The Celtics are banged up. If Kevin Garnett's foot injury ends up lingering for any extended period of time, an already thin front line becomes non-existant. The C's have no depth at either the 4 or 5 spot - and it's showing. D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph are not NBA caliber players, at least not rotation quality, and trying to plug them into the line-up during the stretch run has proven to be an exercise in futility. But it didn't have to be this way.
A few months ago the Celtics had had two roster spots up for grabs, and a glaring need to add a big. At the time, both Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen were on the market, desperately trying to get back into the NBA. Martin was just one season removed from playing an important bench role on a Clippers team that made it to the Western Conference Semi-Finals last season (5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1 block in 22 minutes a night).
Martin was interested in the Celtics (really he was interested in any team that would sign him), but the C's decided to pass, and instead hold on to roster flexibility. Here's what Martin's agent had to say in December (link).
We’ve done a thorough analysis of the marketplace,” said Miller, “and at this stage, Kenyon is obviously biting at the bit for an opportunity to get back in and show his wares. So we’ve broadened our scope from where we were originally, and that was obviously on the heels of free agency opening up. We wanted to be with a playoff-bound team and have a significant role.”
Be that as it may, we’ve had absolutely no conversations with the Celtics. They’ve not reached out at all. If there with issues with concerns regarding his commitment as far as how focused and how passionate he is about playing and competing with his team, quite frankly, my phone is working.
So the Celtics passed, but eventually the Knicks bit, signing Martin to 10-day deals on February 23rd and March 5th, and for the full season on March 15th. The move has proven to be a huge difference maker for New York as other members of their frontline have fallen, Martin is giving the Knicks 23 quality minutes a night, averaging 8.6 points and 5.3 boards. Think the Celtics could use that kind of production right about now? Martin is a guy who has always been a tough guy to guard, someone who can hit the mid-range jumper and work around the basket. His rebound rate has dropped from his prime (16.5% this year compared to 19.1%) but he's making up for it by scoring at a ridiculously efficient rate (62.7% FG, 60.3% True Shooting %). Is he likely to keep up that pace? Nope. But he's a really safe bet to outperform the limited offensive capabilities of White and Randolph.
Another big man on the market earlier this season was former Nugget Chris Andersen. The "Bird Man" was looking for a nest back in January, and eventually landed with the Heat. Andersen had been out of basketball since last March, but in December began actively searching for work. The Celtics had already lost Darko Milicic for the season, and taking a flyer on Andersen made all the sense in the world. His ability to block shots, even at age 34, was still elite, and his 'full-tilt, full-time' style of play is absolutely perfect for a guy coming off the bench.
Check out what Chris Bosh said about Andersen a few weeks ago (link).
He just keeps it going,” Bosh said of Andersen. “For the second-group guys, energy is the most important thing and he has come in and matched or exceeded us on a night-to-night basis.”
Bosh nails it right here. For the guys coming off the bench, it's all about energy, about giving the team everything you have for 4,6, 8 minutes at a time. Starters can't do that over 35+ minutes a night, but when you're playing in short bursts - it's what turns a good bench, into a great one. Andersen has always been lauded for that energy, and he would've been a perfect fit for 10-15 minutes a night.
Birdman has carved out a role off the bench for Miami, scoring 4 points and grabbing 3.3 rebounds (plus 0.8 blocks) in about 12 minutes a night. Miami's record in the 28 games he's played: 27-1.
That's not to say that the Heat's sudden inability to lose is because of Andersen, obviously there are other, bigger, more Lebronish reasons for that. But he's filled a role, and is giving them exactly what they needed, which is more than can be said about the guys the Celtics brought in.
So again, I ask - why didn't Danny bring either of these guys in? Hell, with the available roster spots he could have brought both players in. Ainge was committed to the idea of roster flexibility, and it ended up costing the team. By the time he decided to pull the trigger on a big, Andersen and Martin were off the table, and he was left with a bench straight out of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Even if KG comes back healthy (and if he doesn't, this whole conversation becomes moot as the Celtics season is doomed), the Celtics are left in a precarious position in terms of depth. Brandon Bass in the midst if a down season, is being forced to play 27 minutes a night, 5-10 more than he really should be. Chris Wilcox is also playing more than he should (17 minutes per game since the trade deadline), and Doc Rivers has already gone on record with saying that the Celtics will need to expand the big man rotation by one. If Ainge had made the right call in January, the C's would be in much better shape right now.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 3/24/2013 05:17:00 PM Tweet Edit