Summer Quandaries #50
September 20--7 days to camp
I had plenty of time to think about a column today as I waited for the programs to run to clean a virus from my computer. Oddly the unpleasant experience provided the subject for today’s mental exercise. I can remember no time since the John Y. Brown ownership disaster that the team has had so many members that might prove problematic—in the clubhouse, on the court or in court, in the press, out on the town, in the coach’s office, or in the social media. The success of this final hurrah with the Big Three is fraught with danger and none is more insidious than the threat to upset the positive chemistry that has been a mainstay for the past three years.
In the past Danny Ainge has not shied from taking a chance on risky personality types with some red flags in their history. Ricky Davis, Stephon Marbury, and Michael Olowokandi all come to mind. While none proved to be enormous successes at least they were not allowed to run amok and were held accountable for their actions while with the Celtics.
Last summer Danny recruited Rasheed Wallace who came with considerable baggage and during the season took on Nate Robinson who had become persona non grata despite being something of a crowd favorite in New York. There has been a lot of goodie-goodie talk concerning Rasheed’s finally showing up during the playoffs. I felt however that allowing him to coast through the regular season and his differential (or maybe deferential) treatment bespoke a division that set the wrong tone for the younger players and detracted from team unity. The midseason addition of Robinson looked like a failed experiment as Nate’s undisciplined shot selection and spotty defense had taken him out of the rotation and into Doc’s doghouse until his resurgence and rededication to defense that allowed him to reemerge late in the playoffs. In April few expected him to return this year but his improved performance in the Conference and NBA Finals led to his resigning.
This summer has seen the signing of Von Wafer, Shaquille O’Neal, and most recently Delonte West. Each of these players has made the headlines, and not the good kind, for incidents both on and off the court. Bringing in all three and expecting there to be no problems or issues is probably naïve. With so many new additions (nearly half the team) there are legitimate concerns about chemistry issues even if no one is making waves. It is a situation that I’m sure will draw close attention from both Rivers and Ainge.
The factor that best mitigates the threat is that all the likely suspects are on minimum vet contracts and potential replacements are already on board. The guards (West and Wafer) are part of a virtual glut at the PG and SG positions where seven players are under some kind of contract and eight will be in camp. The Shaquille role is less well covered with only the Turkish rookie Semih Erden as Center depth until/unless Perkins returns, although both Garnett and Davis have served spot duty there in the past. You have to believe that Ainge will be quick to excise the cancer should one of these wheels start squeaking or, worse yet, fly off the axel. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.