Some people who know things are beginning to clamor for the Celtics to cut Von Wafer. Even Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers have admitted the Celtics are thinking about adding another big man, which would almost certainly sacrifice Wafer’s spot on the roster. (Wafer is generally considered expendable because A) he hasn’t found a role, and B) his contract is mostly non-guaranteed.)
I suppose I should address this topic, eh?
First, what do we know about Wafer? Since he began playing for the Celtics, he has A) stated his love of playing time on multiple occasions, B) earned said playing time on zero occasions, C) gotten in a fight with Delonte West, who Wafer may or may not have provoked by leaking a damaging quote to the media, and D) generally disappointed anyone who thought Wafer might be the dynamic sixth man for the Celtics that he’d been for Houston. I would also add his positive contributions, but it’s tough to think of any.
Before playing for the Celtics, Wafer was A) the aforementioned dynamic sixth man for one season, B) at least a minor problem in Houston, where Rick Adelman once kicked him off the bench during the middle of a playoff game (!), and C) a problem in Greece last year, where he was released after clashing with his coach, who noted when Wafer left, “If somebody is not eager to try to change himself, then it is better for him and the club to part ways.” That’s a strong quote, folks.
The evidence for Wafer, clearly, is not overwhelming. And I haven’t even started to discuss mitigating circumstances yet. The Celtics – with Kendrick Perkins out, Semih Erden playing through injury, and both O’Neals proving they’re about as durable as the water glass I just shattered — could be in the market for another big man. If they do add one, somebody’s got to go. The Celtics already have 15 players on their roster, the NBA’s limit.
Additionally, Delonte West returns from suspension in the Celtics’ next game. Wafer has already been struggling to find minutes, and West figures to take even more of them. If Wafer couldn’t crack the rotation before West was available, how is he going to do it with West furthering the amount of competition? Simply put, he’s probably not. Wafer was brought along mostly as injury insurance, which could especially come in handy if (when?) Marquis Daniels or Paul Pierce miss some games. At 6’5″ and without a defensive reputation to speak of, Wafer might not be the ideal backup small forward. But he’s also, in the case of injury to Daniels or Pierce, the C’s ONLY backup small forward. That’s important, and I’ll get back to it later.
The case for cutting Wafer was first made by CelticsHub’s Ryan DeGama, whose primary point was the “Celtics big men are going down more often than male porn stars” argument. A valid argument, of course. But on that front, things don’t necessarily look too bleak (although they’re far from perfect). Kendrick Perkins will be back in a couple months, Jermaine O’Neal should (hopefully) be back long before then, Shaq looked perfectly healthy in his last performance, and Semih Erden continues to battle through whatever is ailing his shoulder.
Maybe your opinion on whether to cut Wafer depends on how likely the big-men injuries are to continue. This little stretch of injuries is scary and shows that the Celtics’ frontcourt isn’t filled with Cal Ripkens and Brett Favres, but it also might be as bad as things get this season. Then again, it could just be the tip of the iceberg. Who knows?
The Celtics knew they were going to be injury-plagued this year. That’s why they signed three centers this summer, in addition to Perk who they already had. On top of the additions, Glen Davis has proven himself able to play center alongside Kevin Garnett. So that makes five centers. Even if a few of those are injured the Celtics should have enough big men to survive. But the season’s start has us thinking: what if they all get injured at the same time?
So far the Celtics have been — well, i don’t want to say lucky (how can you be lucky when at least two big men have been injured every night?), but I’m going to anyway — lucky not to have both O’Neals injured at once. The game of Musical O’Neals isn’t ideal, but at least they haven’t both missed time at once. If they ever do, before Perk gets back, that would likely force Semih Erden to start, and Erden, Garnett and Davis all to play big minutes. Not at all the best-case scenario. Luke Harangody may even be pushed into some playing time, and few would argue that he’s ready.
On the other hand, I return to the small forward slot. Marquis Daniels, who has never played more than 72 games in one season (and, other than that one season, has never played in more than 62), will get injured at some point this season. I’m almost positive of that. If he does, and Wafer gets cut, the Celtics won’t just have an unreliable backup small forward — they won’t have a backup small forward at all. Also, if Pierce injures himself, same thing. No backup. That would be a serious issue, one that I would argue would be worse than the current big man situation.
Wafer doesn’t inspire the most confidence, but what big man would the Celtics sign to replace him and offer minutes up front? Erick(-a) Dampier? He’s big and pretends to be useful, but c’mon son. There’s a reason (actually, many reasons) Damp has been floating around for months and still hasn’t been picked up. Maybe the Celtics would look to the Red Claws: Stephane Lasme? Umm, Wafer already beat him out once. Plus, Lasme’s a 6’7″ power forward. Not exactly the insurance you want to have if all your centers get injured. Tiny Gallon? Intriguing, but definitely not ready. Or even close. Mikki Moore? Ahh, don’t worry. Before you have a heart attack, I am just kidding.
If you ask me, the Celtics’ potential small forward injury concerns outweigh the already-spiraling-out-of-control frontcourt injuries. But really, this is all bad. The Celtics, though as deep as any team in the NBA, are also very susceptible to injury. I guess it’s a good thing they’re so deep, right?
Back to Wafer, the Celtics could really need him in case Daniels or Pierce miss time. Consider me worried. But also consider me on board.