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Last off-season the Celtics had several weeks to recruit the O’Neals. Danny Ainge had time to weigh the potential cost and benefit of bringing Delonte West back to Boston. Management had time to abide by head coach Doc Rivers’ shopping list and fill the roster accordingly.
The lockout has made this season’s free agent signing period short. In fact, calling it short is a severe understatement.
NBA teams started negotiating with players on Monday. NBA training camps open either Friday or Monday. Players can officially sign with teams on Friday.
The Celtics currently have six players under contract, and Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are all 33 years old or older. It’s going to be hard for them to log heavy minutes every night.
The current roster needs help. To help out Ainge, Sports of Boston will be previewing over the next few days the Celtics’ existing roster, potential free-agent guards and potential free-agent forwards and centers.
We’ll start with last year’s Celtics.
The six players currently under contract are the above-mentioned four, Rajon Rondo and second-year guard Avery Bradley. The Celtics are expected to sign rookies JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. That brings the roster to eight. Ainge has also expressed his intent to do whatever it takes to retain Jeff Green. If the Celtics can agree to terms with Green, that leaves them with three to six open roster spots.
The depth chart currently has gaping holes at center and guard. Ainge has tough decisions to make regarding several key players from last year’s team that could help with the holes in the roster. Glen “Big Baby” Davis and West are both unrestricted free agents going into this week’s negotiating sessions.
Bringing Delonte back on a reasonable deal ($2-3 million a year for 2 years) is a no brainer. West may have had his ups and downs as a citizen, but no one can question his toughness on the basketball court. The six-year veteran can: guard three positions on the floor; fearlessly attack the basket; shoot from 3-point range; and handle the ball well. He’ll be back if he’s asking a reasonable amount.
Davis is a more complicated story. Weight issues and attitude problems aside, Davis could demand more money than he is worth. Denver, New Jersey, Detroit, Orlando and Atlanta all have expressed interest in Big Baby.
If the price for Davis gets too high, I suspect the Celtics will try to work out a sign-and-trade to bring back a serviceable player as a replacement. Sign-and-trade deals are generally complicated and in a severely shortened free agency period I don’t see there being enough time for one to get done.
For the moment let’s assume Davis stays. We now have a roster of eleven; one short of the league minimum. On top of this, two of the eleven are rookies and a third is a second year player who barely saw the court in his first year. That leaves the Celtics with an eight-man rotation whose average age is well above 30. It’s going to be a long season if Danny Ainge can’t add at least three more warm bodies.