Columnists :: The Boston Sports Beat
LeBron to the Celtics? by Brandon Simes
Managing EditorFriday May 14, 2010 It’s extremely unlikely, but should Paul Pierce decide to opt out of his contract this summer, the Celtics could fit LeBron James under the cap. And, should Prince James truly care about winning first and foremost, Boston could be one of the best fits for him.
I don’t think Pierce will choose to opt out, but if he did, it would provide Boston with a chance to lure the Prince. The team would have to re-sign Ray Allen to a much smaller cap hit or renounce his rights, but it’s possible. Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins might be the best defensive team we’ve seen in a while (i.e. ever). Better even than the 2008 Celtics perhaps. That good. With Rasheed Wallace, Big Baby Davis, and a couple of shooters off the bench (or starting in place of Allen), the team would contend immediately and have Rondo and James to build around. Boston’s not New York, but James would join the winningest franchise in basketball history.
There’s another option here: LeBron can sign with any team in the league he wants. All he has to do is sign for the mid-level exception and then re-up with that team using his Bird rights for a max deal. It would require him losing about $10 million in income for a year, but if it’s all about winning, that’s the best move. He could sign with Lakers and team up with buddy - and Ben Roethlisberger’s frat boy friend - Kobe Bryant in LA to win title after title. He could play alongside Kevin Durant. He could do anything he wants. It’s really in his hands, but money will probably cut his options down to a few teams under the cap, and if I had to choose one for him, I’d pick the lowly Nets.
LeBron loves Jay-Z, who is a minority owner of the Jersey squad only because the team will someday move to Brooklyn. The team’s new majority owner is a billionaire and won’t worry about adding expensive role players. Winning a championship in Brooklyn will bring even more fame and money than James has already accumulated. If he has made it in Akron he’ll be able to handle a couple of years in Newark for becoming the biggest athletic star the world may have ever seen. Plus New Jersey is about to get a whole lot better one way or another.
With a top-3 pick this summer (Evan Turner or John Wall anyone?), holdovers Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, and Brooke Lopez, and enough cap space for LeBron AND Chris Bosh or another stud, the Nets could build a dynasty. It might not win it all in year one (emphasis on might) but within five years he’d win at least two or three titles.
That’s why, based on LeBron’s melancholy and apathetic demeanor during his loss to the Celtics and his love of all things New York, I think he just might be willing to sign with New Jersey this summer.
Now that I’ve got you here, I have another radical thought for the C’s. Yes, I know they’re about to take on the Magic for a chance to return to the Finals, but I don’t really expect this team to get any better any time soon. The Celtics will likely struggle through injuries and decline until KG’s contract is cleared, and by then a new deal for Kendrick Perkins and any other moves may have eaten some of the team’s potential cap space - which might be available without anyone worth giving it to, as well. So, here are two moves that could quickly reshape the team’s style of play and its future.
Move #1: Trade KG and ’Sheed to the Wizards for Andray Blatche and, gulp, Gilbert Arenas.
Blatche is a potential stud. He can play the 4 or the 5 and space the floor, rebound, and pass. His defense needs to improve, but he’s got HUGE upside. Arenas is a headcase, but that’s why this deal works for Washington. Rather than offering enough cap space for two max players with Arenas as the smiling pitchman, they can sell a champion and all-time great to LeBron et al this summer.
Move #2: Trade Perk to OK City for Serge Ibaka, Kyle Weaver, and B.J. Mullins.
The Celtics would get two young guys who aren’t really expected to perform, and one guy I think will be an All Star in Ibaka. I love his game. Love it. I think his athleticism paired with Blatche’s ability to space the floor and Rondo’s driving and dishing would by dynamic. The C’s could have their next nucleus right there.
OK City is ready to contend next year. I truly believe that. But, with their roster, either Ibaka needs to play the 5 and defend men much stronger and heavier than him, or they need to find a defensive center to complement Jeff Green and Kevin Durant at the forward spots. Perk might just be the perfect match; he’s athletic enough to follow the break and help on rotations, and he’s strong enough to shut down even the likes of Dwight Howard. He’ll need an extension, but the Thunder are in a good spot with their cap, so they could fit him in comfortably and still make a run at one of the offensive 4s available this summer if they want to upgrade Green and have him serve as the perfect sixth man on that team. I believe the Thunder are set at every other position on the court, both in the starting lineup and off the bench, so they could very well surprise and win a title next year ... and the year after that, and the year after that.
If these two deals were to go through, Boston would then need to convince Ray Allen to re-sign, and also bring back Tony Allen. That would leave the team looking like this:
Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, Ibaka, and Blatche in the starting five with Arenas, Big Baby Davis, the #19 pick, and Tony Allen off the bench.
The team would be without cap space for the immediate future, but if GM Danny Ainge could convince someone to take a chance on Arenas for an expiring contract (granted, a big if), the team would have an undeniably bright future. Pierce would possibly be gone the year after, but with the space created by his exit and a possible Arenas deal, the team could be in position to sign Carmelo Anthony in a couple of summers should he opt out of his deal with Denver.
I love Perkins, and I’ll always be thankful to KG, but if the goal is to build a winner for the long term, a jumpstart this summer might be the best move.