Written by: Matthew Blunk
The Boston Celtics were that close. Three games to two over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat. They had won both Games 3 and 4 at home, then the pivotal Game 5 on the road in Miami. But they never had a chance in Game 6 (James saw to that), and couldn't get the job done in Game 7. Old legs and paper-thin depth became Boston's ultimate undoing. Paul Pierce couldn't both defend James and carry the scoring load (actually, he did neither) for the Celtics, and the spirited efforts of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett were simply not enough. Ray Allen, hobbled as he was, failed to pose much of a threat offensively.
The "original" Big Three could be splitting up this summer. Both Garnett and Allen are set to become free agents, which simultaneously provides the Celtics with more cap room and more question marks. Does K. G. have another run in him? Would he accept a substantial pay cut? Or would he rather pursue a change of scenery, perhaps in the form of a team-up with longtime foe Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs? And just how strained is the relationship between Rondo and Allen? Why wouldn't Allen sign with the Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams with far more youth and talent than Boston?
Unless they find a way to enter the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes (which would likely cost them Rondo), the Celtics are in quite the bind. They have an excellent young point guard in Rondo (with some decidedly unfortunate offensive limitations), a rapidly-aging three in Pierce, a promising, defensively-gifted combo guard in Avery Bradley, and - well, not much else. Now, right off the bat, that's much more than some teams, but these are the Celtics - a proud, storied NBA franchise. At press time, Boston virtually has no frontcourt. Brandon Bass could opt-in and would immediately be penciled in as the starting four, but that's far from a certainty. Greg Stiemsma is a valuable backup center, but he lacks the overall talent to be an effective starter.
And so it becomes crystal clear that the C's need a C (C is for corny, I know). Even if Garnett returns, the Celtics should bring in one more big man, especially one that can rebound and put up some points every now and then. Boston also need at least a couple swingmen to relieve Bradley and Pierce. Mickael Pietrus fit in nicely, but he could exit in free agency. One intriguing name that most have already forgotten is Jeff Green. Green was acquired in the much-maligned Kendrick Perkins trade with the Thunder. A tall, athletic "combo" forward, Green has potential to become a great player. He missed all of 2011-12 with an aortic aneurysm, a serious heart condition. Despite the health issue and the lost season (it was a lockout year, after all), Green is still only 25 years old. He still has time to develop into a keeper.
A reserve point guard is perhaps the least of the Celtics' needs. Rondo is liable to play most of many games, as he has tremendous stamina and command of Doc Rivers' systems. Keyon Dooling filled in well at times this season, but GM Danny Ainge very well could go in another direction. The bottom line is that this team needs to get younger, faster, and much more athletic. They ran into trouble with the youthful Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Semifinals, and ultimately lost to the NBA's most athletic squad, the Heat. Of course, Ainge could just stay the course and bring back Garnett and possibly Allen, for one more run. But he has proven he is not afraid to make big offseason splashes. Anything goes this summer.
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