Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Uncomfortably Numb

Highly respected Celtics Doom'er "Anonymous" expressed boredom with this interminable summer and asked for some discussion fodder on where the Celtics stand as of this moment, particularly if this hapless crew as currently composed can make the playoffs. This offseason has been difficult to write about because we're all expecting some polarizing Ainge trade distraction to go down before the season begins and send everyone into a flurry of confusion, but in lieu of saying something prescient, I will try to at least say something interesting.

At first glance, the 2006/07 Celtics appear to be even more fucked than usual. Ainge's foolhardy promise to acquire "veteran all-stars" and appease Paul Pierce in a way that $59 million apparently failed to do, has predictably blown up in his face, and we look to enter next season with a nearly identical cast of underachievers, only with an even younger and more unproven point guard. The myopic over-estimation of our young talent and a payroll bloated by four embarrassing contracts (Pierce, Wally, Ratliff, Scalaburine) have combined to transform Trader Ainge into the Great Flounder-er, and nothing short of this team winning 50 games will save him and Shits Rivers from seeking summer employment as TNT analysts, or better yet, FSN fan-casters.

The Iverson saga is probably (and hopefully) over, but as we have harped on endlessly, there is no trade Ainge can make that's going to turn this team around this season, simply because no one's available and we don't have the chips to get them even if they are. Any move will likely be cosmetic and probably financial. But it is interesting to ponder whether or not this embarrassing menagerie (or one quite similar to it) will somehow slip into the playoffs, and after a little thought I guess I'd have to vote "no." The problems we have are many and well documented, but there a few basic facts that cripple us from the get go.

1) We have no team identity outside of "mediocre schedule fillers." Ainge's original vision of a run-and-gun, hyper athletic Phoenix Suns East squad cannot be realized with the current "talent." We are inconsistent on the boards (and thus, cannot get the break started), we have no Nash-like ignition switch, and our celebrated "superstar in his prime" phases in and out of his commitment to run and share the ball. Instead, we're a collection of mismatched young bench players and overpaid white stiffs, anchored by an all-star swingman who defines the term "would make a great second option on a good team." We also don't play defense and are coached by an idiot. We also have fools for owners who are more interested in making kissy-face with their man-crushes than making the financial commitment (either at the gate or on the payroll) to building a winner.

2) We are an injury away from grave humiliation. Wally, Big Al, Perk and Delonte all proved to be unsettlingly frail last season, and each one of them needs to produce for this team to have a chance. Wally, in particular, seems destined for a Raef-like decline, and God help Little Wyc if his BFF Paul Pierce goes down for any extended period of time. Insert whatever joke you want there.

3) This happy camper shit can't last forever. The haphazard "Isiah on a reduced budget" assembly Ainge has wrought contains so much internal competition it seems inevitable that Wyc's high-character white-man's-burden dreams will devolve base-level canker and discontent. Delonte will lose minutes to Brokeback Bassy and Orien Rondo, Al and Gomes will lose minutes to each other while Scalaburine plays on, and as always, Perk is bound to get fucked. Add to this the putative expanded roles of Gerald Green, Inmate #42, (and the addition of Allen Ray), and we have a powder keg for pissy-ness and strife that will require much more than the manly morale-building ass-slaps of all-star veteran Wally Szczerbiak to overcome. They got away with it last year, but this season everyone's a year older, some guys are playing with contract extensions in mind, and with the amount of losing they look destined to endure, players are going to start questioning the sacrifice they make in name of the untenable direction the team is heading.

The other side of the coin is that there are so many question marks with the team, that perhaps they resolve themselves positively, rather than with our worst assumptions.
It seems almost impossible for Al Jefferson to have a worse season than last year, so perhaps he shapes up and answers our questions at the PF. Maybe Brokebassy thrives in the alleged running game and gives us a legit up-tempo instigator. Maybe Delonte and Gomes will prove once and for all that solid 3 and 4 year college types with high Bball IQ's and good basic skills are more valuable than raw lottery talents. Maybe these guys overachieve, win 42 games and eek into the playoffs.

And then again, maybe not.

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