Saturday, July 7, 2012
What's next for C's sans Ray Allen?
By Chris Forsberg ESPNBoston.com
Sports has a way of speeding up the grieving process, so 24 hours after Ray Allen spurned the Boston Celtics to sign with the rival Miami Heat, most fans have probably already whizzed through some combination of the first four stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
Ready or not, it's time those fans enter the final phase: acceptance. Barring a rather unfathomable change of heart, Allen will finalize his deal to sign with Miami for the taxpayer's midlevel exception when the free-agency moratorium lifts on July 11.
E'Twaun Moore, left, will look to snag a roster spot by stepping up in summer league action.
With that in mind, where do the Celtics go from here?
It's clear the team needs another shooting guard to add some depth at that spot. But keep in mind that Boston really has only the biannual exception available to sign any outside free agent at anything over the minimum, so don't expect a big-name signing. And it won't necessarily come at the guard spot.
With little to offer, the Celtics will likely have to consider in-house options first while exploring what's available on the cheap.
One player to keep an eye on when the Celtics dive into summer league play on Monday in Orlando, Fla., is second-year guard E'Twaun Moore. Last year's second-round pick (55th overall) showcased a confidence that helped him stick on Boston's roster as he appeared in 38 games last season, and he was often active on the playoff roster.
While we probably shouldn't expect an Avery Bradley-like leap from a late-round pick, Moore can make Boston's hunt a little easier if he shows progress from his rookie season and an ability to offer depth at both guard spots. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge admitted earlier this week that Moore -- with a nonguaranteed contract -- is likely playing for his job this summer.
That said, at the bargain-basement price of $762,000, Moore can lock down his spot with a solid showing during Boston's 10-game summer slate. Moore didn't get much of a chance to prove his worth last season -- a mere 331 minutes of floor time, much of it in bite-sized chunks. Consequently, he must show a more consistent offensive game; he shot just 38.1 percent from the floor, but 37.8 percent beyond the arc. And his quest would be aided if his defense showed progress.
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The Celtics can wait until midnight following the last summer league game to make a decision on Moore's future with the team, but their moves before then might be telling. Boston has put a premium on veteran guards in recent years, and the ability to lure one at a low cost could make it a bit of an uphill climb for Moore.
Consider Keyon Dooling. We already know the Celtics told rookie center Fab Melo that his preferred digits -- No. 51, his college number -- were unavailable when he picked out his jersey (he settled for No. 13, his high school number). The insinuation there is that the Celtics might be keeping No. 51 warm for Dooling, who sported it last season.
After being acquired in a preseason trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, Dooling overcame early injury woes to become not only a solid postseason contributor, but a key locker room voice. Brandon Bass nicknamed him "The Reverend" after one particularly inspiring halftime speech at a key moment in the postseason.
Owning Dooling's rights, the Celtics can offer him a decent salary, maybe even above the $2.2 million he earned last season, in order to add depth as a combo guard. That locker room leadership makes him even more valuable.
Keyon Dooling could be in line to benefit from Ray Allen's departure.
Then there's Mickael Pietrus, the jovial Frenchman who never quite found his offensive rhythm last season, but was a defensive force -- the type that Boston could surely use given his ability to check the league's top offensive swingmen.
Pietrus has maintained a strong desire to be back in Boston, but the most the Celtics can offer him appears to be the biannual exception and he'd likely have to accept less than market value to return. If Pietrus really wants another chance at winning and loves the Boston atmosphere as much as he says, he can sign at low money with a chance to re-establish his value, particularly if he can get back to full health after having arthroscopic knee surgery last month.
If none of those three options fits the Celtics, they could broaden their search, but you have to wonder if there's anything out there that's better than what they already know.
Those who keep mentioning O.J. Mayo or Lou Williams are delusional about the team's salary-cap situation. Could we interest you in a superstar-gone-gray like Tracy McGrady or Michael Redd? If Boston utilizes the biannual exception on a big man -- a real possibility if the Minnesota Timberwolves or another team delivers even a modest offer sheet to restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma -- then the Celtics probably have to settle for a cheap, championship-chasing wing or an unproven young player they hope exceeds expectations.
We don't mean to bring you back to the depression (or anger) phase of the Allen departure, but Boston's somewhat limited options are the reality after Allen took his talents to South Beach.
Having the starting backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in place, along with former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry on his way, gives Boston its top three backcourt players. But the Celtics clearly need another specialist, whether it's another offensive marksman or a defensive-minded presence, to firm up that spot.
While the Celtics have moved quickly to reassemble their roster this offseason and fill up many of the available spots, this process could take some time to sort out. They can't get themselves another Allen, but inking another body might aid the acceptance stage for Celtics fans.