We've made mention of this prospect in the past, but it's still worth discussing. If the NBA and its players cannot agree on the terms for a new collective bargaining agreement, and the 2011-12 NBA season is canceled as a result, the Boston Celtics probably have more to lose than anyone else. They're long in the tooth, have been for years, and starting anew in 2012 might not be the best remedy for this lot.
Now, there is the chance that Dwight Howard could decide that he wants to live up to the image of Bill Russell (and, to a lesser extent, Brett Szabo) and come to Boston next summer as a free agent, but a lost 2011-12 could mean the last chance for another championship run with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen leading the C's.
After all, both KG and Allen are in the last year of their contracts this "upcoming season," and their respective ages (Allen will be 36 on 2011-12's potential opening night, KG 35, and Pierce 34) don't seem to bode well for a knockout 2012-13.
Ray Allen, however, doesn't seem to agree with that line of thinking. From the Boston Herald:
"We're not going to say we're done and we're not going to play anymore. I still have a lot left in me and I'm sure that Kevin (Garnett) feels the same. At this stage of the game I'm sure he's rejuvenated and he'll be ready to go.
"It's not as if you go into the next year and say I'm done. I'm not going to play anymore. We're competitors. When you lose a season like that, you come back and you're ready to get after it. It will fuel our fire, and enable us to go after it a little more next year."
There's more to his quote that you should check out, but he makes a sound point. Even if Howard passes on coming to Boston and the whole team comes back for 2012-13, why wouldn't the year off do their legs some good? It's not as if these guys are known for their lethargy, so it's a good bet they'll be in game shape when the whistle eventually blows.
Two issues get in the way, though.
For one, Boston owner Wyc Grousbeck has been rumored to be at the forefront of the "give up the 2011-12 season in order to invest in the NBA's future" lineup of owners. If he lets KG and Allen walk after a missed 2011-12 campaign, then he could be down to just under $30 million in potential 2012-13 salary, with Pierce taking up half of that ledger (and only for one more year, guaranteed). Not only could a chance at Howard be in the offing, but should Dwight pass on the Celtics, a chance at saving money and "rebuilding" during 2012-13 could suit Grousbeck after an expensive first decade (by 2013) as Celtics owner.
Secondly, and while I'm still expecting the 2011-12 season to be called off (the revenue-sharing issues between owners and the expenses details between owners and players are much steeper hills to climb than we saw in 1998), a truncated 2011-12 season would not serve a veteran team like the Celtics.
Sure, the time off between last May and (potentially) this February would help those weary legs, but those advantages would be shot to hell once a week, featuring a four-game-in-five-night spell followed by yet another week featuring four games in five nights. Fifty games played from the first week of February to the first week of May (as was the case in the 1999 regular season) will destroy the Celtics as it did defending Finals and conference finalists like the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers that year, and that's not even getting into the issues the Celtics face with Kendrick Perkins in Oklahoma City, Nenad Krstic in Russia, and Shaquille O'Neal somewhere in Atlanta.
Of course the veterans on the Celtics will be ready, whenever the next NBA game is played. But what team will they be playing for? And if they're together, and a three month and 50-game season is in the offing, will it matter?
Only the knees know.