Summer Quandaries 2010 #1

Aug 1—61 Days to camp
Central to the Dilemma

Each year for the past five, I have done a series of posts in an effort to fill the void between the drop off in free agent activity near the end of July and the start of training camp at the end of September. For me this was the true doldrums of summer. The Boston media sportswriters lost all the lead out of their pencils—and what should just be a personal problem became instead a hole in the hearts of Celtics’ fans. Now, the blogosphere has helped fill the vacuum but if you keep a number of browser windows (which ones might be a good subject for a later post) open and periodically refreshed during each day, you have noticed the last 48 hours has seen a serious drop off in traffic. To span this breach I shall try to generate 61 thought provokers to tickle the little gray cells these next two months. After all the unquenchable thirst for Celtics’ musings should not go unslaked.

Obviously the center position has garnered a lot of attention this off season. Almost as obviously, the process of solving this dilemma is still a work in progress. Danny has already played the biggest (and darn near only) chip at his disposal by securing Jermaine O’Neal with the MLE. For the next month we watched as the (never extensive) supply of big men were taken off the table with various offers—all having in common that they were more than the veteran minimum which is the only size currency left in Danny’s GM wallet. With no LLE (used last year for Marquis Daniels) and no tradable contracts outside the starters except for Glen Davis and the smallest of vet min contracts of Oliver and Gaffney, Ainge has few options. He has been left to explore deals using the contract of the ready-to-retire Rasheed Wallace while waiting for the market to dwindle until the mystique and contender-status of the Celtics make Danny’s min vet contracts among the “best” deals left. An indication of just what an irksome wait this has become is the fact that still holding out for more cash are Kwame Brown, Earl Barron, and the large bulk of Shaquille O’Neal (once a powerhouse but now only a shell, albeit a massive one, of his former dominant self ).

Another idea occurred to me but let’s hold off on that and consider the “merits” of these three best of the leftovers.
I won’t spend long on Shaq, having written quite a bit on him last week. Suffice to say that he is still talking of what he should “get” rather than asking what he can give. Until and unless he can make that seismic shift in attitude, it is hard to see his addition as anything but a problem in the making. Take Kwame Brown, or as (now several) teams have said, “Please take Kwame Brown.” The length and agility of Brown have not faded as Doc came away from the Orlando meeting between Kwame and D&D impressed with his athleticism and was quoted as saying “He could help us.” Seeing Kwame work out impresses everyone, seeing him play, not so much. Small hands, few offensive moves, little development, totally unrealistic expectations that always come with a number one pick, and Michael Jordan’s brow beating during his early years (starting as an 18-year-old rookie) have set some pretty harsh limits on his perceived upside. On the other hand he has size and plays pretty good man-to-man defense and how much more do you want from a backup center?

On the other hand if Earl Barron could can the game he had against Boston last year and trot it out 82 times, he would be a contender for the All-Star game. Unfortunately most teams will actually cover him, at which time he returns to being the D-league staple with serious limitations. Then again big men are notoriously slow developing, which is probably why so many teams keep recycling them long after their shorter brethren are cast aside. He does have size, is mobile, rebounds well, and can make the open jumper from the free throw line—a lot of backups offer considerably less.

If you are put off by the odor emanating from these dregs, try running through the list ( of the other used-to-be’s and never-quite-were’s. Which led me to another thought, Erick Dampier certainly isn’t going to play for Charlotte for $13M this year. When they waive him, and they will (would you pay him that, and another $8M in Luxury Tax, and forfeit another $3-4M of Luxury dispersal?), then it is likely he will be resigning for the veteran minimum. Say that is right in our ballpark! I suspect Danny can’t talk to him until he is actually waived (Stern and his pesky tampering regulations) but if this comes to pass then there will be a lot of current whiners eating crow. In fact Charlotte may drag their feet about waiving him hoping that the delay will mean that when they do, all the plum positions will have already been filled by teams filling out their rosters. Apparently there is no “vest” date which means the Bobcats have until 1/10/11 before his contract becomes guaranteed for the season. Until then, they have a serviceable center for the bargain (?) price of his prorated contract (82 games, thirteen million, about $158.5K per—hmmm, wish I got that for any single activity).