Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Celtics Core Four: Rotten or Repairable?

Will we EVER see this again?

Lebron James scream had just finished, and the officials were finally done looking for an excuse to call another offensive foul on the Celtics, who at this point had alot in common with their point guard's elbow- mangled and in pain. Game 5 of the Celtics/Heat series was over, and just like that, the series itself was over, and the second Big Three Era could be considered by many to be over. With questions about how the league will be set-up next year with more labor uncertainty (see Lockout, NFL for an example), there's no guarantee on anything. Here, however, is what we kind of know:

Doc Rivers told reporters last night he wants to come back.

"I want to win again here. I do. I'm competitive as hell, I have a competitive group. And so well see. But I can tell you that's where I'm at today. Tomorrow I may change my mind, but that's where I'm at today."

Will he change his mind between now and the beginning of the season? No telling. If Doc is coming back, he's going to have to learn to trust Jeff Green at some point, which was something you could tell from the moment Green arrived was an issue. Doc's issues with managing a bench have been an Achilles heel for years. Will he be able to manage a bench led by a player he doesn't trust?

The current salary cap in the NBA is around $58 million, and Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jermaine O'Neal, and Rajon Rondo account for roughly $49 million of the cap. Ray Allen has a player option for 10 million. So there's 6 players who account for the entire salary cap. What does this have to do with Jeff Green, you ask? Green is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, which means the Celtics can match his offers or use him as a trade chip for something else (all dependent on a new CBA). It's obvious as we once again watched in horror as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce ran completely out of gas once again (last year in Game 7 against LA, this year in the second round against Miami) that the Celtics have to have a player who can keep Pierce and Allen's minutes around 30 or so apiece a game. Jeff Green has to be that guy.

Green will always be a lightning rod in this area and will always be the scape goat for this season ending in failure. Kendrick Perkins, whose 3.8 ppg and 7 rpg are in OKC now, wasn't the difference between the Celtics winning or losing this series (especially on a knee that Perkins admitted to TNT sideline reporter Marty Snider was 65%, Oh, and that wasn't even the knee he had ACL surgery on). He wasn't the difference in the Game 7 loss to the Lakers last season (look at the production of Kevin Garnett in that game). He was a guy whose legend had outgrown his productivity. His propensity for terrible offensive moves, knack for picking up awful offensive fouls, technical fouls, flagrant fouls, loose ball fouls, and defensive fouls (you get my point) seems to get lost in the shuffle because he had a "menacing glare". The Green deal wasn't a success this year, but given a full year to acclimate to the town, his teammates, and coaching staff, it might still be a good move. Time will tell.

Speaking of his teammates, in all likelihood, The Core 4 is coming back. Rondo will be back and healthy (shoulder, back, and the elbow injury). Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal (not a member of the Core 4) will be in the final year of their respective deals. Paul Pierce will have two years left on his deal. Avery Bradley will be another year older and might actually get in Doc's rotation. Does one of the Core 4 get the case of 1988 Larry Bird-itis and miss all of next season? You're talking about three high mileage cars, at some point one of them has to go into the shop for awhile with a blown head gasket.

Do they try to wring one more year out of random veterans to fill out the roster, or did the failed Shaquille O'Neal and Troy Murphy experiments show the Celtics it doesn't work? Does Danny draft talent that Doc Rivers will actually use? Will the Super Friends find their way out of the locked basement that's filling up with...whoops wait, wrong promo. There is a lot of time between now and next year, but one thing is for certain when it comes to the Celtics: nothing is certain anymore.

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