Monday, June 28, 2010
Updated: June 29, 7:40 PM ET
Rivers' future headlines busy week
By Chris Forsberg
In an offseason full of uncertainty, the Boston Celtics expect the first of many dominos to fall this week, which could trigger a chain reaction and determine exactly how this team will look moving forward.
Before fireworks decorate the sky on July 4, and before the Celtics' summer league team tips off the next day in Orlando, we should have a much better idea about how the 2010-11 version of this team will be constructed.
Here are four key areas to keep an eye on this week:
Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted on draft night that he hopes to make a decision on his future before July 1 and suggested that he needed one more conversation with his family before ending the drama about whether he'll return to the Boston bench next season.
In the days following the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rivers indicated that he was leaning hard in one direction and spoke like someone who was set to choose family over basketball. But his participation in the Celtics' offseason process, including the draft, regardless of how much he downplayed his role, only led to speculation that maybe he'll stick around after all.
Even still, Rivers simply chalked up his presence to, "I'm still an employee." But the more he's around the team, it seems, the harder it might be for him to walk away. Rivers openly admitted that players were lobbying him hard to stay and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he's asked Rivers to think long and hard before making a decision.
Rivers would likely need his family to be 110 percent supportive of a decision to return to basketball in order to throw himself back on the sideline. After all the speculation about Rivers walking away, it will be interesting to see if his family is truly willing to sacrifice having Dad around more in order for Rivers to pursue the championship that barely eluded the team this month.
Guard Paul Pierce must alert the Celtics by Wednesday if he plans to trigger an early termination option in his contract. Pierce is set for a $21.5 million payday next season, but could opt out with eyes towards longer-range security.
The question is whether that would be with Boston. While it seems virtually impossible to fathom Pierce retiring in anything other than green, how the Celtics proceed in the early stages of this offseason could go a long way toward influencing how Pierce moves forward.
Trouble is, Pierce won't have a lot of answers before he needs to make his own decision. It's likely he'll know about Rivers' future, but even if Ainge tells Pierce that the team will make a concerted effort to keep the core together for the 2010-11 season and beyond, there's no way to know for sure if the team can do that before free agency arrives.
Last week, Ainge noted that Priority No. 1 after the draft completed was to sit down with Pierce and his representatives and attempt to ensure the captain remains in Boston. But even Ainge admitted there's no guarantee that happens.
Even if Pierce ultimately utilizes the option, it doesn't mean he's punched his ticket out of town. It seems possible that Pierce could terminate and sign a contract that guarantees he finishes his career in Boston, while potentially opening some wiggle room in the salary cap in the process.
Will Ray stay?
Guard Ray Allen will officially be an unrestricted free agent on Thursday and, for the first time this offseason, other teams will have a chance to woo him away from Boston.
While there's plenty of money to be spent this offseason, it's concentrated in a few select cities like Chicago, New York and Miami. But with a premium on building a championship-caliber team, Allen could be the veteran puzzle piece that either pushes a team over the top or adds incentive for one of the big-name free agents to come to town.
Boston is likely going to have to overpay Allen in years or money in order to keep him around, unless he's willing to take some sort of "keep the band together" discount.
The Celtics would likely be content with something in the two-year, $20 million range -- a contract that would run through the end of Kevin Garnett's current deal and wouldn't hurt the team's cap situation due to Larry Bird Rights.
But if another team offers the soon-to-be 35-year-old Allen one final hefty payday over a three- (or, gulp, four-) year deal, suddenly Boston might need to seek a younger and/or cheaper alternative.
Boston can't be shortsighted. While keeping the core together this season is the ideal situation, Ainge and Co. can't sacrifice the future to keep Allen in town, even if it's done in hopes of keeping Pierce and Rivers around as well.
Complicating matters, Allen's situation is likely to be the last domino to fall, which could leave the Celtics' hands tied as they try to fill a roster already thin on bodies and in particular need of big bodies.
Under the knife
Center Kendrick Perkins was scheduled to have surgery to repair what's believed to be two torn ligaments in his right knee on Friday, but Rivers indicated on draft night that the team would postpone that procedure with eyes toward allowing the swelling to reduce.
But Ainge also noted that Perkins' diagnosis remains a bit uncertain in part due to that swelling. According to Ainge, there's a chance that Perkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament, and not just the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments that he originally told the media during the Finals.
Ainge suggested the team won't know the full extent of the injury until Dr. Brian McKeon performs the procedure, which means Perkins' recovery time remains in limbo as well. The more severe the injury -- and any ACL injury is likely to extend the rehab time -- the more the Celtics might have to entertain the idea of playing without Perkins for much of the 2010-11 regular season and not just the first part of it.
That could seriously alter how the team attacks free agency and the roster moves it makes to compensate.
Unfortunately for Ainge, that means this week is just one of many whirlwind weeks that await this cloudy offseason.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.