Saturday, July 10, 2010
Shining a light on Celtics' offseason
By Peter May Special to ESPNBoston.com
Some reflections on the Celtics' summer to date while wondering what Dan Gilbert has in mind when the Heat visit Cleveland for the first time
Was Danny Ainge watching Jermaine O'Neal against the Celtics during the playoffs?
• Jermaine O'Neal? I honestly thought the man would never play another NBA game after the absolutely brutal performance he delivered for Miami against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. It may be hard to remember, but the Celtics were anything but deadbolt locks in that series, having finished the regular season in such underwhelming fashion. And had anyone from Miami stepped up in that series to help Dwyane Wade, who knows what would have happened? And would it have been too much for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to expect something more than 4.2 points a game from his $20 million-plus center?
I know O'Neal is only signed for two years (one year, basically, with the lockout looming) and the Celtics are in 'damn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead' mode. But he is constantly hurt, he isn't a slave to practice, and he has been an utter disappointment (to be charitable) in his last two destinations. Danny Ainge's track record gets him a pass for now, but wasn't he watching that playoff series?
• Speaking of Jermaine, one of the added benefits (I think) may be the ability to coax one more year out of Rasheed Wallace. The two are close friends dating back to their days as teammates in Portland. While Wallace has announced his intention to retire, it hasn't officially happened. If he dedicated the summer to getting in shape, as opposed to whatever he did last summer, he might actually be a contributor more than once every 10 games. Then he could give it one more year along with the other old-timers.
• Ray Allen was never really going anywhere, and it wasn't simply because the Celtics were willing to give him more money than anyone else. Weighing just as heavily, maybe even more so, was the pull of family. Last summer, Allen's high-school aged daughter, Tierra, considered moving from South Carolina, where she lives with her mother, to be in the greater Boston area to join her dad. She ended up staying in South Carolina.
But this time around appears to be different. She has been shown around Wellesley by some high school students and a community source says it is a definite that she will be living with Dad this season while attending Wellesley High (where Ainge's son Cooper is on the varsity basketball team). Tierra Allen also is an accomplished hoopster, but like Doc Rivers' daughter Callie, her best sport is volleyball. Ray Allen also was loath to leave the Boston area because of the excellent treatment his son is receiving in his battle against juvenile diabetes.
• In his tenure in Boston, Ainge and his draftniks have been able to get some decent players in the late first and second rounds. Ryan Gomes, Glen Davis and Leon Powe were all second-rounders. Is Luke Harangody the latest find? He averaged 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game in the just-concluded Orlando summer league. It's never a good idea to get overly excited about what transpires in summer league (remember rookie Marcus Banks blowing by rookie LeBron James at UMass Boston?) but the kid looks like he knows how to play. And he played (assemble the musicians) four years in college! The Celtics have plenty of roster spots available so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Harangody next season. As long as we don't see Shelden Williamsever again.
• Here's a name to keep in mind for a possible spot on Rivers' bench next season: Al Skinner. The former Boston College coach was rumored to be in contention for a number of college jobs, but none came through for him. Sources indicate Rivers and Skinner have had preliminary talks. The Celtics coaching staff has been decreased by one with Tom Thibodeau's move to Chicago. Rivers has talked to former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank as well.
• After the first round of the 2010 NBA playoffs, one of the Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Celtics at 35-1 to win the title, the worst of the remaining eight teams. (Yes, behind Atlanta, Utah and the two teams the Celtics would beat, Cleveland and Orlando.) As of Saturday, two days after LeBron's decision to go to Miami, the website Gaming Today had the Heat listed at 2-1 odds to win it all on one site and 7-1 on another. The Celtics? They were 20-1 on one site and 18-1 on the other. In addition to Miami, the Celtics trailed the Lakers, Orlando, Chicago and, yup, Oklahoma City in the minds of the oddsmakers.
• After what we all witnessed these past few days, doesn't the Celtics' decision to extend Rajon Rondo last fall look even more prescient? You'd have to think the Knicks or some other LeBron-shunned team would be looking long and hard at Rondo right now if he were a restricted free agent. Yes, the Celtics would have had the ability to match any offer and we all know they would. But that might not have stopped some team from dropping a major league offer sheet on Rondo coming off the season and playoffs he had.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.