So this is what it's like to go "Back to the Future". After 22 tough, frustrating and, frankly, pathetic years, the Boston Celtics are once again the NBA Champions. They took a gamble, rather than wait for the future to get here, they traded a bunch of young future prospects for a couple of mature superstars, and it paid off big-time. Next year looks just as good and if things go well the year after looks exciting as well.
So the question for the Boston Celtics becomes; Now that they have completed their "Return to Glory", how can they stay there?
KG, Allen and Pierce have two or three cracks at another title left in them. They have the talent; the Celtics have the chance to hold on to much of their bench. The major players from this year's championship squad will all be here next year to defend the title. If they give it their best effort, circumstances, injuries and luck will determine the rest. They will be serious contenders for the title for the near future.
As a business, the owners and Ainge are certainly already looking at the basketball horizon for a glimpse at what talent is coming up. If they continue to win, they will continue to go late in the drafts for the next few seasons. If they spy a prospect that might be a big fish coming up in the next 2 years, they will need to start focusing now. They need to know what their target is and how they are going to hit it.
Who will be the Celtics next Paul Pierce? Guys as good as Pierce at number 10 are rare birds. The Celtics want to start looking ahead at potential talent and maneuvering to get in position to get themselves a shot at a top 10 pick. Free agency needs to be used to help us get the support that young players need to reach their potential ASAP. How often does a guy like KG come along and become available? How much will you pay when he does? They need to consider the potential he brings to the team and not simply the talent he has.
Building a team was what got the Celtics in trouble to begin with. Starting as far back as the drafting of Len Bias things haven't exactly gone smoothly. Events... some within and some beyond the teams control made basketball life difficult. As a team, we had some bad luck. We made some mistakes as a business that affected the results of our team... the quality of our product suffered seriously. We had some bad management.
The Celtics spent a lot of time, maybe way too much time, drafting and "developing" young players. They put a lot of stock in first Walker and then Pierce. At one point, it seemed their bench was young enough for diapers. It had a whole lot of "Future" but not enough "Now". We were committed to Pierce and Walker and tried to find guys to help them. They made some OK trades and some not so ok. They were trying to "develop" a team from scratch. The coaches always seemed frustrated, the owners were impatient, tight fisted and never seemed willing to spend money. They were never in the running for free agents. This sad history finally resulted in the 2007 season ending with the second worst record in the NBA. And then came the horrible lottery position to top it all off.
It finally became obvious to Ainge and the owners that if they really wanted to put a quality product on the floor they had to change their approach. The team had a number of good kids waiting for their chance in the wings but no real way or place to use them. The Celtics had become the day-care center for young talent; Drafting and developing young stars like Billups so they could go on to world championships while the Celtics remained stagnant
If the Celtics wanted to field a team with championship potential, they couldn't count on waiting for a player to become great... They needed a player who was great right now to help Pierce. They needed to make a serious move and take some chances and spend some money. When a player like KG becomes available, you have to do all it takes to land him. You need to pay for the guy you absolutely need. If you want a championship, you need to get the right talent at the right time.
Continuing to do what they did over the last year is best way for the Celtics to "build" for the future. They need to take a long hard look at the past and learn from it. What got the Celtics to the championship so fast? Was it the trades or players like Pierce finally maturing enough to make the best use of the help Allen and KG provided? When it comes to trades, what is more valuable on your bench... experience or potential? When it's time to use our picks, do we look for a player who will be an investment or trade for a guy who will provide an instant return?
One thing the Celtics have learned over the past 20 years is you can't "develop" a team. You develop... you nurture, a Star slowly and patiently. It also takes more than one star. One guy, whether it's a Kobe Bryant, MJ, KG or Pierce, can't do it all. Even more importantly, the stars have to compliment not compete against each other. The process of keeping your franchise player and trading from there resulted in KG, Allen and Pierce coming together. It can be seen in a lot of teams rise to championship level competition. A team doesn't need a star but a star needs a team to win a championship.
The Celtics should use a long term approach to the future based on acquiring a franchise type talent a la Lebron James and adding one additional star level talent at a complimentary position. Find a third high quality talent that has just been waiting for some time and create a core team. Fortify the core by adding mid level experienced veterans in role positions. Posey's are as important as Pierces. Stress DEFENSE above all. Commit. Play solid, fundamental team ball in the mode of the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and you have the formula for a successful team.
Trade as Red did. Hold the core together and look for seasoned, experienced role players who want to fill the spots not the spotlight. Guys like House, Brown, Posey, Cassell and Powe have a lot to offer in their roles. Players like them are out there all the time just waiting for the court time. As long as a KG and Pierce have guys like that behind them, their team will be a major competitor.