Rapid reaction: C's cut Joseph, Varnado
* NOTHING GUARANTEED: In the NBA, roster space is a premium (and the Celtics know that from recent seasons). Varnado was signed on Christmas Eve as an obvious frontcourt stopgap after Doc Rivers announced Chris Wilcox would miss a month with a thumb injury. The Celtics essentially utilized him as if he was on some sort of fictional 13-day contract, but have always had their eyes out for a more proven big-man solution down the road (all while not disrupting the D-League development of raw first-round pick Fab Melo). Joseph appears to be the victim of championship desires. The Celtics liked a lot about this year's second-round pick (51st overall), but Joseph wasn't going to be able to help the team this year and that roster spot might be more valuable for a more proven player down the road.
* EVERY DOLLAR HELPS: By our rough per-game calculation, the Celtics save about $275,000 by cutting Joseph after 33 games. That's right around what a late-season, veteran-minimum addition would cost. Considering the Celtics are hard-capped at the $74.3 million tax apron -- and roughly $71.2 million is committed to current costs -- every available dollar gives the Celtics a little bit of extra wiggle room to maneuver later in the season.
* DESIRES OVER DEVELOPMENT: Rivers said last week about Varnado: "I like him a lot actually. He’s a guy, I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep or not, but he’s a guy you wish you could." With the deadline to waive non-guaranteed players looming, Boston had to make the decision about whether roster space might help the team more down the road, and it appears to have chosen flexibility over development. Again, teams with lofty aspirations typically lean this way. Think back to the 2010-11 season when the Celtics had Chris Johnson in on a 10-day contract after trading away Kendrick Perkins. The team wanted to keep Johnson, but Rajon Rondo was dinged up and ultimately elected to ink Carlos Arroyo for point guard depth and let Johnson walk (he was soon swooped up by the Trail Blazers).
* NO REASON TO RUSH: There's seemingly no reason to believe the Celtics won't stick with their desire to proceed patiently. Again, this all appears to be about flexibility. Boston already navigated maybe the roughest portion of its season and didn't make a panic move, so why start now? The Celtics finally are showing signs of reestablishing their defensive identity, particularly with the return of Avery Bradley, and it would seem foolish to rock things now unless there was a steal to be had on the trade market (and what reasonable seller would make a move a month before demand would increase from buyers at the deadline?)
* WHAT'S NEXT?: Because Joseph appeared in 10 games for Maine, the team holds his NBA D-League rights, meaning he could sign with the Red Claws if he clears waivers. The question is whether Joseph would be willing to take the meager salary with no guarantee of getting another NBA opportunity. Varando almost certainly will land back in the D-League and await his next opportunity.
As for the Celtics, they can ink players to 10-day contracts starting Monday (once Joseph and Varnado clear waivers), which would allow them to bring in some low-cost, non-guaranteed bodies to bide time until finalizing their roster for the stretch run. Rivers hasn't been bashful in acknowledging Boston's need to add more size. Whether it's via a trade or free-agent signing, it's clear the Celtics will add a veteran big man. The question is whether Danny Ainge can find something to his liking on the trade market, or whether he will settle for the best available champion-chaser at the waiver deadline. Ultimately, Boston's ability to maintain its current level of play should dictate Ainge's approach. If Boston continues to play inspired defense, a minor move could suffice; a regression to their late-December ways might encourage Ainge to get a little more creative.
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