Roster shakeup? So far so good
As the new guys settle in, things are falling into place for Boston
During our weekly Celtics chats, there are only so many questions we can cram into the hourlong session. So with the question queue overflowing during Monday's gabfest, we decided to cull together the best of the rest for the latest Celtics Mailbag.
If you haven't already had the chance, check out the chat transcript, which includes some of the hottest topics surrounding the Celtics. Then read on for some quality leftovers:
Q: It looks like the Celtics will never get a chance to have their full roster during the regular season. How much is it going to hurt the rotation in postseason if coach Doc Rivers won't be able to experiment much? -- Srsankar (Quincy, Mass.)
A: For all the hemming and hawing about never getting that full second unit lineup on the floor, we should remember that the Celtics almost assuredly won't ever trot out a full five-man second unit in the postseason (blowouts, notwithstanding). That said, injuries have prevented Boston from even experimenting with the eight- or nine-man rotation that should emerge. It would most certainly be beneficial if the Celtics could at least get a few games in which the likes of Delonte West and Jermaine O'Neal could get on the court and develop some continuity, maybe more importantly with the starters they'll often be paired with. More than anything, however, it's imperative the Celtics simply get healthy and have their top 10 bodies available when mid-April rolls around.
Q: Waaaahhhhh!!!! I wanna be King!!!!! WAAaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! -- LeBron James (Cry-ami)
A: First off, excellent job using the location field to add a second level of humor to the question. But can I be honest? I actually don't mind the idea of an NBA locker room being emotional after a tough loss. Sure, this wasn't anything like Game 7 of last year's NBA Finals, when Rivers admitted it was the saddest scene he'd ever witnessed after a basketball game with few dry eyes in the Celtics' locker room (highlighted by an ultra emotional Tony Allen). Would fans prefer their team's players be robotic and show no emotion after tough losses? Should players not celebrate big wins?
I'd almost be more puzzled if players didn't get upset in these situations. Lest we forget that Glen Davis got emotional on the bench after Kevin Garnett delivered a brutally honest pep talk a few years back, and the Celtics weren't bashful in admitting they needed some Kleenex after Kendrick Perkins got traded last month. So much of sports is based on emotion, I think we can let the Heat slide here.
Q: When Glen Davis gets healthy again, will he fall back into his normal 'fifth man in crunch-time' minutes or has Jeff Green's offensive promise forced him out of that role? -- Craig (Derry, N.H.)
A: From the minute the Celtics executed their trade with Oklahoma City, Rivers gushed about the potential of that Big Four and Green lineup, often comparing it to the Big Four and James Posey combination the Celtics leaned on heavily during the 2007-08 championship season. I do think we need to see more of this year's iteration before we know exactly how much Rivers will be able to lean on it. While that five-man unit has shown incredible offensive potential, it's had its roughs spots at the other end of the floor. If nothing else, Rivers might benefit from having a bit of versatility (the buzzword that'll often be attached to Green). If Rivers needs an offensive lineup, he can lean on Big Four and Green; if he needs more of a defensive-minded unit, maybe he sticks with Big Four and Davis. The experience that latter group boasts probably gives it the early edge to be the go-to unit.
Q: Miami and Chicago are competing for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Assuming that the Celtics finish at the top of the conference, who should the fans want to finish in that second spot? -- Ty (Texas)
A: We discussed this in the chat, but, on the surface, it appears pretty important for the Celtics to try to hold onto that top spot. If the playoffs ended today and top seeds won out, Boston would navigate a playoff path of Indiana, Orlando, and Chicago. But if you slide the Celtics to the third seed, the path becomes New York, Miami, and Chicago. It's pretty clear earning that top seed has the potential to make the march back to the Finals a little less grueling.
But let's play along with your question and assume the Celtics top the Magic in one conference semifinal and are waiting for the winner of Bulls vs. Heat to emerge. Who should you root for? While Boston is 5-1 against those teams this season, losing to the Bulls in their last meeting in Chicago, I'm not sure there's an ideal choice. It's really pick your poison, as both teams are insanely talented. On one hand, I'm tempted to say the Celtics would actually be rooting for Miami since Chicago is such a tough matchup and Derrick Rose is playing on another level. But the Heat are so daunting when they're clicking (as rare as that's been). Let's say Boston fans pick the lesser of two evils and actually root for Chicago based on the fact that, hey, if the Bulls did emerge out of the East, at least fans would have Tom Thibodeau and Brian Scalabrine to root for (sorry, Eddie House and the Heatles).
A: Let's give Murphy a few more games there, 'Sheed. And a guy who made just nine 3-pointers in the entire month of March last season should hardly be chucking stones (even if you did hit 15 trifectas in your first five regular-season games in Boston).
Q: I just want to mention that Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Sasha Pavlovic all stopped on their way out of the Garden Friday night to sign autographs and take pictures with me. Very down-to-Earth guys and I'm happy to have them here -- D (Boston)
A: For every horror story we hear about an athlete encounter, you get a quality report like this one. I also singled it out because these new guys couldn't be better in the locker room thus far, particularly Green and Krstic now that they've been part of the team for over a week. Both players genuinely seem to listen and are working hard to form that important bond with their new teammates. Rivers actually gushed about what high-character players these two were coming over from Oklahoma City (which, admittedly, raised some eyebrows initially for those who only knew Krstic from his chair-tossing incident). But just as Rivers said, these two have been great teammates so far. And Pavlovic and Krstic were fast friends (and locker neighbors), so that's a bonus for them as they settle in.
Q: What is Krstic's contract status? Do you see him as a long-term starter? -- Mikael (Syracuse, N.Y.)
A: It's funny, everyone seemed so focused on Green (a restricted free agent this offseason) that few asked about Krstic after the initial trade. The 27-year-old center is in the final year of a three-year, $15.5 million deal he inked with Oklahoma City in December of 2008. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, though the Celtics could hold non-Bird rights to him (meaning they'll have a chance to bring him back at a modest raise) depending on how the new CBA plays out. It's simply way too early to know how the offseason will play out for Boston (and the rest of the league), but Krstic certainly has motivation to continue his solid play for his own financial gain.
Q: Looking into my personal crystal ball, I see the Celtics finishing 62-20 and that record being good enough to capture the No. 1 seed in the East. Losing five games is pretty realistic for this team given their record in back-to-backs (five more this season) and some of the elite teams (Chicago, Miami, San Antonio) they still have to play down the stretch. How do you see things playing out? -- Damien (Providence, R.I.)
A: You know, I want to argue with you, but looking at the schedule, I think there's potential for a 60-win team after all. If you look back at our Summer Forecast series, I wrote: "Boston could easily challenge for 60 wins if it stays healthy." Well, shoot, they didn't stay healthy and they're still going to make a charge at that lofty win total. Pretty remarkable when you think about it. The strength of schedule suggests there's really no reason (beyond injuries) that the Celtics finish any worse than, say, 58 wins, which might just be enough to earn that top seed considering they've got a three-game cushion with 21 games to go. I still think Chicago is going to make a charge (and maybe Miami, too), so Boston can't ease up against its lower-tier opponents.
Q: With Kevin Garnett making game-saving blocks (like against the Bucks on Sunday), his glossy defensive player rating this season, and having a block in just about every game he has played this year, do you think he can win Defensive Player of the Year? -- Lincoln (Orlando, Fla.)
A: Unseating Orlando's Dwight Howard will not be easy, but Garnett deserves to be in the conversation. We put a lot of stock in that defensive rating category (points allowed per 100 possessions) and Garnett ranked at an NBA-best 94.3 entering Monday's action (Howard was right on his heels at 94.5. No one else was within three points of Garnett). Howard's gaudy block totals and defensive rebound averages probably give him the edge for now, but a couple more game-clinching blocks like vs. the Bucks and Garnett is going to make voters think hard about that decision.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.