Okay, so the Celtics’ 2012 season is done. Congratulations to the Heat, who played well in the fourth and deserved the win. The fellas were just out of gas.
Here’s what I expect will happen for next year:
1. Ray leaves in free agency. He’ll get his ankles fixed by the end of the month, and he’ll rehab through the summer and be ready to be a sniper from outside. Will he come back to Boston? I think this is doubtful, because he’ll get more money elsewhere. The only way he comes back is because …
2. KG signs for below-market value to win another title in Boston. I think he’s fully bought in to being a Celtic. I love that, because I love seeing guys do that. I think KG stays because Rondo and Truth go up to him and say, “Please stay. We’re going to be better next year.” Kevin wants to win another title, and Boston is the best place for his talents.
3. Paul is under contract, and he damn well better end his career a Celtic. ((Do you hear me, Danny? I will flood your INBOX.)) If Ray leaves, I think Truth moves out to the SG spot where he can work off of screens and fire daggers when he feels like it, and he’ll also have smaller guards that he can post up with that spin-shake-stepback he has. Just because Paul can play the 3 or the 4 doesn’t mean that he should do it on a regular basis. Paul also has to come into camp something close to game shape. Why does Paul get to move outside?
4. Jeff Green gets signed up to be the 3/4 guy that he was supposed to be after the Perkins trade. He can get 30-40 minutes with a starting bid, playing more inside if you go with a small-ball lineup and hanging on the perimeter the rest of the time. Green was supposed to be a super-sub, but he never got going with that after being traded to Boston. As the draft pick in the Ray Allen deal, it would be fitting for him to come in after Ray leaves.
5. Brandon Bass is clearly the power forward going forward for Boston. Maybe he slides out to the 3 if the Celtics can sign another big, but he’s shown a willingness to bang down low and fight for rebounds. Also, his lack of size really didn’t hurt the Celtics that much. His ability to hit that 15-footer and drain free throws like, well, Ray Allen, makes him a solid contributor. He can go stretches as the primary scorer on the floor, and I don’t think anybody had the idea coming into the year that he could do that. Would I have loved to have David West over him? Yes, but I’m very happy with Bass. His ECF performance was a revelation. He’s all growns up and he’s all growns up!
6. I’ve completely ignored Avery Bradley here, which is a shame, but I’m just not sure what you’re going to get out of him after the shoulder surgery. Can he step in and play SG? Yes, he probably can. Jeff Green may end up being the sixth man if Zilch can come back, drain from outside, and make stops. I’m just honestly not counting on it, which is not a knock on him but is just realism on shoulder surgeries.
7. The bench needs to be flushed away save for Pietrus, Dooling, and Stiemsma. Okay, maybe you keep Daniels around for his ability to be ready to play 15 minutes when Pierce is in foul trouble ((Which he is more as he gets older. I think he’s losing body control on the defensive end. Plus, I think refs are just tired of the antics. Still, nobody draws a foul like Paul.)), which certainly has a certain value. Rollins, Pavlovic, Wilcox can all go away. Maybe the Purdue kids will thrive in summer league and a full training camp. Can we get JaJuan in a weight room and to a training table? I don’t think he’s got the bulk to be a 4 in this league.
If tonight was the last run for the Big Four, I’m happy that I got to see it. This lineup ran longer than anyone truly expected. This team was one bad game and one bad fourth quarter from their third Finals in five years with three future Hall-of-Famers who were all over 30 in a young man’s league. They’re one torn knee ligament from getting enough rebounds to beat the Lakers in 2010. That this team was so close so often is a testament to how good they are despite their obvious frailties. This season’s team was a lot of fun to watch, and I got to do a lot of it thanks to League Pass Broadband’s support for the AppleTV. I’m still proud of the Celtics, and I probably always will be. I hope the fellas get #18 in 2013.