Celtics puzzled by Allen’s departure

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) drives past Boston Celtics guard Tony Allen in the second quarter during Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Boston, Massachusetts, June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

In my minor NBA moves post, I wrote the following about Tony Allen:

Jeff Van Gundy called Allen the best perimeter defender in the league, and the C’s curiously let him sign elsewhere for around $3 million a season. He is a very good defender. I watched him cover LeBron James, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant in consecutive playoff series and he didn’t give up very many easy shots. Why Boston would let him go is beyond me.

When asked about Allen’s departure, Danny Ainge said that it wasn’t a financial decision.

Allen left even though the Celtics could have exceeded the $10 million, three-year contract the swingman received.

“We had a good six years with Tony,’’ said Celtics president Danny Ainge. “I think you’d have to ask Tony [why he left]. We wanted Tony back. We tried to get him and it wasn’t a financial decision. It was other decisions. That’s something you’d have to ask Tony.’’

Allen is a very good perimeter defender, so the failure to re-sign him could bite the Celtics down the road.

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NBA News & Notes: The calm before the storm

– News broke yesterday that Celtics GM Danny Ainge had a mild heart attack, but should be fine and is recovering nicely. It would be bad form to make a joke about how it was the news that Doc Rivers shut down Kevin Garnett that caused Ainge’s heart attack, so I won’t go there.

– Stan Van Gundy says that injured starters Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis may return for the Magic’s first game against Philadelphia on Sunday.

– Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody and Saint Mary’s Patty Mills plan to make themselves eligible for the NBA Draft, but neither player is going to hire an agent to allow for a return to school if they so choose. Arizona’s Nic Wise seems to be looking purely for feedback.

– Unrestricted free agent Shawn Marion is keeping his options open, and one choice is to return to the Raptors, but the Toronto press isn’t optimistic.

What’s wrong with the Celtics?

The Christmas Day loss to the Lakers was understandable. And maybe even the next night’s loss to the Warriors was forgivable, since it the second of back-to-back games and Oakland is always a tough place to play. But what about consecutive losses to the Knicks and the Bobcats, each with a day’s rest beforehand? After racing out to the best start in league history, the Celtics are now 2-5 in their last seven, and have lost back-to-back games to teams with a combined record of 26-42. Ouch.

It’s tough to be the defending champs, because every night you’re going to get your opponent’s maximum effort. It’s also important to note that all five of those losses were road games, and it can be tough to win on the road in the NBA, especially when you have a big bull’s eye painted on your back.

A quick look at the Celtics’ season stats reveals a few things:

1. Other than Eddie House, they don’t have a legitimate three-point threat on their bench. This is an area where they miss James Posey (along with what he brought to the table defensively).

2. Glen Davis is shooting 37% from the field, which is absolutely dreadful for a power forward. Despite bigger minutes, his points and rebounds are down. Not good.

3. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are holding up to their end of the deal. Rondo is averaging 11.1 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds a game, and he’s fourth in the league in steals. He is quickly developing into one of the best all-around point guards in the league. Perkins hasn’t made as big of a leap, but he’s a few minutes away from averaging a double-double. Right now he’s at 8.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

Given how important James Posey was to the Celtics’ title run, we knew heading into the season that it was a big risk to let the Hornets sign him away. He brought solid defense and good three-point shooting, which are two things that are lacking on the Boston bench right now. The C’s are toying with the idea of bringing Stephon Marbury in for a trial run (if he ever agrees to a buyout with the Knicks), and he would provide some long-range punch off the bench. I don’t see a lot of other options for the Celtics, considering they don’t have a substantial expiring contract or tradeable players. Garnett and Pierce are untouchable, and the team can’t do without Ray Ray’s outside shooting. Rondo is too good and he would leave a gaping hole at point guard, and the same goes for Perkins in the middle. What are the C’s going to get for House, Tony Allen or Glen Davis? Leon Powe would be good trade bait, but the Celtics need his toughness and rebounding off the bench. Besides, it’s doubtful that Danny Ainge would make any major changes to this group since it got them to the Promised Land last season.

I don’t think this 2-5 stretch is a sign that the Celtics aren’t for real. They are. The NBA season is a grind and they’ll be there at the end. It’s going to be interesting to see how they play at home tonight against a good Houston team and then on Friday at Cleveland.

Thursday (1/8) Update: The Rockets did indeed beat the Celtics in Boston.

Recent losses have Celtics thinking Starbury

ESPN is reporting that the Boston Celtics are interested in making a deal with Stephon Marbury if he can ever come to terms on a buyout with the Knicks.

That still depends largely on Marbury’s ability to negotiate his release from the Knicks after weeks of fruitless and oft-contentious buyout talks, but sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com this week that Boston is Marbury’s preferred destination if he manages to become a free agent and that the Celtics are indeed hopeful of signing him.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a New Year’s Day holiday for the entire league and has generally refused to address the possibility of signing Marbury. Yet it’s believed that the Celtics’ concerns about their depth, after losing James Posey and P.J. Brown from last season’s title team, have swelled noticeably since they followed up the best 29-game start in NBA history at 27-2 by losing three of the next four games on the road.

Boston also knows it would have the option to simply release Marbury without significant salary-cap consequences if he fails to click as a backup or proves unwilling to accept a secondary role.

It appears that the biggest obstacle to such a move is Marbury actually securing a buyout from the Knicks in a timely fashion as opposed to reservations Boston might have about Marbury’s impact on team chemistry.

Although it has been widely assumed that Celtics forward Kevin Garnett would resist a reunion with the controversial point guard — after Marbury broke up their Minnesota partnership following less than three seasons together by forcing a trade to New Jersey — one Celtics source insists that Garnett has voiced no opposition to the idea of signing Marbury for the rest of the season to strengthen Boston’s backcourt depth behind starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.

When asked specifically about the likelihood of Marbury joining the Celtics this season, the source predicted that “it will happen.”

Joining the NBA’s reigning champions would certainly back up Marbury’s recent claim at halftime of a Knicks-Lakers game in Los Angeles that “the team I’m going to go to, a lot of people will be shocked.”

The move to Boston would surely add some drama to the playoff race in the East. It’s always fascinating to see how troubled stars fare in new environments and Marbury’s potential move to Boston would be no different. The Celtics interest in Marbury is a direct reflection on how they feel about Eddie House and Tony Allen coming off their bench. Marbury would definitely take a reserve role if he lands in Boston.

The problem here seems to be with Marbury’s inability to negotiate a buyout with the Knicks. This is pure speculation, but he has stated that he wants his full salary for this season. This is shortsighted as his value this summer (as a free agent) depends heavily on how the rest of the year plays out. If he stays in New York and doesn’t play, what’s the best offer he’s going to get this summer? At that point he’d be a troublesome 32 year-old, shoot-first point guard.

However, if he agrees to a buyout, lands in Boston and shows he can play well with others, he stands to benefit next summer in the form of a bigger (and potentially longer) contract. The downside for the Celtics is low because if he brings the headache to Beantown, they can cut him without much damage to their salary cap.

Now that the holidays are over, I’d expect the Knicks and Marbury to move on a buyout. It’ll be interesting to watch this story develop over the next few weeks.

2008 NBA Preview: #2 Boston Celtics

Offseason Movement: The Celtics were unable to re-sign James Posey, who ended up signing with the Hornets. GM Danny Ainge did re-sign Tony Allen, Eddie House, and Sam Cassell, while also signing Darius Miles and Patrick O’Bryant. Out of the draft, the team ended up with shooting guard JR Giddens and small forward Bill Walker.
Keep Your Eye On: The bench
Even more than last season, Boston is going to need a regular lift from its bench. With Posey gone, someone will have to pick up his defensive-mindedness and shooting touch. The bench projects to be very young, but with youth comes energy, and the Celtics will need it this season.
The Big Question: Now that the Big Three won a title, will they be as focused?
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came to Boston with one thing in mind – a NBA championship. Paul Pierce set aside his ego for the same reason. Throughout that season, the Celtics were focused on a singular goal, but now that they have their rings, will they be able to bring that same intensity every night? Hunger can really bolster a team’s success, and Boston will somehow have to manufacture that hunger this season. That’s a tough thing to do.
Outlook: The C’s are still the class of the East, but will face a bigger test within the conference given the improvements that the Sixers and the Heat have made, along with the continued maturity of the Magic and the Cavs. James Posey was so crucial to the team’s playoff success that one wonders if the team will be overcome that loss and stay as focused as they were last season. They are the odds-on favorites to win the East, but it’s shaping up to be a very interesting season in Beantown.

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