Thursday, February 11, 2010

And I Know, A Change is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke A change is gonna come
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Since my last post over at was dedicated to changes, I figured, for continuity sake, to write a sports blog about changes, and turned to my very soulful friend, Sam Cooke, to kick things off for me.

Now I had my angle, all I needed was a subject matter. What in Boston sports could possibly need changing?

Quite obviously it's my beloved Celtics. For weeks I tried not to panic. I stayed positive through Rasheeds 29% shooting on threes (including this 0-8 performance in a loss to Orlando in November). I stayed positive through going 0-3 against Atlanta in our first 3 meetings this year. I stayed positive through 3, count em, 3 3-game losing streaks in the span of a month. I even stayed positive after a that 96-94 loss to Orlando when KG gave up that game winning drive to Rashard Lewis and KG and Paul looked like Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon all game.

I can stay positive no more. At this juncture, headed into a much needed All-Star break (although the guys who need the rest the most, KG and Paul, are actually playing in the game) my team is a mess. 1-7 against Orlando and Atlanta. Consistently blowing double digit second half leads. A loss to Nawlins, playing without the best point guard in the league. A very pedestrian 15-9 at home, a far cry from the glory days of dominating the Garden. The worst turnover rate in the league. And I'm afraid to say it my friends, but Rasheed is still here, and he ain't goin anywhere for another two years.

It's time to re-evaluate things. It's time to make a deal. It's time to trade Ray.

Ray Allen has been a phenomenal player his entire career. Banner 17 probably cemented his place in the Hall of Fame. He will one day pass d-bag Reggie Miller as the all time 3 point shooter. He was a huge part of our championship season. By all accounts he is a great guy, a great teammate, and a great father. He played Jesus Shuttlesworth for Christ's sake.

But I've never been a Ray guy and every day it becomes more and more evident that he is not an elite player or even really a starter on a championship team.

Here's a little annecdote: Back when I worked for the Sarasota Reds in 2007 there were two very large transactions swung in fairly close proximity. The first was the trade for Ray Allen on draft night (I was working a game the night of the draft lottery and the night of the draft and almost cried on the field when we lost the lottery and traded for a 32 year old shooting guard). The second was Orlando's signing of Rashard Lewis for something like $120 Million over 6 years.

I was at the time, and still am, one of the biggest Celtics fans in the world. My old boss, the esteemed Jeff Maultsby, was and I assume still is, one of the biggest Magic fans in the world. We took solace in our respective teams horrible mismanagement. 32 year old shooting guards tend to fall off a cliff (turns out in Rays case it is 34 year old shooting guards). Signing anyone, let alone a non-superstar, to a $120 Million contract is suicide. We were both ready to renounce basketball altogether because it looked like neither of our teams would reach the top of the basketball world ever again...

I guess that's why we both worked in baseball. Clearly both moves worked out in the short term.

But, long term? Ray is toast. Rashard got suspended for steroids (see it's not just baseball!) and has not thrived in Orlando's reshaped roster this year. So maybe Jeff and I were just a little bit right.

There is hope however, and it's not named Rajon or Kendrick. It's named expiring contract.

For those of you not versed in NBA economics, there is no real quick explanation for what an expiring contract is, why it's so valuable, and how NBA trades work. If you'd like to learn more go to this link. But basically, Ray Allen's big contract is over after this year (expires) and it is huge. Which means that if another team that is closer to the salary cap line (the Celtics are way over meaning Ray's expiring contract won't get them under the cap next year to make a run at the ridiculous crop of 2010 free agents) acquires Ray this year and gives us back longer term contracts, they can get under or further under the cap line next year. So the Celtics can look to trade Ray, who is making $19.7M this year, for another $20M worth in contracts.

Thanks to ESPN's fantastic trade machine, we can actually play around and see what deals work. I personally believe there is one trade they should make that would fix a lot of our issues, which I will give you first, but there are others. (click on the links of the trades to see how the trade works out and to click on any players name to see who they are if you don't know them)
  1. Ray Allen to Sacramento; Kevin Martin and Andres Nocioni to Boston: This gives us a younger more athletic shooting guard who would become part of the new core along with Rondo and Perk when they officially take over the team. Nocioni would bring some toughness to the bench and may even be able to serve as a back up 4 so we can run some small ball lineups that we did during the championship runs. Only problem here is that Nocioni's contract is awful. But Kevin Martin is really really good.
  2. Ray Allen and Eddie House to the Knicks; Al Harrington, Jared Jeffries, and Nate Robinson to Boston: This would probably wreak havoc on the chemistry, although at the moment it seems fairly tenuous as is. But Al Harrington would give us a legit 6th man, instead of Sheed's walking corpse. Jared Jeffries would give us a versatile defender who can guard 4 positions. And Nasty Nate would give us instant offense off the bench in far more versatile ways than 22-foot-jump-shot-Eddie. Plus it would move either Tony Allen or Marquis Daniels to the starting 2, where I think they would both play better being the 5th option, rather than the 2nd option off the bench. Of course this would help the Knicks get LeBron and another top free agent next year and I really don't want to help them.
  3. Ray Allen and Tony Allen to Golden State; Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, and Anthony Randolph to Boston: This is the most interesting trade I could possibly imagine. All three GS players are ridiculously talented. Ellis scores at will. Maggette is like a young Paul Pierce when he wants to be and gets to the line at ease. And Anthony Randolph right now looks like Bambi at times, but has the upside of Kevin Garnett. No bull shit, he's that good and athletic. But they don't exactly fit here. To them, defense is a matter of foreign policy. Assists are what old women need to cross the street. But boy would it be fun to watch Rondo throwing lob passes to Randolph for the next 10 years. For me, that is really the linchpin of the trade. I'd put up with the bad defense and bad contracts of Ellis and Maggette just to watch Rondo and Randolph channel their inner Payton and Kemp.
  4. Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to Philly; Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert to Boston OR Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and Sheed to Philly; Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand to Boston: This one is fairly unlikely, but Philly really would love to get rid of Dalembert and Brand. I think both could be useful as the first big man off the bench (granted at very high salaries it is not very efficient) and obviously I would rather have Brand because that means getting rid of Rasheed. But the real reason to make this move is for Iguodala. Paid like a superstar, he is really in the next tier below. You would not want him as the first option on your team if you are trying to win a championship. But as the second banana on offense and covering the best wing player on defense, he would make the aging Celtics a true force. This is the player I want the most, but I don't see this trade happening as Philly is said to want more than just cap relief for Iggy.
  5. Ray Allen to Utah; Andre Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer to Boston: Utah does this purely to shed salary, although it would help their offense a lot if Ray can regain his shooting touch at all. We would gain a starting 2 guard whose offense has slipped a lot this year, but who plays absolute lock down defense in Ronnie Brewer. And we would get a monster of a 6th man who could start at 3 or 4 when Paul or KG can't. AK47 (best nickname in the league and thankfully not a retired Celtics number) can do a little bit of everything and this season has really returned to the form that made him such a fantasy stud a few years ago. He is a constant threat for 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. Off the bench that is ridiculous. This trade does not help our offense enough though and both players have trouble in complicated systems so unelss Ainge is ok with just getting even more suffocating on D and losing a step on O, I don't think he does this.
So there are 5 options (and there are others but this is getting long) that would make our team younger, more dynamic, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch. In most cases the offense improves. In most cases we get some younger pieces that are locked into deals that will become a part of a new core once the current Big 3 is done (which appears to be sooner and sooner every day). Scenario 1 is the most likely and makes the most sense for both sides. Scenario 4 B is my dream. Scenario 3 would be scary, fun, and sexy. At the end of the day though, I wouldn't expect any of these to actually happen.

It is sad to have to get rid of a guy like Ray who contributed so much to Banner 17 and is such a great guy. But it is even sadder to go through 10 years of mediocrity when a little pro-activity could have prevented such a tumble. Unfortunately, it seems like Danny Ainge will stand pat, make a rather pointless trade like Glen Davis for D.J. Augustin (why do we need a back-up point guard when rondo should play 40 minutes a night?), and we will continue our tumble down the Eastern Conference standings, possibly playing our way right out of the first round, head into next year with no cap space even with $30+M coming off the books, have KG and Paul age another year with their own monster contracts, watch the awkward transition of Rondo and Perk trying to take over the team, be stuck in shitty draft pick land for the next 3 years, and wonder where it all went wrong?

Damn, what happened to being positive?

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