When the NBA owners and players finally come to a labor agreement the NBA season will begin. A frenzy of free agent signings will take place, training camp will start and eventually opening night tip off.
As Celtics fans look back at last year they realize the cards were against then when point guard Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow during Game 3 of their series against the Miami Heat. Rondo came back Willis Reed style into the game and the Celtics ended up winning Game 3. That win would be the last win of their season, as the Celtics bowed out in five games to the younger, more athletic Miami squad.
Many Celtics fans viewed this as the end of the current Celtics dynasty. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce looked very old and tired during the Heat series. The trade of Kendrick Perkins back fired big time in the eyes of most Celtics fans. People, including myself questioned why one of the best NBA coaches, Doc Rivers, played an injured Rondo in Games 4 and 5.
As the Celtics walked into the tunnel at American Airlines Arena in Miami, LeBron James celebrated on the court like he won the NBA Championship, many felt the window for another Celtics banner was completely shut.
There are many reasons, though, to feel optimistic as a Celtics fan. The Celtics can win another banner even after the contracts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are off the books in the summer of 2012.
Here are some of the reasons why I think the Celtics will be relevant for years to come.
Doc Rivers signing a five year extension
When Doc Rivers began his coaching career in Boston who knew how much of a factor he would be in bringing championship basketball back to the city. He asked for management to get him veteran players. Management listened, and Doc rewarded them with a championship in 2008.
After last season’s exit from the playoffs Rivers went to the podium for his post game press conference. Many people thought back at the press conference following the 2010 Finals loss when Rivers sounded like a man who wanted to hang up his clipboard.
He seemed like a man who wanted to spend more time with his family and less time with players like, Rasheed Wallace.
But the press conference in Miami was completely different; it was even a little upbeat. Rivers nipped the issue in the bud. He let everyone know that he was in for the long-haul, he was coming back to Boston, and he was a “Celtic”.
Fans may question Rivers coaching abilities at times. Let’s face it, the Miami series could have been different if Rivers didn’t ride his injured point guard for the last two games.
During the third quarter, and the beginning of the fourth it was evident that the offense was running much better with a healthy Delonte West at point guard.
Many people will give Rivers a pass on that game because it is evident that he is the best X’s and O’s coach in the NBA. Out of time outs Rivers is at his best. Think back about all the times the Celtics won close games because Rivers play calling was superb.
One of the biggest factors in why Rivers signing an extension can help the Celtics is because Rivers is a player’s coach. He is known throughout the league as one of the player’s favorite coaches. That aspect will help in the future when the Celtics have money to spend, and free agents need to be sold on the city of Boston.
Money to spend in 2012
As the summer of 2012 begins the Celtics will be one of the major players in free agency. After Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen’s contracts come off the books the Celtics will owe only 29 million dollars to 3 players (Rondo, Bradley, Pierce).
Add in the contracts of this year’s first round pick, JaJuan Johnson, which will not be a pricey one, the Celtics have at the least 25-30 million dollars to offer to free agents.
This number all depends on what kind of cap is agreed on during the NBA negotiations, but either way the Celtics will be a big player. The biggest free agent in 2012 will be Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
If the Celtics management want to sign Howard they will have many competitors, including big markets like Los Angeles and New York. But the thought of Howard teaming with Rajon Rondo has to put a smile on the faces of Celtics management.
In a point guard driven league, Rajon Rondo seems to be in his own class. Shoot first point guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose are great fits for their respective teams, but if you put those two players on the Celtics, then you might have some unhappy veterans, who want the ball, rather than watching their point guard take the majority of the shots.
In an article earlier in the summer, ex-Celtic Kendrick Perkins even hinted that Rondo would be a better fit for Perkins’ team in Oklahoma City, something Westbrook didn’t take to kindly to.
Rondo, clearly makes his teammates better. Sometimes his unselfishness hurts him, many times he passes up open shots, for a tough pass to a teammate. In the future Rondo will have to shoot more, but depending on the players around him, if he can attempt about 13-18 shots a game, and dish out double digits assists then the Celtics will be in good shape.
Rondo also serves as the Celtics only trade piece. This is not to say the Celtics would want to shop him around, but its obvious if teams are calling Danny Ainge to make any deals, Rondo is the first name brought up.
There might come a time when Ainge does pull the trigger on a Rondo deal, but you can guarantee the Celtics would get back a few building blocks for the future.
Rondo’s contract also makes him an attractive piece. He makes a manageable 10 million dollars next season and an additional 1 million added on until the 2014-2015 season.
Rondo should be in Boston for the long haul though. Remember back when Ainge was making offers for Kevin Garnett, the one player Ainge refused to give up was Rondo.
Ray Allen doesn’t age
Ok, maybe Ray Allen isn’t as young as he once was. At times he seems to fatigue down the stretch of games.
The biggest comparison Allen gets is to ex-Pacer Reggie Miller, a guy who played up until he was almost 40. Miller almost came out of retirement when he was 42 to play in Boston. It isn’t too much of a stretch to think Allen could play well into his 40s.
Coming off the bench Allen could be a force with the Celtics. 12-18 minutes a game when Allen is in his late 30s, early 40s seems like something Allen would be up to.
He clearly is one of most professional, and respected players in the league. He is the ultimate team player and would know that his biggest contribution to the Celtics in the future would be as a role player off the bench.
This all depends on the contract he wants to sign after he is a free agent following the ’11-’12 season. Allen has made it clear though that he loves it in Boston. He loves the city, and he loves the location, close to his Connecticut roots.
Boston also offers him the best opportunity to take care of his son, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in the summer of 2008, by offering him the best hospitals and doctors in the country.
Allen has made hundreds of millions of dollars in his career. Before he signed his current 2 year 20 million contract, he averaged 18 million dollars a year throughout his career. To think that Allen would take a pay cut from the 10 million he is making this season, isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The Boston Celtics are the greatest NBA franchise in history (sorry Lakers fans). With Rivers and Rondo in place, and Paul Pierce destined to retire a Celtic, the greatest NBA franchise will only get stronger. Kevin Garnett, who was tentative to come to Boston after hearing rumors of the negativity in the city, will be Boston’s greatest spokesperson once he hangs up his sneakers.
One the NBA ends the lockout, a lot of big market teams will compete for the title. Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and eventually New York.
Boston will be another market that the NBA thrives on having for its national televised games. With the fact that Rondo keeps getting better, Paul Pierce isn’t slowing down, and Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the game, Boston will be a centerpiece of the NBA landscape for years to come.