Thursday, February 09, 2006


Notes From a Free Fall

There are naught but crumbs left on our plate for the rest of this dismal season, and only two storylines remaining of any real interest for anyone but the most obsessive diehard – namely, the fate of Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers. Today we waste our time, and yours, examining these subplots.

Doc Rivers is a failure by any and all applicable standards of NBA coaching, and his removal is a necessary first step in bringing a degree of credibility back to the franchise. From the refusal to defend the inbounds pass in the 2nd game of the season (against Detroit), to the maddeningly inconsistent rotations (including the inexplicable early season burial of a productive Kendrick Perkins), to the continued unwillingness to truly develop the young players (e.g. – Ryan Gomes), Doc has failed so spectacularly that his career is in a free fall with an irreparably damaged reputation throughout the league. Which brings us to the point – will Doc walk or does he need to be pushed?

By all reasonable measure of human expectation, there is no doubt he should be fired. Unfortunately, Danny has placed so much stock in Rivers that removing him requires the admission failure to such a degree that it would necessitate questioning Ainge’s continued employment. This is not palatable to either Danny or the Banner 17 consortium who invested so much PR capitol in painting a rosy picture of the former on-the-court adversaries/new-best-frens (sic) leading the franchise, hand in manly hand, to the promised land. Doc, on the other hand, needs to salvage some degree of honor, and only through an ironclad excuse or a sudden turnaround is he going to avoid his destiny as a first-rate laughingstock.

As we have seen, the “poor Doc, so far away from home” spin has already been injected into the local news bloodstream, lending credibility to the idea that a “no hard feelings” buy out is imminent, and Doc will be sent away with a big fat check and mapquest directions to a TNT broadcast booth. The conventional wisdom, which I subscribe to, is that something quite like this is on the way, but he’ll stick it out to the end of the season.

My only advice to the Celtics would be that they impose a far stricter gag-order on the man-who-would-be-coach than they did on the human embarrassment that was John Carroll. Carroll’s public motherfucking of a franchise that went above and beyond to keep him financially whole in the wake of his 3 month post-OB babysitting gig is one of the most shameful displays of ingratitude this reporter has ever seen. I am no fan of Wyc and Co., but they allowed Carroll to linger on the payroll for far longer than he deserved, and the least he could have done was keep his stupid mouth shut about the experience while writing unreadable/un-insightful columns for the worldwide leader. Money, in this case, should definitely have talked.

Paul Pierce was named to the All-Star reserve squad today, a meaningless token that virtually no one takes seriously and only a tiny handful of people without financial ties to the Celtics even care about. Pierce deserves the honor this year just as much as he did not deserve it last year, but the whole thing has been received with a collective shrug, and a subtle acknowledgement among many fans that Gilbert Arenas was at least equally deserving of the honor. Nonetheless, it is what it is, and for many reasons this will most likely be Paul’s final appearance as an all-star. Even in this, his career year, he has proven incapable of carrying a team on his own, and his future will likely either entail 1) dominating the offense on a struggling Celtics team, or 2) playing a less central role on a winning team. In either case, he is both old news and a known quantity to a league that obsesses over new faces and reliable winners. He is not likely to eclipse this season in terms of personal/stat productivity, and thus he will be perceived as being on a downswing while his team continues to struggle.

So the question remains, will Pierce be moved out, or will he be gifted with a max contract extension from Wyc and the boys for continuing to serve as the face of the franchise? This blog has made its opinion clear, but it is equally clear that there is heavy-duty resistance to the concept of shipping out Pierce and starting completely anew. The Wally Szczerbiak trade was a shocking confirmation of the self-delusion at work in the front office, and the continued belief that the team can build a winner around Pierce over the next few years.

Obviously, the most likely course of action is inaction, and the forces-that-be will congratulate themselves for running such a great organization that they can hold onto their “franchise player” even while the franchise regresses and spins its wheels. Pierce will sign an extension, as most NBA players do, because the money is right and the situation is comfortable (see Ray Allen). The crowds will dwindle, we will continue to make marginal trades, and sometime around 2020 ole #34 will be raised to the rafters by a new ownership group that wants to pay tribute to a past most Celtics fans will by that point have forgotten. And like rabbits we will all eat our young.

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