Patriots off-season part three

Tom Brady throws the ball during Super Bowl XX...

Tom Brady throws the ball during Super Bowl XXXIX. Brady connected with game Most Valuable Player Deion Branch 11 times to tie a Super Bowl record. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Restructuring of Chad Johnson’s contract- I think that this was a great move by Ocho because it proved that he is not about the money, at least at this point in his career, and that he is determined to show that he can make it in this offense. It was a positive move and for those who think that they should just cut ties with him all together I just have to say that I do not agree. What would they lose by bringing him into training camp and having him compete with Deion Branch, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte Stallworth and Brandon Lloyd? So why not see what he can do with a full, real off-season and time to study. Last season it wasn’t just Chad “Ocho” Johnson who had trouble with his new team it was also Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Lee Evans, Steve Smith, Donovan McNabb, Zach Miller, Albert Haynesworth, and Shaun Ellis just to name a few. He can work in this system, he can be a contributor and an impact player but it is all on Chad to learn this system and Brady. Honesty, learning this system is not just about the playbook but it is also about learning Tom Brady and HIS playbook because they are different. Chad is smart and I think he will make the team. My prediction is that Gonzalez will get hurt and Stallworth will be underwhelming.

CB- Will Allen- He did not do much last season but this is a decent signing. They need some depth so that they do not have to rely on offensive players to jump in and play some important and major snaps. He will not be an impact player because he has lost a step or two but he can still make some plays. It is nice to be able to have a seasoned veteran to step in at nickel back or into the starting role if need be. Grade: B

FB/LB- Spencer Larsen– I am not so sure that Larsen will make the roster honestly. With that being said, it is not a bad signing. I have said, before this blog was created, that one of the biggest holes that they had was at FB. You remember what Heath Evans brought to the team when he was on our roster and what we were missing when he was gone and so that’s why I believe getting a half-way decent fullback is on the list for this season. I do not think that Larsen is a bad fullback but when you compare him to Lousaka Polite, who was just released, and the recent signing of Tony Fiammetta (see below) I think that either Polite or Fiammetta are better options. (Polite lost though sadly) Maybe he can contribute more as a defensive player and special teams player. In addition, Josh McDaniels being here now might help him make the roster in some position but maybe not FB.  Grade: C

WR- Deion Branch– A good signing because you do not know what Stallworth, Lloyd, Gonzalez and Ocho will bring you and so you need some insurance. In addition, Deion wants to be here and is a great locker room guy, which is a key with the new draft picks that will be coming in after the draft. I originally said that signing Branch would bring about the end to the Ocho experiment but it appears I am wrong, shocking, but training camp could weed out one or two of these guys so I can see why they signed all of these guys. This move will also assure them that Slater can concentrate on special teams and maybe even defense, which he is better at. Grade: A

FB- Tony Fiammetta– Bringing him in to compete with Larsen is a good move by the Patriots. Bringing in a FB will allow them to go back to a more traditional running game and help Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen next season. It will also open up the playbook more and give Brady more options if coverage down the field is good and needs to dump it off. To add an element like that just makes it harder for defenses to successfully stop the offense on a consistent basis. Even though the offense has been great, I think it was also a little too transparent and after a while, defenses knew how to stop them. All you did, really, was make Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski a non-factor by a double team or putting one of your best guys on them and force the Patriots to win with the rest of the guys. Also not having a real FB on the roster made them be creative with one and often-used DL, Aaron Hernandez or an OL but that did not really work. Grade: B

Mark Anderson signs with the Buffalo Bills- His goal I think was accomplished, which was to resurrect his career here in New England and he did. I say good for him but Bills have to know that he is not an every down guy and if they use him on every down, he loses his effectiveness. Just like when they had Aaron Maybin, he was not an every down player but they tried to use him like one and it didn’t work out… then Maybin found his calling with the Jets as a part time player in pass rushing situations. If they use him to his strengths, it will work out for them and he could make Brady’s life harder twice a year, especially with a lot of attention going to Mario Williams.

Patriots release FB Lousaka Polite- Well you knew something had to give when they signed both Larsen and Fiammetta and Polite lost. Polite is a good player but was not going to make the roster most likely so he now has a chance to land with another team and I hope he does honestly. He is a good fullback and some teams in the league have some bad ones so he could step in and contribute.

The Patriots have still yet to make a move and get an impact player or two for defense. They need a pass rusher and a safety and the more they ignore that need the more other teams will take advantage of that. I would think that the strategy would be to go defense heavy in the draft or at least target some real potential talent in the first few rounds. After all, he did build a defensive line before that was one of the best and he did it through the draft, with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. The question is can he land an OLB/DE, a safety and a DL all in one draft? Maybe that is why Bill has been trading down all of these years, to fill positions with high-potential players a lot, sooner than he did before. The math makes sense; the odds go up with more picks but the odds of landing a dud also goes up so basically you’re in Las Vegas. Well the house always wins, or so I hear and that makes it difficult for the Patriots to land premium guys in a short pan obviously, because they have missed. The combination of trying to land great talent in one or two years means you might have to go after players who might have a lower ceiling but can still play at a higher level, to make them fit under the cap. Of course, this is just a theory, a theory of a shut in writer who thinks and analyzes things a little too much. I must say that this is a solid strategy if it is indeed true and one that if it worked would have kept the rotation of talent going and replacing Seymour, Warren, Bruschi, Law and others wouldn’t have been plaguing them still. I doubt that this theory of mine is true because well it is mine and I have not read it anywhere else, unless of course it is just blatantly obvious that any team would do that if they wanted to refill the talent pool faster.

My overall impression so far is that they have made some good moves to try to ensure that they do not have undrafted rookies as starters but have not really done much else. They went heavy on offense so far and bid farewell to some good players but also committed to some other young ones they believe in. I see the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a commitment to Ridley, Vereen and Woodhead and that is not a bad thing. Ridley and Vereen have both shown that they have the potential to fill the role left behind by Law Firm, also in my opinion they will surpass it. I did not mention Matt Light and whether or not he is going to retire because it is not confirmed yet and as a side note, I would like to see the Patriots bring in Kevin Faulk as a coach.

What is wrong with the New York Knicks?

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In one word: Melo.

A player who the New York Knicks traded for at the trade deadline last season even though Donnie Walsh, former president of basketball operations, was against it. Mike D’Antoni preferred the players that he had before the trade. The carnage left behind because of this trade is continuing to grow, it all started with Donnie Walsh leaving and could lead to Mike D’Antoni losing his job but will that be the end of it? If Mike does lose his job as the Head Coach then whom do they bring in? Does he keep the system in tact or go in a different direction? What happens to Jeremy Lin, who blossomed in D’Antoni’s offensive system?

You hear all of the grumbling that Carmelo Anthony is a team player but want the ball, often not playing the D’Antoni system and standing whatever he wants and also Baron Davis wants more minutes because he plays Melo’s offensive system and everyone agrees that Carmelo Anthony is a problem. It has become Mike D’Antoni versus Carmelo Anthony and only one will survive the season on the team, who will it be? Well, considering one or two of the members of management still believe in Melo I see Mike being let go.

However, I think both shouldn’t be back next season just because it was both of them that poisoned this situation. Mike didn’t stand up for HIS system, which Melo doesn’t follow or act out completely. He doesn’t quiet down Melo’s frustrations with Lin when Lin doesn’t pass the ball to him because Melo abandoned the play. Carmelo thinks that this shouldn’t be D’Antoni’s offensive system but should be HIS offensive system. Anyone ever see that Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode where Will Smith ends up playing on the Bel-Air basketball team and pretty much takes every shot, never passes, takes all the glory and his teammates end up turning on him? Yeah, sounds like the Knicks situation and it’s sad because I agree that the Knicks were better off with the other players that they had but I would rather have Jeremy Lin than Raymond Felton. Carmelo needed to fit into the system and work within the system and check his ego at the door but he didn’t. You cannot claim to be a team player but want the ball it’s somewhat weird. You can’t throw a temper tantrum when a player doesn’t pass you the ball.

I see Jeremy Lin being another casualty of a new coach coming in because he could give in to Baron Davis’ demands of more time just because he’ll give the ball to Melo and get out of the way. That would be too bad because right now I still think that Lin is the better player between the two of them. What do the New York Knicks need to do in order to improve? Trade Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby and/or some other pieces and try to get a back up power forward/center. Honestly if I was running the team I would trade Carmelo Anthony and try to get some pieces back in return that will fit with the team better.

I also just read a rumor on ESPN.com that the Orlando Magic would be interested in a trade package of Carmelo Antony and Tyson Chandler for Dwight Howard, if the Knicks offered. DO IT! You know Hedo Turkoglu would be added to the deal as well and it works in the ESPN Trade Machine.

Just an update, as I was writing this, hoopshype.com reports that Mike D’Antoni has resigned as the Head Coach of the New York Knicks.

Melo wins the battle but for the Knicks sake, I hope that they win the war and trade Melo. Mike Woodson is not going to be a good replacement because I don’t think he’ll please all parties and if he wants to “please” Melo then that might mean benching Lin and playing Davis who will pass him the ball no matter what, even if he’s quadruple teamed. With Woodson running it Amare and some others might lose out just because he’ll run everything through Carmelo Anthony and I see this failing. For those who don’t remember or know Mike Woodson is the former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and brough them to the Finals… wait… he didn’t? You mean to tell me that they were just an average team despite the talent they had? Get out, next you’ll tell me that Paul Pierce was offered to the Portland Trail Blazers today… wait he was? What universe is this?

Update: Reports I’ve read say that Mike D’Antoni threw out the idea of trading Carmelo Anthony for Deron Williams in the meeting where he resigned. I don’t think that this helped his situation and I don’t know how he thought it would improve his standings with Knicks Management. So you trade a SF for a PG but keep in mind that Knicks already have a log jam at PG with Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert and he wanted to add Deron Williams. Okay so did he have a plan to get a SF? You have 6 players at the PG position, 3 or 4 of which are useless and water boys, so mentioning that to management probably didn’t help him much… just sayin’. I am 100% in favor of trading Carmelo but for something that makes sense really.

Boston Celtics: Trade Ideas.

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The Boston Celtics don’t have to improve that much as I said here

Who is available?

Jose Calderon, Chris Kaman, Michael Beasley, James Anderson, Stephen Jackson, Marvin Williams, Ramon Sessions, J.J. Hickson (maybe), Devin Harris, Paul Millsap (maybe), Cole Aldrich (maybe), O.J. Mayo, Chris Andersen, Monta Ellis, Andrew Bogut

So what deals could you make? These trades have been worked on through ESPN NBA Trade Machine

Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O’Neal to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Kaman. However then you need to upgrade the Point Guard position.

Ray Allen to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye. Didn’t really work in the Trade Machine, Clippers would have to shed about a million dollars but maybe throw in a third team or send them cash to make it work.

Ray Allen to the Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis. He would step in, be the Point Guard and might be a better player to try to entice other players to play in Boston. Obviously, throwing in a pick will probably be necessary but it’s still a move that is believable.

Kevin Garnet to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia. Not sure Atlanta would do this without another big coming back there way which would mean a third team would be involved, especially since Atlanta is doing so well.

Rajon Rondo and Marquis Daniels or Sasha Pavlovic to the Milwaukee Bucks for Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson. Stephen Jackson has a bad contract however and I’m not sure this move would make you better now and could make you worse depending on Jennings and Jackson.

Rajon Rondo to the Phoenix Suns for Steve Nash. The Suns, who respect Nash a lot and what he’s done for them, trade him to a contender and in return get a Point Guard they can move forward with. Being a younger and athletic team fits Rondo’s style better.

You can trade Marquis Daniels and/or Sasha Pavlovic to just free up a roster spot so you could bring in someone else who can make an impact. Who? James Posey, Gilbert Arenas could be options. You also have the NBA D-League and a name the Celtics could be interested in is Jeff Foote, according to CSNNE.com.

Trading Rondo is a risk because how sure are you that Avery Bradley can step in and take over that starter role. Another name that is an interesting one is Monta Ellis and with his 22 points per game and 6 assists per game, he is the guy to take the load off of Pierce. In addition, he is not afraid of clutch moments but has been compared to Stephan Marbury because of his tendency to be a slight ball-hog.

It will depend on if Danny thinks that they need to make some moves to get a better shot at winning a title or to move forward past the Big 3 era. With the expiring deals of most of the roster, I don’t see Danny making any moves that would bring extra money onto the salary cap for next season, not unless he likes the player. However, the free agent pool next season is not the deepest and not filled with many game changers past Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and I don’t see either of them in green. Despite what the Boston Celtics record says, I’m okay with them the way they are. Check what  Danny Ainge said here about the Boston Celtics and the trade deadline. I’m also not a huge fan of the ESPN NBA Trade Machine because as long as the salaries match up you can make any trade successful but it is a good idea by ESPN so can’t blame them for having it.

NBA Trade Deadline is March 15th at 3 P.M. EST.

UPDATE: Leondaro Barbosa, Andray Blatche, Armon Johnson are also on the trade block. Also according to a New York Post article the Celtics have shown at least some interest in Timberwolves SF Michael Beasley.

Boston Celtics: To blow it up or to not blow it up.

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So will Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, blow this up with the lack of consistent play from the Celtics? On the other hand, will he wait and see if they can get it together? After all Boston’s Big 3, which consists of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnet are not getting any younger and Rajon Rondo is not developing into that all-around Point Guard that they might have hoped. However, this is one of the better benches that they’ve had since the Big 3 era began with the key additions of Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox. In addition, the draft picks have worked out; both E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson have played very well in the time they’ve earned thus far. In addition, Greg Stiemsma has contributed, mainly with his knack for blocks.

So far, Rajon Rondo’s numbers are slightly up but it is good. Shooting percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throws are all up just a little. However, free throws are up from last season he still needs some work to get back to 65%, which he shot during his first season. His points per game are at just about 15 and assists per game is still hovering around 9-10. Paul Pierce’s numbers have taken a slide but that could be just a side effect of his slow start and injury that started the season. Ray Allen is around the same that he always has been with his numbers except his points per game is down to 14. Kevin Garnet has sort of rediscovered his 3 point shot but still the Celtics are in the bottom of the playoff seeding. So what is missing? Why are they losing?

Well it could be other teams’ defenses tightening up on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen or lack of offensive rebounds; I mean it’s like a disease to them honestly. It could also be the lack of penetration (shut up you know what I mean) and not getting to the line or the condensed schedule but I think it’s just a little bit of all of them. If I was coaching another team, I would tell them to play Pierce and Allen tight and focus on the boards cause the Celtics won’t fight for them but that’s basic I think because I have seen it in most games thus far.

Rondo makes this thing go but he is the biggest piece that you have in order to get the team back to the top so what do you do? Do you hope that Rondo will improve with a more athletic team, or surrounded by a team that he thinks are his equals and not hall of famers? Rondo would benefit from a younger, more athletic team but everyone knows that and it has been said many times on CSN during games or online sites. If you do plan to blow this thing up or making moves to give you a better shot at a title what do you do? Well you have to look at some underachievers on the bench right now in Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic maybe you upgrade them. However, Pavlovic has some potential to play much better than he has and really needs to step it up because he is a better play than Marquis. Maybe giving more time and more confidence to Greg Stiemsma or move him? You have James Posey, Leon Powe and some others available but are they an upgrade over Marquis, Pavlovic and “The Steamer”? No, except maybe Posey over Daniels but that’s a coin flip really.

I think you do not blow this up and stand pat with what you have on your roster. It’s a good roster and has some potential to be better. This team is better than its record and while they are not real title contenders, they have a chance to steal a title. You have to get better with rebounding, they aren’t the flu, go after them and you have to get better on the offensive side of the ball somehow. Whether it is through adjusting rotations, starting lineups or just something to increase the energy. Rondo cannot be afraid to go to the line, which so far he hasn’t been, and he must take more of the offensive load. This is his year to prove himself, that Danny can put a team around him next season, and they will succeed. I don’t know why Rondo “can’t shoot” but 2 years ago he did very well facing off against Kevin Durant in the finals of the H.O.R.S.E. competition after it coming down to 3 point shots and he did shot after shot (check you tube, I kid you not). In addition, this year he landed second in the Skills Competition and one of the reasons was not because he fell short at the shooting station. (Actually, in the finals Deron Williams fell short at that station)

I still think that minutes played and Rondo’s fear of going to the free throw line was one of the main reasons they lost against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2010. You can blame the refs and you can blame the rebounding but it was conditioning. Anyway, they cannot let that get in the way this season and like I said, they have a chance to maybe sneak into the NBA Finals and steal a win but honestly, I see them as a second round elimination. Danny has put his pieces where he wants them and at the end of the year, this team will be “blown up” so why not just stand pat and see where it goes. Maybe a minor tweak if you want but I would not make any huge moves like those that he did last season, which was a mistake.

Will Jeremy Lin change the NBA? Who else was missed?

Jeremy Lin at the 2010 Golden State Warriors o...
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By: Ian

It wouldn’t be a sports blog without joining the rest of the crowd and talking about Jeremy Lin. So in this case if everyone jumped off a bridge I’d follow. Jeremy Lin has caused such a stir in the media, the internet and the NBA world, even with aliens. If they ever came to this planet and commanded to take them to our leader, you better take them to Lin’s place, of course I’m kidding. What a great story to tell, a player who got cut twice, went undrafted and now has his chance to show that everyone missed a golden nugget and he is doing just that. I love what is happening in New York with Jeremy Lin and I hope that it continues and he proves to be a legit Point Guard. The way his career was going there was no way he would have ever been compared to Steve Nash or any elite Point Guard but he turned that around but all of this just makes me think… who else did everyone miss on? Who didn’t get the chance to shine and went unseen? Did the NBA miss the next Michael Jordan? Bill Russell? Larry Bird? Did we all miss someone who, might not be elite, but be able to scratch the surface to being one? Whose bench did he rot on? Out of all the sports we watch on television does basketball need a second league?

In the NBA you never hear about a late round gem or anything like that, heck if you’re not picked in the top 10 then a team might not even think you can “make it”. Yet in the NFL you have 7 rounds and it is very likely for a team to get a solid, consistent starter in the later rounds like 4th or 5th. Example being the Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop who was picked last in the draft a few years ago, gaining the title Mr. Irrelevant, but he has made his case and has become a decent starter. I know, it’s a kicker, but okay then let’s look at Tom Brady who was a 6th round draft pick, even Darrelle Revis the top shutdown corner in the  league was picked in the 3rd. Kurt Warner anyone? So, how is it that in the NBA even 1st round picks must fight to be noticed and the 2nd round is full of future d-league players?

Obviously the numbers of players per team is a reason, 15 being the most, but only about 12 can dress for a game. Also most starters play a significant amount of time and on both sides of the ball so a player must be good at both offense AND defense, which can sometimes hurt the offensive studs who are defensive duds (unless your name is Carmelo Anthony then you’ll be fine). Also you have to take into factor that if a team has a star on the team then that player is most likely going to see about 40 minutes or so at his position who that doesn’t leave a lot of room for others. The NBA is also not known for player loyalty or General Managers trying to build through the draft, which I think hurts them because with a high turnover in rosters then it’s hard for players to develop and prove themselves. Also you have cases of players being played out of position out of necessity or because someone sees them playing that position, even if they’re potentially better at another.

So far the story is Jeremy Lin but one of the hidden stories could  possibly be Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas, who they picked last in the 2011 draft and has played well and is establishing a role for himself on that team and in the NBA. Who could have been a name that maybe surprised some people? I’d say Kyle Singler, who was once a first round pick but because of a poor senior year at Duke he fell in the draft to the second round. Who am I honestly surprised isn’t on an NBA team yet? Jon Scheyer, the former Duke star who is now playing overseas and who I really believe could be a good role player for a team. Also Boston Celtics shooting guard E’Twaun Moore has shown that he can play in this league so I plead with the NBA General Managers… in the 2nd round instead of picking international players who MIGHT be on your team during your tenure why not instead pick a young kid who can come in and be a role player for you. Maybe guys like Lin, Thomas, Moore and others can turn the NBA around and show that talent does exist outside of the top 10, you just have to be willing to look for it.

Some key names from the 2nd round

2008 NBA Draft: Guard Mario Chalmers to Miami Heat, Center Omer Asik to the Chicago Bulls (eventually), DeAndre Jordan to the Los Angeles Clippers.

2009 NBA Draft: DeJuan Blair to the San Antonio Spurs, Chase Budinger to the Houston Rockets,

2010 NBA Draft: Landry Fields to the New York Knicks

Who eventually could become a key role player? Greg Stiemsma undrafted player who currently plays for the Boston Celtics who could turn into a defensive type of role player who has a knack for blocking shots. Greg need to look no further than Ben Wallace as a guy who made it as a specialist in the league. He is also fairly decent on the offensive side of the ball cause he can hit the outside shot. Luke Harangody who was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2010 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics and was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers mid-season. He is a player who has some good hustle, can score and has decent rebounding ability. I see him as a Matt Bonner/Troy Murphy type of guy eventually if he is given a chance. He just really needs to work on his defense. Chandler Parsons who got drafted this past draft by the Houston Rockets. He is a good player, picked by a team who has a tendency to find some good players late and actually keep them. Another team who can do that? Boston, except they don’t usually keep those guys but that is the life of a competitive team, I guess. Lance Stephenson who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers. He showed some promise early in the league but has trailed off but I think he can be a decent player eventually. Of course most of these guys could easily end up solid d-league starters but they have to work hard on getting better and being consistent cause they won’t be all-stars but they can be a key member of a bench.

I’m not sure how many other all-stars the NBA has missed but seeing what Jeremy Lin can do and knowing that even the Knicks were about to cut him makes me think. I guess however for every diamond in the rough you can find a hand full of all-stars so it evens out but still, it’d be nice if the NBA had more late draft/undrafted steals cause it’s not really out of the realm of possibility. This is just one area of the NBA that can bother me and one of the reasons why I can’t get into the NBA as much as I could.

2011-2012 Boston Celtics Season Preview

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After getting beat in the playoffs last season it seemed that the Boston Celtics needed to make some changes to get back to the promise land over the newly revamped Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls who are growing up right before our eyes. Some of the holes were exposed and some of the negatives were shined upon. We found out during that series that Carlos Arroyo, while seeming ideal, did not turn out to be a good back up for Rajon Rondo after being picked up off waivers from the Heat so late in the season. We also learned that Jeff Green isn’t as effective as a bench player but still has some potential to grow and be a decent player, that Glen “Big Baby” Davis can actually disappear despite his size, that the only productive thing Jermaine O’Neal did during the season was start a clothing line, Rondo takes things hard sometimes but is tough as nails and that the signing of Shaq was better than most thought but still fell short of expectations. I will be the first to admit that when I heard that we signed Shaq I was not thrilled about it at all. I did not think he would be productive but I was wrong and he did good in the games he played and I have little doubt that Shaq, if he played, would have made a difference in the Heat series and the playoffs.

In the NBA draft in the 2010-11 season they picked Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody, both picks I thought were very solid picks and although he was traded I thought Harangody looked promising. I was also fairly impressed with the contributions of Von Wafer, Delonte West and Semih Erden. This season will most likely be remembered for “the trade” where Danny, for some reason, blew up his bench and traded Kendrick Perkins, and Nate Robinson for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, and a 2012 protected first round pick. They also sent Luke Harangody and Semih Erden to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a mere 2nd round pick in 2013 and finally sent the injured Marquis Daniels to the Sacramento Kings for a 2017 2nd round pick. At the time the Celtics were 38-14 and had a big hole to fill after Daniels went down with a season ending injury and lacked SF depth but I am not sure why they blew up the bench after such a strong start to the season. The players added afterwards were fillers at the most and did not do much. They signed Point Guard Carlos Arroyo, Power Forward Troy Murphy, and Small Forward Sasha Pavlovic to fill out the players they gave to the Cavs and Kings but I argue that they might have been better off just keeping those guys (Harangody, Erden) because they were more familiar with the system than the three that came in.

So how do you recover from such a huge gamble that backfired? Well first in the 2011 draft they drafted MarShon Brooks who was then traded to the New Jersey Nets for Power Forward JaJuan Johnson, from Purdue, a great move by them for sure and then in the second round drafted Shooting Guard E’Twaun Moore who was also a solid pick. The focus was on a productive bench who could cut into the minutes of the Big 3 without much lose in productivity and a bench that could hold their own. So they set their eyes on Chris Paul, since Rondo has not made such advancement in the shooting development, and they needed a scorer to take some weight off of Paul Pierce and the rest of the Big 3. The reports varied in what the Celtics actually offered the New Orleans Hornets but one constant was Rajon Rondo. However, it fell through and now the question was how would Rondo react?

In the first few games of the shortened NBA season Rajon Rondo reacted very well and was aggressive and effective on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe this is a new Rondo? Maybe he has in fact turned a corner and improved his offensive or maybe this is just false hope and he is just the same Rondo, just motivated. What better motivation than the team you call home, the team that you thought was going to go forward with you as the centerpiece, trying to trade you but was it enough to last the season? Can he consistently score 15-20 points per game and really start to take his game to the next level? The first few games’ stats might have just been skewed in Rondos favor because he had to be better offensively since Boston Celtics Captain Paul Pierce was out of those games with a heel injury. The Celtics filled out the revamped bench with Point Guard Keyon Dooling, Power Forward Brandon Bass after trading Glen Davis and Von Wafer to the Magic for him, Power Forward Chris Wilcox, Small Forward Marquis Daniels who came back from a scary injury, Small Forward Sasha Pavlovic, the surprise key pick up in Center Greg Stiemsma who was the D-League defense player award winner and proved so by blocking 6 shots in one game alone and finally just signed Shooting Guard Mickael Pietrus off of waivers from the Phoenix Suns. I think that this is a good bench for the Celtics and the key members o the team will be Jermaine O’Neal, Bass, Pietrus and most of all I think Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics did not start off the season very strong at all with 3 losses to start the season to the New York Knicks who improved on defense with the pick up of Tyson Chandler, which might have been a play to lure Chris Paul to them but I’m not talking about that… it will give me a headache. Other losses to the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Hornets did not give a good impression to the fans and raise any hopes of Banner 18. The losses seemed to be a lack of chemistry and the injury to Pierce, so it just told me that eventually this team will get it going but what will this condensed schedule do to the older Celtics team? The Celtics got the first win of the season against the Detroit Pistons who are in the middle of the rebuilding process and let a key member of the team walk away to the Bulls in Richard Hamilton but the rookie Brandon Knight has played nicely and they are led by former Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank. While the win was nice and needed to keep some illusion of dominance Rondo crawled back in his cave it seemed and just had 9 points and 5 assists shooting 50% from the field and at the line as well so that had me wonder and worry.

So far Rondo has played well and better than he did last season and his percentage from the field and the free throw line are good at this moment but can he keep it up consistently? So let’s go over what I think the keys are for the Celtics to finish the season one of the Top 3 teams in the East.

1. Rajon Rondo must be more aggressive, consistent, and effective on offense and take that next step in his progression as a top Point Guard. The Big 3 are getting older and with a new bench it will be on Rondo to provide some offense to help Paul Pierce, who is usually relied upon as the top scorer. He also has to take that next step for the future as well because once this season is over the Celtics’ options are vast but limited at the same time. They will have enough cap room to sign two players to max contracts and they will need Rondo as the major selling point and a person that they need to be a top guy to draw in some high-caliber names. I am very skeptical of the future just because I remember that the Celtics could not draw in big names when Paul Pierce was “The Guy” and the major selling point and he was and is better than Rondo.

2. Jermaine O’Neal must be healthy throughout the season and the playoffs. Jermaine might never play to the level he played when he was an all-star with the Pacers but he can still be a factor on both sides of the ball and with limited minutes he can give enough to make people forget about that awful trade last season. We all know which one, it still stings so never mind.

3. The bench must keep leads or keep them in a game and maybe even sometimes get them back into a game that is slipping away. The best bench thus far since the championship season was last season, before “The Trade” and this bench can be better than that. What they lacked last season they have this season, for the most part anyway, so the potential is there. So far they have played pretty well but you can tell that sometimes the chemistry is still developing and some of the players don’t know where they will fit or where there shots will come from. Until they have some defined roles then this will continue but Doc is a great coach and he will figure it out. The rookies E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson must be ready to get their number called because despite Doc’s reputation to not play rookies, he just might have to with this schedule. The one area that has always been a problem was Rondo’s back up and the only name to even come close to being a good one after Cassel left was Nate Robinson and that was only when he was focused and on his game. Dooling and Bradley will be looked upon to carry that label and do the job right. Some names are still available if Dooling can’t get it done, but so far so good and he is a welcomed part of the bench.

One thing you might have noticed I did not mention was the health and play of the Big 3. I’m not really that concerned about it, at least not more than I am those other three things. Doc will do a good job with minutes and making sure players don’t wear themselves out before the end of the season. Plus it is an obvious key part to the overall success of the Celtics that I think it just didn’t need to be said. Garnet has lost a step defensively, at least that’s what I have seen thus far, but that comes with getting older and he is still one of the best Power Forwards in the game. So how will the Celtics finish?

The Boston Celtics will finish the season as the third seed but probably won’t make it past the Heat. Surprise of the season? Steimsma will become a key member of the bench and Rondo will be involved in more trade talks mid-season. Some names to keep an eye on? James Posey, Andrei Kirilenko, and yes Nate Robinson. My diagnosis of Rajon Rondo and his offense is that he is playing with three hall-of-famers and might not feel the need to score but rather just run the floor effectively and focuses more on his defense. When a member of the Big 3 goes down to injury or is just inactive for a game he is more aggressive and scores whenever he wants it seems. He is still below average as a shooter and free throw shooter but I believe that we will notice more of his progress when the Big 3 aren’t here or he is on another team. However I think it is vital for him to get that shot consistent now rather than later and if he does improve his shooting and free throw percentage this season somehow then it will be one of the main reasons why the Boston Celtics claimed Banner 18 this season.

Season prediction? Miami Heat wins the Finals over The Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games.

What options do the Boston Celtics have? CP3?

English: Chris Paul in a game against Boston, ...

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The NBA has gone down the path of the super team and Boston has to make some adjustments in order to stay in the game. If they do not land a super star or two they will at the most be a 4 seed in the future, which doesn’t  seem bad however depending on the talent that they have they might not be able to make it past round 2. Of course that is the optimist side of the tracks, they could also slip into mediocrity just like they did in the early 2000’s and Ainge and Doc will be two names of the past and I must admit that I am not so sure that I want that, those two have done a good job. Doc is not shy and will play who he trusts, who is producing and who he needs to in order to win and Danny will make whatever necessary trades he needs to in order to keep this team in the Top 3 of the NBA. So lets pan out some scenarios that could keep the Celtics battling each year.

1. Land Chris Paul from the Hornets and hope that Dwight Howard isn’t traded so that you may try to lure him to Boston to join CP. Another key part of that is surrounding them with enough other talent and viable starters to push them past the other top teams. However, you have to look at some other key issues to this and that is what did they give up to get CP3? Recently I have heard that the names thrown into the deal are Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, E’Twaun Moore, Jeff Green and some first round picks to get CP3. So with no picks to surround them with talent you must rely on free agency to draw some talent in and while that might not be such a bad idea, you just never know who you can afford after giving max contracts to both CP3 and Howard. Also Howard has said that he wants to be in a big market and (this is the kicker) a warm market. Sooo… unless we trick him into thinking Boston is warmer than Orlando, LA and some other markets we’re not going to get him. So with questions surrounding that will CP3 stay when the other big name that could come here has already make it hard? Not sure. Scenario 1 is a dangerous road and one with the likely hood that we don’t keep Paul and while we have a crazy amount of cap room can’t get Paul or Howard to come here.

2. Trade Rondo in exchange for some real promising young talent who can actually score but actually keep the Clippers pick and hope it lands in the Top 10 or Top 5 of the draft so that you get a great player who can potentially start off the bat. The Celtics seem to be stuck with players just because of the cap situation they always are in, which is the case now. With what I have read on the internet and his play last season it seems that they are not happy with Jeff Green, they apparently tried to trade him back to OKC, with Rondo to get Westbrook and Perkins. However they have to try and resign him because they are limited in options to fill out the roster which also means that they are likely to try to bring back ball-hog Glen “Big Baby” Davis even though the majority of fans are sick of him taking shots he can’t hit and missing a wide out player. This scenario gives them an opportunity to start over and get some talent in they like more and restart the Celtics around the players they got back for Rondo and the Clippers pick. This scenario is also dangerous just because you probably don’t have any super stars on the team just now and the Clippers pick has to be a hit and Ainge has to resist from trading him if he is a potential all-star. The chance of this turning into what the Celtics were in the early 2000’s is kind of high.

3. Stay on the current path and keep Rondo, let Avery, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore develop and hope that they can contribute if not become borderline stars and then sign some free agents, most likely NOT CP3 or Howard but starters at least and hope that is enough to bring you a banner or two. Names in the 2012 that could be on the radar: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (T-Wolves drafted Derrick Williams who is a SF/PF type of player so one of these two might not be back) O.J. Mayo (Restricted but as of now still might be available) and some other decent names, so maybe you gamble on Rondo and see who you can draw to Boston with him as your star.

4. This scenario is what I would do if I was in Danny’s shoes. I would try to trade Rondo but also will very willing to go forward with him as well, it’s either Chris Paul or stay with Rondo. Unless of course some ridiculous deal is thrown your way that you can’t ignore. You have to look at the young pieces that you now have in Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore and add to those pieces in the 2012 free agency class and the 2012 NBA draft. What I would definitely keep in mind and not trade away is that Clippers first round pick which one site (nbadraft.net credited) has already put up a mock draft (extremely early) and the Celtics pick is now 8th. So you have a Top 10, maybe a Top 5 pick and then you look at the 2012 free agency to fill out some key areas. Kevin Garnet and Ray Allen are not on your salary anymore so you look at, in my opinion, Michael Beasley who is not a star but a decent starter or Kevin Love who is a better than Beasley or at least played that way. I’d also keep my eyes on other young guys like O.J. Mayo and some other key veterans who may or may not be available like Chauncey Billups or Allen Iverson who can get you some key minutes off the bench if they haven’t lost too much game. Heck, maybe, if you land the right young guys via draft and free agency you can get KG and Allen to come back for crazy cheap and very limited minutes either starting or coming off the bench. This is an unlikely scenario but one I like, of course, cause it’s mine. As a last note to this scenario I would, depending on how the 2011 season worked out and how well they played, consider trading Rondo and Green again.

I think the best option is to probably try to trade Rajon Rondo and get back a better PG, not many are actually better than him but just because of where the NBA is headed you have to try. Honestly I think it’s sad, like I’ve stated before, that a team must try to land a top name or names to stay in contention for a championship. It’d be nice if any given year any team could actually win the championship by just development of young talent and maybe making a minor move or two but alas this is not the NFL and you need at least two stars on your team. Bottom line is the NBA has 5 teams and the rest are jobbers, this is like wrestling now and the top teams are Hogan, Flair, Warrior and the others are Brooklyn Brawler and Doink the Clown. So who do the Celtics want to be? Either they make some moves to guarantee that they stay as one of the top teams, or gamble on draft picks and develop and hope that will keep them as a top team. Either way I believe in Danny and Doc and know that they will make what changes they need to make to get us back to Banner 18 and doing it sooner rather than later. The one thing that ties the Celtics up each year is that they can be forced to resign some talent that they do not like but are better than who is available to them in free agency but one thing I read is that teams (Heat) are going to have trouble filling out their roster due to the money tied up by the Big 3 they have, so many that will stop teams from making Super teams.