After a season that ended earlier than it was originally expected to, Doc Rivers has decided to sign a multi-year deal to remain coach of the Boston Celtics. Rivers has always wavered about whether he would return after this season; the allure of a regular family life pulled him strongly. But the opportunity to coach the Celtics long-term was one he won’t turn down. (Boston Globe)
A day after having his team eliminated from the playoffs and then emotionally announcing that he was likely to return as the Celtics’ coach, Doc Rivers did not waver from his stance.
What’s more, he said that a multiyear deal to bring him back was “basically done.’’
Rivers, who had a one-year option, said, “We have to figure out a couple of things, but we’ll get it done relatively quickly.
“I wanted to get this out of the way so we can concentrate on the summer and free agency. Everything should be done soon. We want to get this done as soon as possible so we can move forward.’’
During an inane interview during which he described Jeff Green as Boston’s most efficient player in this past playoffs (hint: he wasn’t), Danny Ainge said Rivers “likes the idea of being a Jerry Sloan type coach.” In other words, Rivers likes the idea of becoming an institution in Boston. That’s good. The rest of Ainge’s interview, well, not so much.
In the same paragraph that he said Paul Pierce might come off the bench next season, Ainge also proposed that “[Jeff Green's] role will expand if he’s back here next year.” That sounds like a great plan for team chemistry, doesn’t it? Move the nine-time All-Star and former Finals MVP to the bench, just to make room for the young, underachieving player who A) hasn’t accomplished anything in his career and B) was nothing short of “painful to watch” during his short tenure in Boston. Consider me legitimately frightened for next year, even if the chances of Pierce actually losing his starting spot to Green seem slimmer than the chances of Shaq leading the league in three-pointers made next season.
Moving forward, Ainge, Rivers and the Celtics are in a tenuous position. There will of course be pressure to attempt contending with the Big Three one last time, to give winning a championship one last valiant effort. But there are issues with that. Simply put, as presently constructed the Celtics have little chance to win a title next season. The Heat and Bulls have youthful cores built to sustain in the future, while Boston has an aging core designed to bow out gracefully. To remain legitimate contenders, the Celtics will need to add young (and impressive) talent to alleviate pressure from the Big Three. However, the Celtics should enter the offseason (depending on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) with no cap space and very few assets. Their best assets this summer should be the 2012 draft pick they picked up from the Clippers, or Glen Davis and Jeff Green in potential sign-and-trade deals—sadly, those two players spent the past three months doing whatever they could to drive down their value. The only Celtic who holds real trade value would seem to be Rajon Rondo, and he’s more or less untradeable.
To rebuild after next season as Ainge apparently intends to (only Pierce and Rondo are signed beyond next year), the Celtics will need to limit their long-term contracts this summer and perhaps refrain from signing anybody beyond a one-year deal. Obviously, that is counterproductive to contending next year. Especially since the Celtics are no longer prime championship contenders, signing veterans for “the championship discount” will become more difficult; and surrounding the current nucleus with championship talent could prove harmful to the future. This is a sad case where two eras clash, the Big Three era and the Rondo era. Ainge will have to decide whether to A) swing for the fences one last time with the Big Three or B) move the runners over by sacrificing this season and better preparing Boston for the oncoming Rondo years.
While I would love to have my cake and eat it too, the sad fact of the matter is that the Celtics might be better off using next year as a “bridge year” (isn’t that what the Red Sox called it?) Bide their time, limit any contracts that could in any way harm the future, and play out the year with the Fab Four and a supporting cast consisting mostly of players on one-year deals. Contending next year isn’t completely out of the picture, but one wrong move this summer could cripple the team’s future prospects.
After a season which was his most criticized, Danny Ainge will now face some of the most important decisions of his GM career. Tread wisely, Danny. These are some treacherous waters.