Wednesday, February 16, 2005



Like a moody girlfriend two days before her monthly visitation, the rumors about Gary Payton’s future with the Celtics have swung drastically from senseless extreme to senseless extreme. First we hear he’s getting traded, then it’s that he’s signing an extension, then it’s that he could very well be playing his last game at the Fleet (Enema) Center.

In the midst of all this drama, angst and hand-wringing, we here at CelticsDoom simply want to say, “who cares?”

Gary has been a good rent-a-Celtic this season. He has run a decent offense and done an unexpectedly fine job of managing Paul Pierce’s ego. He’s good enough that if he leaves, the team will be worse off in the short term. However, if Gary’s name was Chucky Atkins we wouldn’t give a flying fuck if he stayed, left, or if Ainge traded him for nothing or simply let him run out his contract. As much as trading Gary will disrupt us this season (as would trading any starting point guard on any team), an even worse move would be to get swept up in the “I love Gary” nonsense and sign him to an extension.

I know all the boosters out there envision this season as a rosy world where Payton has played flawless ball and served an important role as a mentor to our two future point guards (who, in this fantasy, will apparently play 24 minutes each in some equanimous future where the happy and loveable Celtics dance hand in hand to the magical land of NBA championship).

Back here in reality, we have seen a Gary Payton who’s game has been ravaged by age, and whose continued deterioration will likely render him completely useless in the second year of any two-year deal he would likely demand to stay. As it is, his current effectiveness is debatable and based on a few myths that Celtics fans and broadcasters have clung to.

Myth #1 – Gary Payton fits a running offense: Wrong - Payton and Pierce are probably the two most guilty of slowing the ball down (particularly in the 4th quarter) and resorting to half-court sets, where the Celtics notoriously struggle. Payton, I believe, is simply too old to effectively front a running team, and if the point guard ain’t willing to push the ball up late in the game, then the big guys sure as fuck aren’t going to be sprinting up the floor. Watch the game in Kings game in Sacramento for a prime example.

Myth #2 – Payton the Mentor: This is one of those feel-good things that Rivers and the Celtics PR department likes to harp on, but one look at Marcus Banks and you know that he hasn’t learned a thing from being around The Glove. Instead, Payton’s greatest off-the-court contribution has probably been in puncturing Paul Pierce’s ego with comments to the press that undoubtedly reflect much harsher words that have been spoken behind-the-scenes. The value of having a respected veteran who can tell Pierce to go fuck himself is undoubtedly a good thing for the younger players, but not being able to consistently back it up on the court makes him a something of a paper tiger.

Myth #3 – The Celtics are fucked without a good point guard: This one is more truthful, but solid coaching and a good offensive system can overcome the lack of a creator/distributor, particularly if you run and play good defense. Last season before the Ricky trade, the Celtics were playing great ball with a second-string shooting guard thrust into the starting point guard role (Mike James). If you remember that grim lineup of PP/MJ/WM/EW/MB and recall that we were on a four game winning streak, then it should give you hope for life without Gary. Now, we are indeed fucked if Marcus Banks is our starting point guard, but the Celtics could probably salvage this season with West starting and Ricky playing a kind of quasi-point for the second unit. Or vice versa.

None of this is to say that Gary hasn’t been valuable and a very good pickup. He has and was. But the options for his future are all pretty much a wash for the Celtics, and part of trading for him was the idea that he'd be off the books in a year and give us a little financial flexibility. So, if he stays for the rest of the season, great, he’ll probably help nudge this team into the playoffs, and getting wiped out in the first round will probably convince him to play next year with a contender anyway. If we trade him, fine, but we aren’t going to be getting anything in return, regardless of all those mindless reports that claim Ainge can get a first-round pick for him. Either way, this team will not improve or dramatically fall to shit without Gary Payton.

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