COMMENTARY | Boston Celtics fans, are you sitting down? Get ready for a complete shocker.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has already placed forwards Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace on the trade block. So for now, pay little attention to Boston's July 15 press conference, which introduced new additions from the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett blockbuster with the Brooklyn Nets.
That's right: "Hump" and "Crash" might be sent packing faster than it took them to arrive in Boston (the original deal to acquire them for Pierce, KG and Jason Terry was accepted on June 27--it could not officially go through until Keith Bogans reached three full months as a Net).
None of this should come as any surprise. For one, Humphries adds to an already-abundant power forward slot in Boston. Plus, the ex-Kardashian has an unsavory past with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. Last but not least, the big man stands to earn $12 million next season, which in and of itself isn't terrible for an expiring contract. But this is a rebuilding team, and $12 mil would be the highest salary on the roster.
Gerald Wallace, meanwhile, would be Boston's third-highest earner, set to make $10,105,885 over each of the next three years. He and Humphries sandwiched Rondo ($11.95 million in 2013-14) as soon as they arrived. Wallace would essentially serve as the highest-paid backup small forward in the league, as last season's emergent phenom Jeff Green looks to pick up where he left off this fall.
Long story short, these players will be getting shipped off for as low as 75 cents to the dollar investment-wise. The Celtics obviously have no intentions of competing anytime soon, with an influx of young talent and slew of draft assets (nine first-round picks over the next five years). Their rebuild should not include "pretty good" or mediocre players with double-digit single-year contracts.
In fact, Monday's press conference featured a couple glaring truths. Gerald Wallace was not in the building, instead attending the first day of his youth basketball camp. He apparently sent his regards.
And Kris Humphries was present, but apparently had "weird" (if not nonexistent) chemistry with Ainge. He seems like the Monopoly property you pretend to be excited about buying, only to boost its resale value to attract bigger spenders (new nickname: Baltic Avenue?).
And with $71.5 million on their team salary after waiving fellow incoming Nets forward Kris Joseph, the Celtics might have to deal before rolling the dice. After all, the salary cap limit for the upcoming season will be $58.7 million, with the looming luxury tax threshold set at $71.7 million.
That $71.5 million figure does not include still-unsigned second-round draft pick Colton Iverson, the Colorado State center Ainge acquired from the Indiana Pacers for cash. It also doesn't bring into account the all-but-finalized contracts of Brazilian center Vitor Faverani and undrafted Missouri point guard and Summer League standout Phil Pressey.
If Ainge signed all three of those guys, and held onto the ever-drab Fab Melo, Boston would feature 16 guaranteed contracts on its roster--one over the maximum allotment of 15 players to start a season. Indeed, Humphries and Wallace could be well on their way.
"After talking to Danny, he doesn't plan on putting me in any trades," Humphries told ESPN Boston writer Chris Forsberg after the presser. "But things happen. It's the NBA. If something comes up that's better for the team, then I'm sure that the team will do it. You never know. As of today, I'm here and I'm preparing to be here. I'm focused on that."
You have to respect his candor. You cannot, however, anticipate that Ainge and Rondo share much respect for him.
When reporters asked Hump about the tussle he and Rondo engaged in last season, which started with Rondo pushing him after he committed a hard foul on Garnett, the 28-year-old responded "it was really nothing."
Ainge then chimed in with his two cents, stating that Humphries's fall into the audience "might have been a flop." He also added that the Celtics remain a team in flux, and intriguingly mentioned he could not understand why Humphries struggled last season at such a young age.
Does that sound like the start of a beautiful GM-player relationship to you?
"We have a little bit of a logjam at our big positions," Ainge told Forsberg, reiterating concerns he has voiced since June. "We have some work to do. We have a few too many guaranteed contracts. We have to make some adjustments. We're very busy trying to put the best team on the court. There could be some changes this summer."
Among potential suitors, the Charlotte Bobcats already reportedly sought Humphries while he was still with the Nets. But Michael Jordan's gang wanted to deal shooting guard Eric Gordon in return. Although the Celtics were once interested in Gordon for Pierce and Avery Bradley, they might not be interested in his $13.2 million expiring contract now. After all, that's a million bucks more than Hump's deal.
However, if Ainge can lump in the contracts of Brandon Bass ($6.45 million) and/or the newly-acquired Bogans ($5,058,138), it would be worth the president's while to grab Gordon and an affordable big man like Brendan Haywood ($2,050,000).
That type of deal would not only shed some salary bloat, and potentially trim the sheer physical size of the roster, it would also improve Boston's long-term chances. A Humphries-for-Gordon swap would provide one expiring contract for another, with the Celtics netting the pure scorer. Haywood, meanwhile, would offer affordable veteran experience at the center position, which would prove vital with such an inexperienced frontcourt.
The biggest draw, of course, would be the ability to dump Bass's two-year combined salary of $13.5 million. After registering a disappointing season following his 2012 contract extension, Bass has no place on this rebuilding ship. As one of the most timid 28-year-old veterans in the game, he cannot lead and does not deserve to start over second-year big Jared Sullinger or rookie standout Kelly Olynyk.
Equally undesirable to the Celtics, each of Courtney Lee's next three years of contracts will be worth between $5.2 million and $5.7 million. The organization will most likely float the shooting guard's services around the league this offseason, considering his underwhelming 2012-13 campaign. Lee struggled right through the Celtics' postseason exit against the New York Knicks, scoring only six points and logging one assist in 39 total minutes of play the entire six-game series.
A salary dump involving Gerald Wallace and one of these largely unwanted players would most likely need to include Rondo. Many teams have displayed interest in the 27-year-old floor general, who led the league in assists per game last season. Ainge, however, steadfastly denies the availability of his enigmatic leader.
Still, it seems improbable that the president would turn off the ringer on his phone. If the Detroit Pistons make a quality offer, he'll listen. After all, Rondo's good friend, Josh Smith, recently signed a four-year, $54 million deal in Motown. The Pistons would love to reunite these former AAU teammates, but not if the pricetag includes emerging center and UConn alum Andre Drummond.
Detroit has apparently offered Brandon Knight and an expiring contract (probably Charlie Villanueva or Rodney Stuckey). That won't cut it, especially without a draft pick. The aforementioned Bobcats have a choice of Detroit's draft picks over the next four seasons, thanks to a deal that brought the aforementioned Gordon to Charlotte.
This may sound insane to many fans, but Ainge should push the envelope in an attempt to land Drummond. The 7'0", 275-pound big man seems likely to break out into full-fledged stardom in his upcoming sophomore season, having averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in his rookie campaign.
Why not see if Detroit would take one of Boston's first-round picks (maybe the 2015 selection owed by the Los Angeles Clippers for Doc Rivers)? Parting with Rondo and the worst of the organization's nine first-round picks would be worth it, at least if it meant Boston could dump Wallace's contract and inherit one of the future's brightest centers.
That would leave Boston with a young nucleus of Brandon Knight and Phil Pressey at the point; Avery Bradley and MarShon Brooks at two-guard; and Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt. The 2013-14 season would be terrible, but 2015 and beyond would be promising.
Certain sacrifices must be made in a full-fledged rebuilding effort. Like it or not, Ainge agrees with that mantra. Expect big deals on the horizon.
Of course, the new collective bargaining agreement mandates that new trade acquisitions cannot be packaged with any combination of other roster members until two months have passed. If this rule has been interpreted correctly, that would mean Wallace or Humphries can only be dealt individually until September 12. After that, the sky's the limit for salary-dump packages involving the already-infamous duo.
At that point, it will likely be time to reevaluate the Celtics' 2014 lottery chances.
Sloan Piva lives in New England and covers the Boston Celtics. He can be reached anytime on Twitter @SloanPiva.
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- Gerald Wallace
- Kris Humphries
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- Rajon Rondo
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