Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Welcome Back 'Toine

I wanted to wait a few days before putting my thoughts down about the Antoine Walker trade. I wanted to see Antoine play again, here some of his statements, Ainge's statements, and see how the team responded to having him back. Here now, the good and the bad of the whole trade.

The Good - Antoine has provided an immeadiate lift for the team and has rekindled interest in the Celtics in Boston. His first Fleet appearance was sold out and it was a win. Clearly Pierce likes having Antoine around as he has raised his game. Antoine himself is a bit of a different player if only because he does not have a green light to jack three pointers as he did under Obie. Antoine's hustle and board work are welcome antidotes to the Celtics pre-All-Star malaise.

The Bad - Antoine was shown the door in Boston because Ainge wanted to build a championship contender and he did not feel that Antoine could be part of that. Ainge found that 'Toine's trade value was quite low and panicked in trading him to Dallas for the lengthy and bloated contract attached to one Raef LaFrentz (we have him until 2009). Not exactly a blockbuster trade seeing as Raef is widely known to be a bit soft on the glass and to prefer the three point arc to the paint. These were problems with Antoine too, but at least Antoine was the team's lightning rod. Now Antoine is back for one purpose and that is to make the playoffs. The Fleet has been very empty and people who only casually follow basketball barely knew the Celtics were playing. Now the Fleet is hopping and the Celtics are looking like they'll be able to counter Phillies grab for Webber and take the Atlantic, a number 3 playoff seed (home playoff games for those counting at home), and potentially advance against a comprable or lesser foe. 'Toine still does not make the Cs a championship team. Miami and Detroit both have the size and teams to knock the Cs off their collective block. The match ups just don't pan out well for Boston. Pierce is the only slot the Cs have an advantage over everyone and Walker, well let's think about how he would fare against Rasheed Wallace after remembering how KMart too him to school the last time Walker was in Celtic green. This team isn't even built to get to the conference finals quite frankly.

The ugly - Playing time for the rooks is way down. Jefferson is suffering, and he needs to play. The kid has too much talent and needs to hone it. He's big and has skill. He could be a force for years to come. Why wait on that for one lousy trip to the playoffs when we were sold that Ainge wasn't happy just making the playoffs? Then G.P. was brought back as well. Now West and Marcus are going to find their playing time curtailed. This is not good. West was beggining to emerge in the absence of GP and Marcus has been improving his play too. Now they will have to watch and learn more too. This cannot sit well with them. And all this mess cost them a first round draft pick that could have been used this yearAnd finally, Antoine Walker is in his contract year. He has already stated that he will not work for the veteran's minimum and the Celtics aren't going to keep him close to the $14 million/year he is getting paid now. Contract situations can become ugly (I don't think it will be with Walker). So will this amount to Antoine being a hired gun for a single run at the playoffs to make the Celtics semi-relevant again or will Antoine stay long term and take up the playing time of Al and keep Perkins bolted to the bench?

Overall I don't think this is a good thing if Ainge's master plan is to win a championship. I felt all along that Antoine should have stayed in Boston during the first round of things to keep the playoff excitement going and then let him walk or sign for less money when his time was up. By bringing 'Toine back it makes it seem as if Danny's master plan is running up against the patience of the new owners for a successful product. Yes the C's were slumping, but with Detroit and Miami playing the way they are, better to lick your wounds with a high draft pick and come out swinging with new talent and more polished young talent.

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