price I’ll admit, especially considering Robb’s sister Arya would have to marry one of the hundreds of Frey offspring as well), but in the heat of battle, he developed feelings for Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter. He chose the prettier girl over the one who would really help him win the war. The Bruins are saying all the right things and being nothing but classy in the media, but they might as well start playing The Rains of Castamere in the Garden when the series goes back to Boston. Iginla, like the rest of his Pittsburgh teammates have done nothing through two games against the bitter but disciplined Bruins. Before all this Iginla, like the King in the North, was all about honor, class, and playing the game the right way. This is why he has to pay for it when he goes back on his word. We sympathize with Robb Stark because he’s fifteen and doesn’t know any better. Iginla is in his mid-30s and decided to go where he thought it would be easier to win the illusive Stanley Cup, the only accolade missing from his Hall of Fame resume, rather than the place where he could help more and where he could have a bigger impact. Peter Chiarelli sends his regards!
Claude Julien is the Bruce Bochy of the NHL. It’s not just because they both have large heads, I swear. Neither one is particularly excitable or charismatic. They approach ever game with the same level head, and they know when to push all the right buttons in big games. Before the fall of 2010, neither one had won a championship, but after Bochy’s Giants rolled over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, their second in three years, Claude Julien’s Bruins are knocking at the door with another deep run, but you’d never know how successful they’ve become in recent years. They’re still the same guys they were before.
Roose Bolton is the Evil Abed of Westeros. I love the way they’ve protrayed the Lord of the Dreadfort on the show. He’s been played as one of those friends that everyone thinks is a little weird, but nobody really suspects the cruelty that lurks behind his cold eyes. Cold. Cold cold cold. That’s Roose Bolton. I loved the way they had him as Catelyn Stark’s date for her brother’s wedding and how he wanted to be the one who gave the scheme away to her. The look in his eves when she discovered the armor he wore to the wedding was priceless. Lord Bolton was Ned’s bannerman before he was Robb’s and Roose and Cat may very well have met at Cat’s wedding before the Northmen marched south to defeat The Mad King. Roose is detached from it all. He has his morbid quirks, leeches and his love for human flaying, to amuse him as he plays the game of thrones just to see what will happen. While Evil Abed wanted to return to the Lame Timeline to saw off Jeff’s arm, Roose has more than just chain mail up his sleeve going forward.