- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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LOS ANGELES -- With the NBA trade deadline set for 3 p.m. EST on Thursday, we've traded coasts to be near the Boston Celtics for what has the potential to be a franchise-altering and season-defining 36 hours.
After a solid month of whispers, most of which have proved to be nothing more than scuttlebutt, it's time for president of basketball operation Danny Ainge and the rest of the NBA general managers -- to show theirs hands. Is Ainge content to stick with what he's been dealt this season, or will he draw from the deck looking to upgrade?
As we land in Los Angeles, reports indicate that the Celtics and Knicks remain in advanced talks about a proposed Eddie House-for-Nate Robinson swap. The Celtics practice here at 6:30 p.m. EST, and we'll keep you posted on the latest in ESPN Boston's Celtics Blog.
All of this somehow relegates the Celtics-Lakers battle Thursday night at the Staples Center to a bit of an undercard. But, needless to say, a whirlwind 36 hours to come out here on the West Coast.
This week's 'bag is loaded with trade suggestions and personnel discussion (some of it answered before this House-Robinson trade gained steam). Readers were so caught up in making a deal, not a single person made fun of my picture. That means it's all business, this week.
Click a link below to jump to that section:
Let's Make a Deal
Q: I know you hate trade season, so are you excited for it to come to an end? What move do you think the Celtics will make? I think the Celtics end up keeping Ray Allen for lack of a sound offer, but moving other expiring contracts for someone like Nate Robinson to bolster the bench. I think if this team stays together they will start playing the best ball of their season after the trading deadline. -- Evan (Boston)
A: Evan, I think the only people happier than me to see trade season expire will be the players (on the opposite end of the spectrum, Ainge's cell phone provider will lament the sudden downturn in business ). Let's be honest, the players can't avoid the rumors. In the age of text messages and Twitter, these guys are well aware of what people are saying (and there has to be more stress when a player is worried about selling his home and moving his family to a new location). The trade deadline passing is sure to bring peace of mind to some players in the Boston locker room.
Since you've given me the platform, let's kick this mailbag off by not only tackling your question, but giving my best guess at to what's going to unfold before Thursday's deadline.
As I've stated all along, I think Ray Allen stays in Boston. I do think the Celtics will explore all potential offers and, knowing they have to get younger for the future, will have to keep an open mind to those deals. But ultimately they won't find adequate value for Allen in this trade market. As much as some teams would love to clear $19 million in cap space for the upcoming free-agent bonanza, those teams are not about to mortgage their own future by giving up a quality young player, only to have, say, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade pass them over this summer. No team wants to get stuck overpaying for a B-level free-agent signing, while trying to replace the guy they traded away to clear cap space for an A-level talent.
Much like the past three seasons, I expect the Celtics to explore low-cost, low-risk options to add depth in the frontcourt and backup point guard position. While I understand the attraction of Nate Robinson, and his extra scoring punch off the pine wouldn't be a bad thing, I'm unsure if he's the cure for what ails this team. That said, acquiring Robinson surely provides the shakeup this team so desperately needs after sleepy play over the past six weeks.
Q: Chris, what kind of affect do you think Nate Robinson could have on this team as a backup and what do the C's do with two empty roster spots, assuming they have to do a 2-for-1 trade? -- Craig (Boston)
A: Assuming the Robinson deal goes down, I envision him as someone who plays the point for the second-unit offense, allowing Tony Allen to focus on being a pure 2, while Marquis Daniels can utilize his versatility to create mismatches at the 3. I'm slightly concerned about getting Robinson enough minutes to keep him happy (though it's unlikely the Celtics would move without being confident he'll behave), given that Rondo averaged 40 minutes per game before the All-Star break, but maybe he sees time at the 2, giving Ray Allen a breather over the final weeks of the regular season (though that leaves you mighty small with a Rondo-Robinson backcourt). As for the extra roster spot, I think the Celtics will continue to examine the free-agent heap for a power forward, or any depth guy, while knowing they've got end-of-the-bench depth with whatever remains of Shelden Williams/Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens/Bill Walker.
Q: Why don't the Celtics go after Andre Iguodala? If Boston is going to go after anybody, it has to be him. What would they have to give up to get him? -- Daniel (Middletown, Conn.)
A: While Iguodala's name has been brought up in potential rumors, I don't see anything that would interest Philadelphia in return (and Ray Allen's contract simply won't be enough). This seems like the classic case where media and/or fans put together a trade that works on theory, but, in reality, I think the 76ers could get much more in return if they are serious about moving Iggy.
Q & Ray
Q: Who do you think is the most likely player we would get in return if Ray Allen is traded? And if he isn't traded, do you see the Celtics re-signing him this summer? -- Matt (Shrewsbury, Mass.)
A: While I think a deal is unlikely, the most probable situation is something like a deal with Chicago, where the Celtics bring back Kirk Hinrich, alleviating the Bulls of some long-term salary concerns and getting a solid player (but not the superstar type that some are yearning for).
Q: Do you think the Celtics owe Ray Allen respect to keep him because he helped win the Celtics a championship? -- Scott (Southborough, Mass.)
A: Absolutely not. After all, this is a business. Staying relevant and competitive means having absolutely no emotional investment with your players. Otherwise, a coach or general manager might make a decision that didn't have the best interest of his team in mind. What's more, it's not like the Celtics signed Allen to his contract extension (Seattle did, and they traded him). If the right deal comes along, the Celtics absolutely have to pull the trigger.
Q: If the Celtics choose not to trade Allen at the deadline, what are their options for this offseason? -- Matt (Bridgewater, Mass.)
A: We've discussed this a bit in recent weeks, but the Cliff Notes version is that the Celtics simply can't drop Allen's contract, then reappropriate that money toward a big-name free agent next season. In fact, by our calculations, if Boston doesn't deal Allen, it's almost certainly in their best interest to bring him back next season -- even if it's a limited role -- due to Larry Bird Rules, which allow a team to go over the salary cap to sign their veteran free agents.
Q: Chris, I feel people are not understanding the salary cap situation for the Celtics. Even if they don't resign Allen, they are over the cap for next year. I don't want to see Allen go, but this could be their only chance to cash in on getting a good player or two for his salary. Could they trade him and still get him back, like Antonio McDyess and the Pistons? -- Mike (Struthers, Ohio)
A: That's what makes Allen's situation so unique. It's not like the Celtics are deciding whether to keep him for the rest of 2009-10 season. In a way, they're deciding if Allen might stick around for the foreseeable future. The Celtics will free up space if he departs, but given their salary restraints, it's likely they'll have only the mid-level exception to lure a free agent (so just erase the LeBron, Wade, or Bosh talk now). So if Allen stays, I expect he'll re-sign at reasonable money and length and ease into a bench presence at the tail end of his career. As for the notion of trading Allen and getting him back via buyout, that's a pipe dream for those still waiting for the Timberwolves to cut Ryan Gomes so he can re-sign in Boston.
Q: Chris do you agree with Doc Rivers' big-man rotation? Isn't having both Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace in there simultaneously a bit redundant? Don't we want to get rebounds? It's Shelden Williams time!!! -- Myles (Melrose)
A: I love our readers, but you're falling victim to the "this guy hasn't played in a while" theorem, whereby a bench player who wasn't very productive falls from the rotation, but is romanticized because of short bursts of potential displayed previously. While I'll grant you Williams could add a rebounding presence, it should not come at the expense of playing time for Wallace and Davis, who both looked mighty impressive in the second-half opener against Sacramento Tuesday night. For Davis, that's two rock-solid weeks of terrific hoops.
Q: Why not keep the current roster, but, instead of a trade, give the team completely over to Rajon Rondo? Don't you think coach Doc Rivers should rest the Big Three more, and push the pace and/or space the floor and let Rondo work a pick-and-roll game? Basically, let our newest All-Star be the focal point in the regular season, and work in the Big Three when the halfcourt game is necessary in the playoffs. -- AB (Williamsburg, Va.)
A: Given the starters' struggles, I can see why there would be a desire to cut down their playing time, but it's no surprise that the recent struggles of the Big Three have coincided with Rondo's own struggles (and, to a certain extent, Kendrick Perkins' as well). Everything works hand in hand. Plus, despite a solid All-Star weekend showing, Rondo remains inconsistent with his shot, so it's not like he's a guy who can take the game over by himself (not yet, anyway).
Q: I know Paul Pierce will most likely end up in Springfield one day, but isn't it embarrassing to hear him call himself "one of the best shooters in NBA history"? This is the same guy that proclaimed himself the best player in the world in the summer of 2008 (when all he did was beat a soft Lakers team). I mean, the dude not knowing about Larry Bird's 3-point victory in Dallas just shows you how much sense of history he has. Tell him to get a clue and to get out of my handicapped parking spot! -- R.J. (Los Angeles, Calif.)
A: Quality zing at the end there, R.J. (Love when Lakers fans reference the "magic wheelchair.") I'll say this about Pierce's comment after winning the 3-point shootout: He firmly believes what he says and didn't back down when reporters pressed him on it. And you want superstars who think that way. I've compared it to Ray Allen. When Allen struggles, Rivers likes to joke that Allen blames the rim, as if it's the rim's fault he's missing shots. But that's the way great shooters truly think. Pierce believes he's one of the best shooters and if that drives him, so be it. More players should think that way (though whether they voice it to a national TV audience is another thing).
Q: How do the Celtics get that killer mentality back when they keep blowing double-digit leads after halftime? -- Stew (Needham)
A: I think it all comes down to confidence. If the Celtics put a few quality wins together and hold their opponents down in the process, then it'll just happen by itself. But the more second-half collapses that occur, the more that confidence erodes and the more likely a second-half collapse is to happen again. As ugly as it was, winning in Sacramento might have helped to start rebuilding that confidence.
Q: Do you think the C's can win it all without making a trade? -- JJ (Chicopee, Mass.)
A: I do. It won't be easy and it'll have to involve the perfect storm of Boston's entire roster peaking at the right time -- while also remaining healthy. Hard to imagine that happening right now, but I'm not sure any trade you make necessarily elevates the chances of this team winning a championship. That's how important health alone will be to this team.
Mailbag: Fans weigh in on Nate Robinson deal, Ray Allen's future, and more.