Doc Rivers came back to the Celtics this year because he thought Jeff Green would play better in year two, and the Big 3 had one more championship run left in them. Flip Saunders had every reason to feel optimistic about the Wizards after John Wall’s promising rookie season and dazzling summer, and a highly rated draft class. A month into the season, neither coach is feeling as optimistic. The Celtics are 5-9, and Danny Ainge has been given permission to blow the team up. At 2-12, the Wizards have the worst record in the league and find themselves on the wrong end of jokes and ridicule from the national media. This afternoon the struggling teams can take their frustrations out on one another, but before they do, TAI’s very own Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie, along with Jeff Clark from SB Nation’s, CelticsBlog, will answer three questions.
#1) Which team should be looking to make wholesale roster changes? The 5-8 Celtics, who are struggling through this truncated NBA schedule due to injuries, heart surgery to Jeff Green and aging? Or the 2-12 Washington Wizards, who have some key, young players with low basketball IQ, and a franchise player in John Wall who could be a flight risk if his supporting cast doesn’t improve?
CLARK: Timing is everything. The Celtics should (and will) make wholesale changes in the offseason, so why rush it? If there’s a deal out there to make that would bring us back something worth offloading one of the Big 3, so be it. But I don’t see it happening. For the Wizards, they have to pick a rebuilding strategy and stick with it. I think they could go the Celtics route and use their trade chips to bring in star players to put around John Wall, but easier said than done. So it seems like they’ll go the Thunder route and try to build through the draft. They better hope they can draft as well as Presti.
MOBLEY: Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld seem perfectly fine with letting their current rebuilding plan play out. They have a franchise player, a young draft class, and young veterans who are fighting (to put it mildly) through growing pains. Danny Ainge watched the original big 3 get old in the early 90s, and he brought in two of the second Big 3 five years ago. He’s itching to make a move that will keep the Celtics relevant, and given that Pierce and Allen can be final pieces on a contending team, he has to act now.
WEIDIE: Both teams are in need of significant moves. The Celtics look like they need to cut losses, enjoy that one gift championship, and trade old talent for young. The Wizards need to make some roster tweaks to help rid the organization of those who do so much to contribute to a losing culture. And is John Wall really that much of a flight risk so soon? He’ll either get paid big time by the Wizards, or they’ll have a chance to match any offer he gets at some point. Ted Leonsis has plenty of time to turn it around before Wall truly becomes a threat to bolt.
#2) Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche have certainly had their share of head to head battles. Garnett is a notorious instigator, but he also has All-Star games and NBA titles to back him up. Blatche is on a bad team yet again, and he falls under the dreaded category of players with limitless potential, who deliver occasionally. This season both players are struggling–Garnett because his knees need more rest than this schedule will allow, and Blatche because he is out of shape and..well Andray Blatche. Who do you expect to get the upper hand on Sunday when they face off?
CLARK: My opinion of Blatche is very low, so I expect KG to get into his head yet again. With a couple days of rest, KG can show flashes of his former self and there are few matchups I like better than the one against Blatche. That said, there’s always the danger that Andray’s head might temporarily catch up to his body and he could take advantage of the slowing-down KG. If that happens, the Wizards should immediately trade him at his peak value for anything they can possibly get and wash their hands of him once and for all. But that’s just me.
MOBLEY: I expect Blatche to come out and have the best game of the season by far. He’s been booed at home, he went scoreless from the field in the last game, and the media (present company included) has been extremely critical of him. Now against that backdrop, here comes an aging, but feisty Garnett, who Blatche already gets motivated to play. This is a perfect storm situation for him.
WEIDIE: I expect Blatche to have a great game. Garnett has gotten in his face so many times that it seems Andray tries his best to tune him out. Doesn’t always work, but at least I’ve seen concerted efforts by Blatche to not react (“wolfing,” as Flip Saunders once called it). Now if only Dray could learn to tune out the boos and focus on the good he can naturally do.
#3) True or False? Doc Rivers should have left the Celtics after last season.
CLARK: I’ll say false because I get what he’s trying to do. In theory he could have walked away a winner, taken a year off, done some TV, watched his kids play, and come back for the job of his choice. But instead he decided to settle in for the long haul (and get paid handsomely by the way). He wants to be an institution as a coach in a league that chews them up and spits them out every 2 years. That’s a rare thing and to do it for a storied franchise like the Celtics is a special thing. Besides, he’s got a GM that he works very well with. So there are just a lot of reasons to stay, despite the win-loss record in any particular season.
MOBLEY: True. Doc Rivers was an upstart coach in Orlando, and then was fired when they fell short of expectations. He was a bad coach in Boston initially (if Bill Simmons says it, it must be true), and then his fate improved when Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with Pierce and the rapidly improving Rondo. They won a title, and fell just short of winning another, but this team has peaked. I think Rivers should have stepped away, recharged, and come back in a season or two with a renewed spirit. That’s what Phil Jackson is doing right?
WEIDIE: False. Wasn’t he close to being fired before Boston landed Garnett and Allen? Or at least fans were calling for his head. I think he owed it to himself, ubuntu, and money hidden in the ceiling tiles of some locker room somewhere to keep on keeping on. Whatever else can wait.