Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Three More Steps For The Celtics And Clippers

Kevin Garnett and DeAndre Jordan are at the center of cross-coast trade talks. (Reuters)

There is plenty standing in the way of a whispered-about deal between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers that would end with Doc Rivers coaching a blue-and-white clad Kevin Garnett and the C's having a little more financial flexibility. In and of itself, such a deal would have a major impact on both the Eastern and Western Conference powers, but it could also act as the lead domino falling in a chain of events causing a larger seismic shake in the NBA landscape. While none of these transactions may happen, here are three things Boston can do post-trade to improve their new look, plus three for the Clippers.

What the Celtics can do

1. Hit the coaching market — hard

There should be many viable candidates left when/if this deal gets done, with the limited number of head coaching jobs still vacant. Lionel Hollins would be a near-perfect fit for a young, aggressive center like DeAndre Jordan (a Celtic, pending the deal) and a point with a nose for the ball like Rajon Rondo. Hollins could even help Avery Bradley return to his 2011-12 form, which looked like one of the NBA's top perimeter defenders. Though Hollins will surely have been snapped up by a needing team by that point, others such as George Karl, Kelvin Sampson, Brian Shaw and Nate McMillan could be available. A storied franchise like Boston's might even have a chance to lure Jerry Sloan away from retirement, if the rebuilding period could be sold as short.

2. Let Rondo pad his stats

Keep the roster as it is. If Boston can keep Paul Pierce or if he requests a trade out of frustration or friendship with Garnett fine. Getting something back for Pierce while he still has market value would be ideal, and giving Jordan a season as the headlining big man would be paramount to his development, but Rondo is still the heart, soul, motor, etc., etc., of the Beantown ballers. Coming back from an injury like an ACL tear, he will require time to get back into the rhythm of the game. The Celtics should allow him that and, when he's returned to the level of competition at which he usually plays, let him take as many touches as he wants. Rondo is a huge fan of performing on big stages, routinely recording triple-doubles in playoff games like he is on a court competing against amateurs. Giving him free reign to do this on a nightly basis could up his production to heights previously only imagined. It would also give Rondo more opportunities to explore the scoring aspect of his game, something Rivers and the Boston coaching staff have been hounding him to do for some time now.

3. Find a gem in the 2014 draft

Shawn mentioned it in a roundtable a while back, striking out and predicting the Celtics would tank 2013-14 to better their chances of snagging the winning ticket in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. It seemed like a very long, if still realistic, shot then and has only become a clearer option since. The 2014 draft is deep and Wiggins is far from being the only prize to be had, but he is obviously the biggest gift under the tree. Pairing a prospect like Wiggins with a dominant, willingly deferring guard like Rondo is akin to a blessing from the basketball gods. Having an interior presence like Jordan would ease Wiggins through his rookie season, even if he won't need it.

What the Clippers can do

1. Re-sign Chris Paul

Duh. This is a no-brainer. Paul and Garnett would be nasty for opposing teams not only as a duo, but as a lethal leadership combination rallying their fellow Clippers. The steps following the current proposal between Los Angeles and Boston — dealing Eric Bledsoe for Dwight Howard or Arron Afflalo — could improve the Clippers a great deal more, but if the Clips are to succeed immediately, Paul must be directing traffic.

2. Find some youth.

Particularly at shooting guard. Especially at small forward. Recommended for the bench. Without Jordan (plus Blake Griffin and/or Bledsoe, pending other trades), the Clippers' mean age goes up significantly. Grant Hill may have retired, but Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford aren't doing much for the franchise's future, even if they are of some use presently. The addition of Garnett, and possibly Pierce, indicates win-now, which is fine for a team the caliber of which the LA front office is presently trying to assemble, but there are several reasons as to why a youthful group of role players could help the team. They begin with cultivating talent and giving it early looks at playoff experience and continue with concerns about durability for the older, billboard players.

3.Win the war for Los Angeles

This has nothing to do with Aaron Eckhart nor his terrible 2011 movie. Instead, it means fully emerging from the shadow of the Staples Center's favorite sons, the Lakers. The Clippers were on the verge this season as their dominance made the Lakers' struggles throughout the regular season look worse, but then the Lake Show managed to earn the Western Conference's eighth seed. Not that it mattered for either team, as both experienced first-round exits. Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon and the Lakers' continuing roster woes offer a rebuilt Clippers squad to finally strike out for the throne in Southern California, if not the NBA as a whole.

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