Saturday, August 11, 2007

Balance of Power Tilts

Apparently two fellow superstars, and a contract extension, made Boston look markedly better to Kevin Garnett. Slightly more than a month after reportedly nixing a trade to the Celtics, due to the perception of negative treatment towards African Americans, Garnett blessed the deal that unites him with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, creating a modern day Big Three.

The trade sends Garnett to Boston, with Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and Gerald Green, heading back to Minnesota. Suddenly, the widely criticized draft day acquisition of Ray Allen, makes sense. After losing the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant lottery, Danny Ainge decided to fast track the rebuilding process through trades, positioning the Celts to win now, not continue the perpetual wait for rookies to develop.

Combining an All-Star sharp shooting guard, coming off a 26 ppg season, an established team leader, who posted a solid 25 ppg in an injury shortened season at the wing, with arguably the most complete player in the NBA, Boston can win on any given night. Even scarier, without any Tim Duncan’s, Dirk Nowitzki’s, or Yao Ming’s, Garnett has no equal in the Eastern Conference. Adding the Big Ticket immediately vaults Boston ahead of a young Toronto team and healthy Nets team, as the favorites in the Atlantic division, alongside Cleveland, Miami, and Detroit, as the leaders to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Before handing Boston 50 wins and Conference championship, keep a few important facts in mind: a team of superstar players rarely equal more than the sum of the parts, none of the Celtics new Big Three have any postseason success of note, and Boston lacks depth beyond the three stars. For years Garnett plead to play with another star, that he needed a formidable second option to make a deep playoff run, well, now he has two. No more excuses for first round failures.

Typically, spreading the ball around and getting each star a representative number of touches and shot becomes a sore spot, particularly with three big scorers splitting the load. These three do not carry the egos, at least publicly, that scream, “I need the ball”, like an Allen Iverson, or Kobe Bryant. I envision each will remain content scoring less, and winning more. Does that automatically mean everything will work out splendid? Not quite, look at the US Olympic team, full of superstars that failed to function as a cohesive unit.

Reportedly, the Nets made a run at KG before the draft, offering a package of Richard Jefferson, Nenad Kristic, and Marcus Williams to Minnesota, which the Wolves declined. New Jersey lacked the quantity and quality of young players, draft picks, and expiring contracts that Minnesota wanted. Now, the Nets get a close look at Garnett four times a year, and every time they glance at the standings, a scary proposition.

The brief Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker led run earlier this decade aside, the Celts are relevant for the first time since the Reggie Lewis tragically died, ending the remnants of the 1980’s dynasty. Bostonians snatched up season tickets at record pace after the trade. Celtic pride is back - good for Boston, good for the league, bad for the rest of the Eastern Conference.

…To add insult to injury, Boston signed former Net Eddie House to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, to help replenish their depleted roster following the trade. House averaged 8.4 ppg last season, but more importantly, presented the Nets only legitimate, consistent 3-point shooter, connection on 43% from long range (75-175) providing a spark off the bench.

Look for New Jersey to sift through remaining, inexpensive free agents to find a replacement. Robert Hite, who shot the ball well during summer league and impressed Net brass with his gritty play, may receive first crack at the job.

…Josh Boone continues recovering from off-season knee surgery. Coach Lawrence Frank recently stated Boone will compete for playing time at the Forward/Center position, with new additions Jamaal Magloire and Sean Williams, and incumbent Jason Collins. Frank affirmed Boone is making, “good progress” in his recovery.


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