June 25, 2009


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LONGSHOTS: Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C for Celtics
by Dave Long

The NBA draft is Thursday, but with it regarded as the weakest in years and the Celtics picking somewhere in the 50s it doesn’t have many on the edge of their seats. But, as generally is the case, the rumor mill is grinding away and surprisingly Rajon Rondo seems to be at the middle of most of them. 

The most popular is Rondo going to Memphis for the second pick that they’d use on Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who had everyone but me agog over him during last summer’s Olympics. I’ll freely admit I’ve had my misses on guys (UCLA’s Ed O’Bannon comes to mind) and since Danny Ainge is a great judge of talent even I’d listen to him before I’d listen to me. But unless Steve Nash materialized to start, as Rubio developed, it doesn’t make sense, since the Big Three doesn’t want to go into maybe their last shots at a title with a rookie point guard in tow.

Danny and Doc apparently have issues with Rondo’s occasional on-court inconsistency and off-court maturity. But while what I’m saying could be moot when you read this, I’m betting they’re sending a message and aren’t real serious about trading a rising NBA star. So with that said, let’s get to getting the team back in position to win another NBA title.

They’ve got three ways to approach it, with Kevin Garnett being the key piece to all three. They need to determine how long KG with be a top 5 player (two years), one in the top 10 as the inevitable slip takes place (year three) and a top 20 player (year four and five maybe) and then lay out a plan around the answers to those three questions. The other big issue is salary cap maneuverability. Since the Big Three are over it by themselves, they don’t have any. That’s why they got nothing done at the trading deadline because none of the remaining players were making enough money to balance off the salary of a veteran who could help. Thus they need to address that too.

Plan A – Go for it again and the future be damned: You only get so many shots at the brass ring so ride the Big Three hard for another year with the notion Ray Allen won’t be back when his contract expires in 2010. Then use their $5.5 million salary cap exemption to fill in the holes on the bench for a guy who can play defense at the three while scoring a little and for some size behind Kendrick Perkins, and KG. It also means it’s a one- (or maybe two-) and-done approach. But it gives them the best chance to win it next year.

Possible Options: Two free agents who come to mind are Grant Hill and Antonio McDyess. They’re near the end but still have a little left in the tank and are high-character guys who’ve already made a lot of money so maybe they’ll come for less to go for a ring. The biggest issue is they’ll have five of their top eight in their middle 30s, which equates to high risk in the injury department, and if they come at the wrong time of the year, that’s trouble.

Plan B – Extend it to a three-year target: My guess is KG will be a top 10 player in year three. So if you go this way you need a two guard for year two and three. So it means looking to trade Ray Allen now to a team in search of the salary cap space he’ll provide for the vaunted 2010 free agent class. It could also get them younger and give better contractual control for his replacement since Ray’s up in 2010. It may also offer the opportunity to add depth if it’s a two-for-one or a larger deal involving Brian Scalabrine’s $3.3 million salary. But it’s trading a guy who’s obviously still got game who, while not playing well against Orlando, had a great season and playoff vs. the Bulls when he scored 51 in a game. That also means his trade value may never be higher than it is right now.

Possible Options: Milwaukee (Michael Redd), Detroit (Richard Hamilton), Houston (Tracy McGrady) are three big names whose teams want to cut payroll, clear space for 2010 or have done well when he’s been out with injuries so it might be time to move on. Only Hamilton, who might help attract McDyess, would create the salary cap maneuverability they need, so my pick is him.

Plan C – Extend it to Garnett’s five-year window: This one involves building the team around Garnett and the young core of Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis while seeking salary cap maneuverability by trading Paul Pierce. Yes I know he’s a lifelong Celtic and I love Pierce. But that’s exactly how I felt when the original Big Three began to decline and then lived through TWENTY years of NBA irrelevancy before last year. Sorry, not willing to do that again. I want to see them win now and position themselves to win after this Big Three is a very pleasant memory.

Because of the pounding he gets from taking it to the basket and rebounding in a position that requires quickness, he’ll be the first of the three to decline. And, while it’s true he made some big shots in the playoffs, he looked slow and unfocused for long stretches as well. He’s got two high-level years left. So with the knowledge that his value may never be higher, as Branch Rickey says: “I’d rather trade a guy a year too early than a year too late.”

It’s risky because it’s doubtful they’ll get back in one guy the kind of scorer he is now. So they need to get the kind of deal Harry Sinden got when he did the unthinkable by sending Phil Esposito to the Rangers for Brad Park and Jean Ratelle. Young’ns and non-hockey folks check the glossary for the particulars. But in short, he traded an A+ and C player for a younger A- and B+ that kept them strong in the short term and in contention after Espo declined.

Possible Options: Eric Gordon and Marcus Camby from the Clippers. Gordon won’t be as good as Pierce, but he scored 16.5 as a rookie and adds another low-cost high-ceiling young’n to the core. Camby gives them size, experience, solid defensive skills and an expiring $10 million contract to go with Allen’s expiring deal to give them $26 million coming off the cap as Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James become free agents in the summer of 2010. 

I’m leaning to Plan C because it gives the best chance to be good for a five-year period and because of the possibility of Wade, who is as good as Kobe and younger. But if Rondo’s gone by now, all bets are off and it’s back to the drawing board for me.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time

6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
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 M’s 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
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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
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06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
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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
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04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
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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
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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
Hero’s 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