Sports Opinion & Analysis

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Celtics Finally Blow It Up

In NBA on June 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

Well folks, Danny the Dealer has struck again, with Ainge trading releasing Doc Rivers from his contract with the understanding that his new employers, the Los Angeles Clippers, will compensate the Celtics with a first round draft pick in 2015. This move serves as acknowledgment as what became painfully obvious as the aging Celtics got smacked around by the New York Knicks in the first round this postseason, the Big Three’s run was fun, but their window for winning Division Titles, let alone NBA Championships, has slammed shut.

It should have been evident to anyone watching this past year’s Boston Celtics, even shameless homers like the late Johnny Most, that this team is past its prime and no longer ready for prime time. It would be easy to blame the season-ending injury suffered by Rajon Rondo, but when he went down this team was 20-23. Having gotten “younger” with 35 year old Jason Terry and 27 year old Courtney Lee just wasn’t getting it done. The Celtics have to go into a rebuilding period, the sooner the better.

So if Doc was lukewarm about rebuilding, moving him (and his $7 million annual salary), is a good idea. The Celtics need to rebuild about Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, while continuing to add young talent. The best avenue to do that is through the draft, and with the Celtics currently stuck in mid-to-late first round purgatory, stockpiling additional picks is a no-brainier. But the Celtics have limited assets with which to collect picks, Doc being one (Rondo, KG and Pierce being the others). So dealing him and hiring a cheaper coach to teach the younglings is a shrewd business decision.

My only complaint from a business standpoint is that the Celtics didn’t get enough for Doc. In exchange for one of only four active NBA coaches to have won an NBA Title (along with Popovich, Spoelstra and Carlisle) they received a single first round pick, and it isn’t until the 2015 draft. That’s right, it’s not in the draft this coming week or even next year; it is two years down the road. This means the badly needed young help that an extra first rounder can provide is three seasons down the road. Unfortunately for Celtics fans like myself, this likely means that Danny anticipates a lengthy rebuilding process. Furthermore, the location of the pick will be determined by the results of the 2014-2015 Clippers, who if they resign Chris Paul next month can be expected to make a deep run into the playoffs, making this nearly a second round pick (although I have a bad feeling that the Celtics’ own pick will be much higher, perhaps making up for it).

And how is it that Danny only got one pick for Doc? The three years remaining on Doc’s contract gave the Celtics plenty of leverage and with the non-compete clause they did not have to do this deal or risk losing him to “retirement.” Why not say “two first rounders or bust,” or stand firm on the original demand that they take a bloated contract (Lee/Terry) off Boston’s hands, given that the Celtics best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) was having a great coach? My best guess is that the Clippers used their continued highly public interviewing of other quality candidates to single to Ainge that they also viewed their BATNA favorably and were willing to walk away from the deal. So at the end of the day, I have to accept that two first rounders, or a salary dump, just wasn’t going to happen, but I can’t shake the feeling that while this is a good business decision for my Celtics, they sold too low.

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An Ode to Defense

In Keep Updated on June 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

With the Stanley Cup Finals getting underway in Chicago, it seems like a good time to discuss what it is that wins championships. In all four major sports that (pitching and) defense win championships is such a truism that it has become clichéd. And yet, in all four leagues, fans seem to prefer offense, and the rules are being changed to give the people what they want. In baseball, they say that chicks dig the long ball (and Selig turned a blind eye to steroids because fans of both genders flocked to the power displays), the NFL has become an outdoor version of arena football, basketball caved in to those who love offense decades ago when they invented the three ball, and in hockey the 2005 season saw shrunk goalie equipment to facilitate more scoring and thereby boost TV ratings. The people have clearly spoken, and they love offense. Thus, the odds say that you, whoever you are dear reader, will think I’m crazy when I say: I love defense!!!

Seriously, I love defense. I love seeing a great pitching duel is baseball. A lot of people complain there is no action in them, but to me watching two pitchers dominate hitters is amazing, especially as they each know one mistake will be the game because the other guy is lights out. Great pitching beats great hitting, and it is beautiful to watch guys with nasty stuff make the sluggers look silly. Sure, I grew up in the steroids era, but the memories that stand out most are not the bombs Big Mac, Slammin’ Sammy and Company launched. It’s Pedro’s historic dominance in 1999, Nomar Garciparra going deep in the hole at short and making it look easy over and over again, Trot Nixon crashing into walls and coming away with the ball.

In football and basketball, no one ever doubts that defense wins championships. It isn’t sexy, especially in basketball, but watching one’s team manhandle the other team’s superstar scorers is amazing. Now there are flashy defensive plays like the pick six or the epic blocked shot. But just as beautiful to me is the goal line stand, the tackle for loss, the nose tackle stuffing the run as if he knew the play before it was called. When the Celtics won the title in 2008, the way they played on offense was great, but it was the shutdown D, Perkins neutralizing Dwight Howard and the like, that was truly a joy to watch.

Last but not least there is hockey. Let’s just look at the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins were the highest scoring team in the regular season and were historically prolific in the playoffs. But then you have Jaromir Jagr putting Crosby on the ice and probably saying, “son, I have aches that are older than you,” and Gregory Campbell redefining “taking one for the team” when he broke this leg blocking a shot. How can you not love the toughness and dedication of guys who go to the ice to block pucks with their bodies before they can get to the goalie? There was a truly sensational series in the final minute of Game 4 where a Bruin was on the ice in the shooting lane, and a teammate who has between him and the net dove over him to get at the puck him as if throwing himself on a grenade. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, defense is where it’s at.

So call me a relic, call me what’cha will; say I’m old fashioned, say I’m over the hill, but while you tune in to watch the superstars run up the score, my heart lies with the defense trying to stop them.

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