Monday, October 20, 2003

Baker to LaFrentz for Threeeeeeee!

My initial reaction to the Walker for LaFrentz deal was shock and horror. A former All-Star forward and team captain for a back-up center who can't play defense. Didn't we already trade for Vin Baker? Then I hear Danny Ainge on WEEI claiming that LaFrentz will play a Robert Parish-like role with this team and my head starts to hurt. Like cancer hurt. There is one person in the city of Boston who pumped their fist when they heard about the deal this morning, and that man is Grady Little. The rest of us got screwed. Again.

But then I started to think about it. This summer the Pistons, Nets, and Pacers all improved. The Celtics got Jumaine Jones. And were it not for the Talent Waste of the Century job pulled by Isiah Thomas in Indy, we wouldn't have made it out of the first round last year. So really, what was there to hold on to? Could Antoine and Paul have gotten us back to the playoffs? Sure. Was there any chance we would get past the East much less succeed in the finals? Absolutely not. No way, no how. So why not take a spin on making this team a bit younger, a touch more balanced, and a shade bigger? LaFrentz is NOT particularly good and he is a major liability on defense. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, he'll block some shots, but he can't guard Mutombo even now that he's dead. He can stick a three here and there, but when did that become a desirable attribute for a big man anyway? He can run, which will be nice, but he's not great on the boards. He's a fine player, but he's nothing special -- and he's certainly not Robert Parish. But I think he'll help.

Look, Pierce and Antoine just weren't working. They played fine together and seemed to get along fairly well, but Paul is a lead player. He can't have Antoine tossing irresponsible three's and "quick-shotting" his opponents with that ridiculous little hook. It's like a wife trying to save money to buy a house while the husband is running around spending the savings on chewing gum and comic books. Yeah, I'd like to chuck a few threes every quarter too, but someone's got to do some real work around here. Walker brought a ton to the floor in terms of ball handling, passing, and leadership and he never really got enough credit for it, but his shot selection was a liability. Ultimately he just was not the correct complimentary player for Pierce. You needed more roster efficiency, someone who can play a different spot on the court and do fundamentally different things. A top notch big man or a basket-cutting point guard, for instance. Now Rockin Raef is neither of these two things, and he is unlikely to become them. But he's something different. He streamlines the Celtics roster, and allows everyone to prepare for the Pierce coronation. Paul has been the best man in green for a while now, but as of 9:15 this morning, he's the only man.

Our point guards are a mess (believe me, you'll be missing Shammond Williams migh-t fast in a couple weeks). At two and three we have The Truth and then some awkward, why-didn't-we-get-invited-to-the-prom combination of Waltah, Kedrick Brown, Eric Williams, and Jumaine Jones. Then at 4-5 you've got Downtown Julie Raef LaFrentz, Mark Blount, Vinnie My Man Baker, and Tony Bad Knees Battie. Any 18 point a game scorers in there? No? How about 15? How about a few guys that can give you a dozen? How much for one rib? I mean have Vinnie and Kedrik improved? Probably. Will Raef likely give you decent numbers when he gets some minutes? Sure. But this team is now all about Pierce, and that's the way it should be. He is a franchise player, and if the C's get back into Championship contention it will be because they continue to improve on D, learn how to run, get a REAL secondary player, and optimize their offense through Paul Pierce. No more of this "give Paul the ball on the wing and get out of his way" nonsense. This is his team, let's design some plays for him. Run him off some picks, open up some back doors, get him moving for crying out loud. Give Paul more responsiblity, but at the same time, make his life easier. Give this team time to develop under his reign while you go and search for his Kevin McHale, and Raef LaFrentz might be part of that. Maybe. He's not McHale, Parish, Walton, DJ, or Ainge, but he might fit in somewhere. The one thing I think we can say with confidence after the last few years, no matter how talented he is, is that Antoine doesn't. I love him and I'll miss him, but it just wasn't going to work. Here's hoping this does....
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