- Peter May, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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There is less than a week to go before the trade deadline. The Celtics, once thought to be bystanders, now are at least thinking of tweaking their roster due to the recent, serious injury to Marquis Daniels.
The area of concentration is Daniels' position -- small forward or big guard. Not only would it help to have someone who can step into that role to spell Daniels -- there's no assurance he will be back after bruising his spinal cord -- but also to spell Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, both of whom have played in all 54 games this season.
Any trade must be made by the deadline, of course. But there is some wiggle room after the deadline in the form of signing a player who has had his contract bought out, which the Celtics did with Sam Cassell in 2008 and Stephon Marbury in 2009. That generally is done by the end of February.
Going the trade route means the Celtics must part with someone, and, looking at their roster, there are only two viable candidates: Daniels and Nate Robinson. Both Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis have expiring contracts, but they clearly are part of the team's future. No one is going to take on Jermaine O'Neal (called "a basketball wastrel" by one NBA executive) and everyone else is either safe or has little to no trade value.
Robinson is getting $4.2 million this season and is down to receive $4.5 million next season. Teams are not exactly flooding the Celtics' phone lines or filling up Danny Ainge's inbox with demands for Robinson. The Knicks had trouble giving him away last year at this time -- and at that point, he had an expiring contract.
But the fact that he has only one year left makes him somewhat attractive as long as the player for whom is he traded has at least a year left as well. And in the trade scenarios below, the team that took Robinson would save money down the road, always a bonus. The obvious drawback is that without Robinson, the Celtics would be relying on the fragile Delonte West to return to health and back up Rajon Rondo.
Daniels is another matter. He signed a one-year, $2.338 million deal last year and, as such, he has the right to veto any trade. If he allows a trade to go through, he will lose his so-called "Bird rights" as a free agent this summer.
That might be an issue were it not for Daniels' current situation. He may not even play again this season. Yes, he would lose his Bird rights in free agency, but he is going to be a veteran's minimum guy -- at best -- in the eyes of most NBA teams. No one is going to break the bank for him. And, with a new collective bargaining agreement, there may be severe restrictions on Bird rights. So he doesn't gain a whole lot by not agreeing to be dealt. (The Celtics can make sure he gets a playoff share as well.)
Finally, if the Celtics add someone via the buyout route, they would have to cut someone to make room on the roster, as they already have the maximum number of bodies (15.)
With that in mind, here are some names you might hear in the coming week linked to a deal with the Celtics. The players are alphabetized, because, as it now stands, there doesn't appear to be anything close. But things do change as the deadline approaches.
Josh Childress, Phoenix: The Suns signed him to a five-year, $33.5 million deal last year and already are regretting the move. He has appeared in two games, logging 29 minutes, since Jan. 12. He is quite available. From a purely basketball standpoint, to trade Robinson and Daniels for Childress is a no-brainer for the Celtics. Childress is a pretty good perimeter defender. He's only 27. He does have some offensive skills. The Suns would probably do this in a heartbeat. For the Celtics, the big issue here is the four years beyond this one, which could be the deal-breaker. They already face re-signing Perkins and Davis. But the team is going to need to rebuild after the lockout and, under current rules, they do need 12 to 15 players on the roster. But the feeling may be that he isn't worth anything close to what he's due to receive and that there is too much money owed down the road. Another possibility would be to offer Jermaine O'Neal, even-up, for Childress. The Suns still save money here as well; he'd be on their payroll for one more year. The Celtics lose a big man, but how much can they expect from JO this year?
Richard Hamilton, Detroit: If Hamilton goes anywhere, it probably won't be for a while, but his name is out there because he basically has been euthanized by the Pistons. He has appeared in one game since Jan. 12. Hamilton earns $12.5 million this season, the same in 2011-12 and has a $9 million buyout in 2012-13. No one with that kind of contract gets bought out now. Additionally, there is going to be an ownership change in Detroit, so everything can be viewed to be on hold. Plus, why would the Pistons cut Hamilton a $20 million check when he still has some value around the league? Sure, he would be an ideal backup in Boston. And, remember, Joe Dumars owes Ainge. Seven years ago, when Dumars was desperately trying to get Rasheed Wallace from Atlanta, he needed a third team to make it work. Ainge stepped in and made it happen, getting a No. 1 pick out of the deal along with some flotsam and jetsam (Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter). Dumars has always said that if that deal had not gotten done, the Pistons would not have won a title.
Troy Murphy, New Jersey: Here is one of many reasons why the NBA is having fiscal issues. Murphy is making nearly $12 million -- that, in and of itself, is ludicrous -- and is not just DNP-CD, but DNP-TSA. As in, Told to Stay Away. Not only doesn't Murphy play -- his last game was Jan. 7 -- he has been told to, yup, stay away. As the possessor of an expiring contract, Murphy remains of value as a trade chip, especially if the Nets and Nuggets can get back together and make a deal for Carmelo Anthony. But most of the chatter surrounding Murphy has been of him getting a buyout and signing with Orlando, not Boston. Realistically, he is not what the Celtics need. He's a power forward. He could help size-challenged Orlando, however. As one executive said, "there's no room for him in Boston."
James Posey, Indiana: Big Game James has all but disappeared on the Indiana bench since Jim O'Brien was sacked, logging four minutes in the last 10 games. No one in Boston needs to be reminded of Posey's penchant for coming up big or for his locker room presence. He also knows the system. But he turned 34 in January and there was a sense in Boston after the 2008 title that Posey, then a free agent, might have already played his best basketball. Why would the Celtics revisit this one if they drew the line on a deal three years ago? (They wouldn't go out four years. New Orleans did. And Posey's contract took on another $670,000 via trade kicker when he was dealt to the Pacers.) Like the Childress deal, this one would require both Daniels and Robinson and would save the Pacers some $3 million. (Or, Jermaine O'Neal could be packaged back to Indy, saving the Pacers almost $1.4 million next year.) Either of those scenarios would go over well in cash-strapped Indiana. But the Celtics would be taking on Posey's contract, worth more than $7 million. If they think Posey has anything left this season, it might be worth a gamble. There's another $7 million due next year, but some of that could get wiped away by a lockout. (Same is true for Childress.)
Ramon Sessions, Cleveland: Who knows what the Cavaliers are thinking these days? They certainly aren't going anywhere. League officials say they are looking for draft picks in any deal, but the Celtics' first-rounder this year, right now No. 29, isn't going to cause anyone to salivate over at Quicken Loans Arena. Contracturally, Sessions matches up almost identically with Robinson. Cleveland might not want Nate, but Sessions has one more year on his deal (a player option for 2012-13), so that might appeal to the Cavs. The downside here is that Sessions isn't really a swingman; he's listed at 6-foot-3. He certainly could spell Allen at the shooting guard spot and also could play some point guard. He also can score; he dropped 32 on the Lakers on Wednesday.
Antoine Walker, Idaho Stampede: Just kidding.
Rasheed Wallace, Retirement: Ditto.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.
As the trade deadline nears, the Celtics weigh their options.