Just yesterday, I had an argument with a friend about whether Dwight Howard would want to come to Boston.
“No way he wants to trudge through snow to practice, enter a situation where the roster moving forward is entirely unpredictable and come to Boston, where not a single top-tier free agent (with the exception of Rasheed Wallace, hah) has ever decided to sign,” I said.
“But Rondo! Doc Rivers! The Celtics could re-sign KG and Ray Allen to small deals, make another run at it next season and build around Rondo and Howard — think about the alley oops! — for the future,” he replied.
I shook my head.
“There are no indications he would even CONSIDER Boston,” I mentioned.
And the indication comes straight from Howard himself, via the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett.
“Always. Always,” Howard told the Herald. “I’d always listen to a team like that.
“My thing is I want to win. It’s not something like I’m doing this for money. I win. I want to do it my way.”
“The first thing is basketball,” he said. “I want to win a championship, and it takes a certain type of team to win a championship. You know, there’s a lot of teams who are great during the regular season. They play well, but it’s different once you play in those playoffs, you know? It’s gut-check time.
“Like I told the Magic, I just want to win. I don’t want a team that doesn’t know how you have to win in the playoffs. I want a team that’s going to go out every night and forget about stats, forget about who scores the most points or who is the fan favorite. Just go out and play, play for each other and play to win. That’s the only thing.”
“You know,” said Howard, “you look at a team like Boston and look at a team like LA who’s won . . . especially Boston. Man, those guys came together and they didn’t care who scored all the points. They had done all the individual stuff.
“You know, for me, I’ve done a lot of things individually, but I want a championship. All those accolades that I’ve got over the years, they mean a lot, but it’s just different watching teams hold up that trophy and knowing how hard you have to work to get it.
“They have the championship mentality,” he said of the Celts. “It means a lot. Like I said, I like the team. They play hard and they go after it, and that’s what I like.”
I can only imagine Danny Ainge reading this report, eyes bulging, drool pouring out of his mouth, cell phone as always glued to his hand, mind racing thinking about what it’s going to take to acquire Howard.
And then I allowed myself to dream. What if Howard came? What if he and Rondo allowed Boston to completely skip a rebuilding process? What if — gasp — he helped extend the Big Three era?
We talk a lot about Kevin Garnett’s slide this season, and it’s clear he no longer plays with the lift and the explosion he once used to become the world’s best defender. But couldn’t Howard extend KG’s career a few years? Wouldn’t Howard’s presence be a blanket that would cover up KG’s slowing steps? Hell, Howard has led some of the NBA’s most successful defenses the past few seasons with Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson as his running mates. Isn’t KG, even at age 36, a considerable improvement on those guys, at least defensively? Wouldn’t KG’s jumpers be a little (/a lot) more open if Howard were down low waiting for an alley oop from Rajon Rondo?
And what could Howard do for Ray Allen? It’s a shooter’s dream, playing the perimeter while Howard commands constant double teams. Allen can’t move like he used to, but he’s a cardiovascular robot sent from Mars who can tickle nylon nets with a basketball on command. Wouldn’t Howard allow Allen to continue aging gracefully, and wouldn’t he make it easier for Allen to find daylight, and wouldn’t you love to see a starting five consisting of Rondo-Allen-Pierce-KG-Howard, if only for one season? Or hell, maybe Allen and Garnett would sign for really cheap (after all, they have more money than the vault Scrooge McDuck dives into like a swimming pool), Ainge could sign a couple other cats in 2012 free agency (if Ainge sends a maximum contract Eric Gordon’s way, do the Hornets match, or does a Rondo-Gordon-Howard trio rule the world for years to come? Would the Celtics even have cap space for that? No? CAN’T YOU JUST LET MY DREAM LIVE!?!?).
Okay, it’s time to start living in the real world again. Dwight Howard might listen to Ainge’s call, but Ainge still needs to convince him that Rondo, Rivers, maybe Pierce, and a mountain of uncertainty are enough for Howard to bet the absolute prime of his career. Be persuasive, Danny. It’s still a long shot, but he’ll listen. It’s a start.