August 9, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Will this three make it big in Boston?
by Dave Long

OK ó Iíve had a week to think about it and Iím warming to the blockbuster deal that made Kevin Garnett a Celtic. Itís not perfect and somebody, preferably Danny himself, please, please, please tell me theyíre not done yet. But as a certified basketball guy, who enjoys the Celtics in meaningful playoff games infinitely more than the Red Sox, Iíd be asking for a seat on Dr. Melfiís couch if I looked past the bright side.

I will say, though, I feel a little like Joe Hardy by jettisoning what I thought was going to eventually be a bright future for what probably will be a three-, maybe four-year run before going back to the black hole theyíve been in since Red Auerbach stopped running the team. But, with the exception of a few years when Antoine Walker teamed with Paul Pierce, basketballís been over by income tax day most of the last 15 years; Iíll take whatever excitement I can and worry about the future later.

After all Garnett is the best to guy to play for the Celtics since Larry Bird. Heís not quite Larry, but heís close. And yes, heís better than Kevin McHale. Itís actually the combination of the deals that brought Garnett and Ray Allen to town that I like. Alone they wouldnít have been worth the future. But with both here to team with Pierce and whoever else is left, Iím getting excited at the prospect of 2007-08. There, I said it.

However, itís not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination, as euphoric fans seemed to think last week. So hereís a series of the things that ran through my mind as I thought about the pluses and minuses of this deal:

The Formula: Thereís a blueprint for building a championship-caliber team. In football, itís a quarterback who makes big plays and few mistakes, a defense that can shut people down and a kicker who is money when it counts. In baseball, itís three starters who can dominate at the top of their game and a lights-out closer. In basketball itís building around three stars like Chicago did with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin with first Horace Grant, then Dennis Rodman. San Antonio has with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. OK, the Lakers had just Shaq and Kobe, but the big fella was worth two by himself. With Garnett, Pierce and Allen that critical part is in place.

They Knew Danny Was Desperate: In the summer of 1983, Phoenix wanted to dump Dennis Johnson. At the same time the Celtics desperately needed someone to guard Andrew Toney and Magic Johnson. So Red Auerbach sent back up center Wic Wobey to get the leagueís premier defensive guard AND astonishingly the Sunsí first-round draft pick too. How did he do that, you ask? I donít know, but it shows thereís an art to deal-making. And while Danny got who he needed most, the other guys knew he needed to do something big to keep his job. So they kept asking for more and got it. If faced with the same situation I wonder if Red wouldnít have given up less in those deals. For instance, did the Garnett deal really hinge on getting Ryan Gomes? And, to a lesser extent, Delonte West with Seattle, who got a younger, two-time All-Star and the fifth pick, plus West for a still productive but 32-year-old guard?

Depth vs. Substance: Yes they have the, uhm, big three, but what happens if any miss a fair number of games as Pierce and Allen did last year? This team has no bench at the moment and, as Curt Schilling has demonstrated, there is a point in every career when injuries become a nagging reality. Thus, while theyíre always the x-factor, this team is very vulnerable to a big injury. And given age and recent history, itís a real possibility. Playing fewer minutes helps manage that, but whoís going to play when theyíre not in the game? Thatís why I wanted West and Gomes kept out of their deals. Their versatility made them perfect for a short bench as West plays both guard spots and Gomes the three and four.

Did Danny Flip-Flop on the Plan: He never said he was going with youth. And even if he did, so what? He blew up the team that went to the Conference Finals before he got there because he didnít think it was good enough to win it all and he was right. So he assembled assets to help make deals to put them in position to win ó which is what he did.

Can They Play Together: At no other time in NBA history, besides Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in L.A., have three players whoíve each scored as high as 26 points a game in a season ever been paired together. So itís a fair question. And itís not about being selfish. Itís just when youíre used to scoring and having the ball all the time, itís a big adjustment to learn another way to play. My guess is after a time theyíll be fine. Garnettís scoring will drop, because heís a solid passer and needed more defensively and on the boards. While some say Pierce is selfish, I disagree; heíll adjust nicely.

The Johnny Damon Factor: Do you know the New York Post is running a poll asking if the Yanks should trade Damon? Thatís a year removed from New Yorkís laughing at the Nation for being dumb enough to hand him over to their biggest rivals. It shows how quickly things change as players age. Allen is the one to keep an eye on. Even though he averaged 26 a game last year, he did have a major injury and very few top guards have maintained star-level productivity beyond 32. And if it happens to Garnett sooner than later, this deal will be a disaster.

How Good Will Big Al Be: Iím betting an eventual All-Star and a big-time inside scorer for six or seven years after Garnett is retired. Thus this better work.

What Could Derail It: Iíve mentioned a few but biggest is ownership refusing to incur a luxury tax hit. I know itís not my money, but they canít cheap out now, because they need a better bench.

How Will It Be Judged a Success: Sorry making the finals might be nice for someone else, but this is the Celtics. So, even with recent history, only one thing makes it a success. They have to win it all. Thatís especially if Jefferson blossoms, McHale finds a star with the sure to be lottery pick he got in the deal and Gerald Green turns into the Reggie Lewis-like scorer I think heíll become.

Will They Do That: I donít know ó but I canít wait to find out.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).


8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs

7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat