Monday, January 31, 2005

Ric Bucher

Here at:

Ric Bucher posits that the Celtics need to trade Paul Pierce. In the column he argues that Pierce doesn't fit what the Celtics are trying to become, a fast break team, and doesn't have the spark that inspires a team and makes one worthy of max money. He simply argues that Pierce is an anchor that is slowing the team. Bucher makes some good arguments, but I think he misses the mark just a little bit. Some counterpoints:

Most of the Celtics young talent is just that, young. Tony Allen and Al Jefferson have impressed in their rookie seasons thus far and I think they're going to be quite good over the long haul, but they're not the blocks that you can build a franchise on. Jefferson has the potential to be that block, but he's still really raw. Bucher seems to argue that by getting rid of Pierce it would unlock the talents of Jiri Welsch and Ricky Davis too. Maybe. Jiri has shown flashes, but that counts for little in the NBA. You can't assume he'll become good because Pierce isn't around. And Ricky Davis is still a head case. Bucher says that Ricky has been playing well and keeping himself out of trouble but fails to remember that a little over a week ago Ricky was tossed out of a practice for swearing at his coach. Oh yeah, the Celtics had invited some academic achievers to view the practice where they were treated to a display of too much ego and much cursing by Ricky.

Gary Payton has helped stabilize the point guard position that was a little off when Kenny Anderson left (did I just say that?). Payton has this year remaining on his deal and is 36. There is little chance that he'll be back in Boston and he certainly isn't a long term solution at the position. Bucher says Delonte West may turn into an excellent back up point guard, but he doesn't say who he's going to back up. Marcus Banks? That's a big glaring omission. For all of Pierce's flaws, he certainly makes life easier for any point guard by having some ball handling skills and by being a deep shooting and driving threat who makes pressing a risky decision for any team. Perhaps Bucher has in mind a trade of Pierce for some up and coming point guard. Well unless they can get Hinrich, I don't think there's anyone else out there who fills the need.

Raef LaFrentz signed a contract in 2002 that is going to pay him roughly $70 million over seven seasons. He's on the books until 2009! He has an opt-out in 2007, but I seriously doubt he's going to be taking that. Raef is a good player, and this year he is actually trying to show that he's tough by grimacing all over the floor. And he's a team guy for sure. That said, he shoots too many threes for a PF, he doesn't break effectively (one of Buchers criticisms of Pierce), and he's proven to be an injury waiting to happen. That isn't worth $10 million a season. This still has to amount to one of Danny Ainge's most foolish decisions. Antoine certainly had flaws, but he brought leadership and excitement to the Celtics. And if nothing else, he would have come off the books this year. Ainge traded Walker's bloated and short contract for Raefs bloated and long contract for a player with a questionable history who lacked many of the things that made Ainge want to trade Antoine (poor post play, too much time spent on the perimeter, weak rebounding). Just think about it, if the Celtics still had 'Toine, they would have two expiring contracts to either trade (for picks or talent) or to just let expire this season so that they could better position themselves on the free agent market. One of the initial arguments for trading Walker was saying that they could not sign both 'Toine and Pierce when the next date was up. Fine, but both were under contract (Pierce signed a six year extenstion in 2001), and letting 'Toine walk or being more patient with the trade button during his last two years under a Celtics contract would have served Boston much better. Bucher totally ignores the LaFrentz problem. It would be much, much better to trade LaFrentz instead of Pierce. Perhaps Miami could be enticed to take LaFrentz on in the hopes of securing a title this year. It's not that far fetched. They were wooing Malone and could use some post help. I'm not sure if anybody is dumb enough to take on LaFrentz's contract again though. Denver dumped him as soon as they signed him and Dallas dumped him realizing he would never be a necessary piece to take them to championship land.

I'm not saying that trading Pierce would be the end of the world. Some of Bucher's points are very valid. He does have bad body language and doesn't seem to possess the intangibles that make for a good leader. I've certainly questioned his defensive effort, but I've seen some improvement in this since the infamous benching game against the Bulls a few weeks ago. When the Celtics broke the Bulls most recent five game winning streak in Chicago, Pierce was everywhere in the hustle department drawing charges, getting a steal or two, and getting some tough defensive rebounds with the C's undersized (Jefferson on the IL, Kendrick tossed for a hard foul, Blount taking bong hits before the game). I was impressed. Bucher is right that Pierce lets things slide because sometimes he does need to save his legs for the fourth quarter. But that Chicago game highlighted why he's still such a valuable player. Not only did he get his shot, but when Ben Gordon was in foul trouble and matched up defensively against Ricky, Pierce made sure Ricky got the ball. That's a good team player and the kind of action that gets the support of your running mates. He can only be traded if the Celtics get some great value in return. They would need to get a good center with a pulse or a young and up and coming or somewhat established point guard in return for Pierce. Failing that they would need the guarantee of multiple high picks. Two lottery dips, or one top two pick with a late first rounder would be nice in return.

So in the end, I think Bucher is a bit premature. Pierce still is a top ten talent in my opinion (as or more talented than LeBron for instance) and only his leadership skills lag. But the supporting cast has to take some of the blame. Blount is a dog this year and relying on rookies only gets one so far. Resolving the long-term center and PG needs has to be the biggest priority of the Celtics and I'm not sure if trading Pierce is the way to do this. Heck, Bucher doesn't even suggest a few trade scenarios involving Pierce so I'm not entirely sure why he wrote the article.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Da Bulls

They started 2-13. They were already being written off. And yet here
they are over .500 almost halfway through the season playing with a
bunch of rookies and now only a few games out of first place. They're
on their second winning streak in weeks having just cleared out four
opponents in row after losing to Boston a little over a week ago.
When you watch them play, you see a team playing. 5 guys on the floor
executing as one. They play tough defense and they execute the half
court very well thanks to Hinrich. They can fast break pretty well
too. And now that the spotlight seems to be off Tyson and Eddie
(they're role players now, not the focal point) they seem to be
playing their roles excellently. Eddie scoring on the box and Tyson
rebounding like a demon and blocking shots from the weakside. This
team is now fun to watch and that hasn't been the case since 23 hung
'em up. Keep it coming.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Da Bulls!

Chicago absolutely rolled Detroit last night. Totally decimated them with everyone playing great. Hinrich is beginning to look like one of the top point guards in the league (Magic even mentioned Hinrich in the same sentence as Nash and Kidd) as he easily handled the big man step outs by Detroit by deftly dribbling them out and then time after time hitting his big man who initiated the screen with beautiful bounce passes setting up easy scores. Also, Nocioni was mixing it up under the boards with Big Ben and 'Sheed and he was getting results and would not be intimidated.

The highlight of the game for me was that the Pistons started acting like an immature team. Whining to refs about non-calls and making cheap plays but then bitching when the whistle went against them. Larry Brown was caught yelling, "Just play basketball!" to his charges several times on the sidelines. Chicago looked like the veteran well coached team and Detroit looked like the bunch of Rookies. This is trouble for the Pistons and I think this opens up the East a lot this year. Also, I think Skiles is going to start getting coach of the year press soon. We'll see.

Most importantly, the Bulls are at 0.500 and haven't been so or better since #23 laced 'em up. Game on.

Let it snow

No, there was no shimmy, but there was a skip. Antoine hit a key shot that helped lift the pathetic Hawks over the Celtics down the stretch. Boston started out the fourth quarter leading by 13 points and lost all focus. I'm not sure what comes next from Doc after a night like this. The C's dominated the game and then just went on cruise in the 4th assuming ATL would back down. Well they didn't.

On a positive note Tony Allen started and didn't dissapoint at all. His defense and fast breaking are very welcome. I'd like to see much more of him and a lot less of Jiri.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Learning to walk

The Bulls just finished off a thriller against the Knickerbocker's today winning the game on a difficult last second baseline floater by Ben Gordon. Gordon lit the Knicks up in the fourth quarter scoring on a variety of drives and outside shots. He's learning to play and is becoming a potent force off the bench.

More importanly the Bulls could have lost this game. They went down by 8 with 5 minutes remaining and instead of folding forced the action defensively (Chandler had some nice blocks and was a real difference maker defensively and Nocioni continued to provide tough hard nosed rebounding and clutch shooting). For a young team to show so much grit is really impressive. Perhaps the Celtics should watch a few games.........

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Da Bulls

Shhh. The Bulls just won four straight games and are only two back of
Indiana for the 7th playoff spot and only 1 game back of the C's for
the eighth playoff spot. And last night they had every chance in the
world to lose. Sporting a 19 point lead going into the fourth quarter
the Bulls went into the tank big time allowing the Warriors to close
within 6 points with only a few minutes remaining. The old Bulls
would have lied down and died. These youngins are starting to learn
how to win as they responded in a big way with a Duhon three and then
a nice defensive play by Nocioni that led to the break and the bucket.
Let's see if these Bulls can't get themsevles to above .500 by the
all-star break.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Benching and Trading

So the C's threw a stinker against the Bulls. And Doc benched all the
starters for most of the fourth quarter. Doc's problem is that there
is not enough effort being thrown towards defense. The C's are on a
streak of allowing over 100 points a game and are letting teams shoot
nearly 50% or better from the floor against them indicating that their
opponents are getting too many easy shots of the layup variety. I
like what Doc is doing and support him. Here is a bit from the
Globe's assesment of the game:

the Green could have easily owned the glass if LaFrentz and Blount
managed more than a 6 rebounds combined. When asked about that
statistic, LaFrentz shot back, "Well, how many minutes did we play?"
Together, they played 38.

Rivers isn't buying that excuse. Jefferson and McCarty grabbed 8
rebounds apiece in a combined 34 minutes off the bench.

I've been thinking Blount wasn't exactly lighting it up, but only 6
rebounds between Blount and LaFrentz in a combined 38 minutes? That's
pathetic, especially against the Bulls who have the softest or oldest
rebounding forces in the league depending who is on the floor. As for
LaFrentz, I don't think anybody expected much from seeing as his body
has broken down and he plays too far away from the basket for a big
man (wasn't that why we got rid of Antoine?). The sportsguy does a
number on him and Blount in his most recent cowbell features.

Judging from the reaction of the veterans to Docs lesson (at least
immeadiately after the game) things are going to get a bit shaky in
Boston. I think Ainge is going to back Doc to the fullest, but it
didn't sound like Payton, Pierce, LaFrentz, or Blount were very
humbled by the experience. I know I expect trades to happen, but I'm
not sure what Ainge can do. I think Pierce could possibly be on the
block if his play and attitude don't pick up too. I just have to
think something is coming the way this season is going.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Celtics respond

Maybe Doc's message did sink in a little bit (not entirely) as the
Celtic's beat up on the Magic in their first game after the benching
against Chicago. Of course the Magic were without Cutino Mobely for
the evening as he was traded to Sacto for Doug Christie. Still
everybody was getting into the act on the scoring side of things. On
the defensive end, Pierce looked very pouty and was not working at
all. We'll see how long this lasts.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I'm employee #8. I make baskets.

Speaking of bygone eras, it just struck me yesterday that Al Jefferson
is wearing 'Toine's good old #8. Not to say that this was unexpected,
but somehow I can't help but think back to the good old days when
Pierce and Walker jacked it up all the way to the Eastern Conference
finals. I'll admit it. I miss the wiggle just a little bit. Well,
hopefully baby Al will make that number count.