With the passing of the NBA’s wild trade deadline on Thursday, Feb. 19, not much has changed for the Celtics. No rivals made moves that should vault them ahead of the East’s number one seed, despite efforts from the Orlando Magic to do just that. Orlando’s big move, which brought in Rafer Alston-better known for his And 1 days as Skip To My Lou than for his NBA prowess, won’t alter the picture of the East’s elite.
It’s a down to the two beasts of the East: LeBron James and the Boston Celtics.
Not to dismiss LeBron’s teammates summarily, but as solid as Zydrunas Illgauskus and Mo Williams are, they pale in comparison to the triumvirate of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo that King James’ small forward counterpart, Paul Pierce, has to work with.
James ridiculously leads his team in points, rebounds, and assists, and does it all efficiently, leading the league in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) at a historic clip--at 31.74 he’s challenging Michael Jordan’s single-season record of 31.89. (PER measures a player’s offensive efficiency, weighing the usefulness of what a player does with his possessions each game.) James also has stepped up his efforts on the defensive end, making him the clear-cut favorite for Most Valuable Player in a year that features incredible performances from Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant, to name a few.
So, despite the general consensus that he can’t, LeBron can almost single-handedly win an NBA title. He nearly did last year, taking his Cavs to an epic seventh-game showdown in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals with Paul Pierce when each went off for over 40 points. And the 24-year-old is even better this year.
While the Cavaliers made no moves to warrant further concern from the Celtics, Boston General Manager Danny Ainge still has his work cut out for him if he plans on raising Green 18 next fall.
The Celtics jettisoned two players who made absolutely zero impact on this season’s team record to the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors before the deadline for conditional second-round picks, Sam Cassell and Patrick O’Bryant, respectively. The reason: to open up to two roster spots for free-agent signings now that teams have begun the buy-out process with a chance to recoup something positive from their sunken costs officially gone.
With that in mind, whom should the Celtics go after?
Mikki Moore, just released by the Kings, would serve as decent filler given his length and experience. He’s a seven-footer who takes charges and shoots at a high clip; that’ll do if nothing better can be found. Joe Smith, the former first-overall selection in the 1995 NBA Draft whose backroom dealings with the Minnesota Timberwolves cost T-Wolves headman Kevin McHale his professional credibility, would certainly be a better addition, but Smith has yet to receive his walking papers from Kevin Durant’s O.K. City Thunder. Stephon Marbury, the mercurial, former star point guard currently collecting massive paychecks from the New York Knicks for not playing, could serve as a decent backup, but he brings risk of a complete mental meltdown-the guy went Mike Tyson a while back and got a tattoo on his head and is generally considered a bit crazy and definitely unstable. However, with the news that Tony Allen could potentially miss the rest of the regular season because of finger surgery, picking up a wingman with the second open roster spot would be more vital than another point guard.
Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens don’t appear to be the answer on the perimeter, evidenced by the fact that rumors have surfaced that Ainge has been attempting to move Giddens for months, so the scrap heap will have to do. Unfortunately, the scrap heap has yet to produce a juicy rumor worth writing about, so news on that front will have to wait. For now, a little help from Moore would be nice, and perhaps Smith or "Starbury" if they receive their parole papers from their respective teams. But, if the Celtics can’t land another wingman, preferably one who can play a little defense a la departed James Posey, I won’t be surprised to see LeBron take the cake in a rematch with the Celtics in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Here’s hoping for a bit of recycling for the Green.