Notes: Celts Reshape Roster with 7-Player Deal
Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale were back together again Thursday, only this time they weren't patrolling the parquet, but burning up the phone lines as they made a blockbuster NBA trade to reshape their respective rosters.
Looking for a spark, Ainge pulled the trigger on a deal that landed the Celtics a terrific scorer in Wally Szczerbiak, who immediately gives the Celtics a different dimension on offense and creates new matchup issues for opponents.
"I like the idea of being able to spread the floor," said Doc Rivers, who coached Szczerbiak in the last Goodwill Games in Austraila. "Wally scores with less shots, which is great for our offense. I think we can get some post play with Wally a little bit more as well. And what I like about him is that he has the ability to score without actually going to him."
Szczerbiak, the 6th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, also brings a wealth of postseason experience to Boston, something the roster as previously constituted lacked. According to Ainge, the deal was originally in the works about three weeks ago, but died down until heating back up this week.
In the immediate short term, as they wait for players from both teams to report and pass physicals with their new squads, the Celtics are likely stuck with playing just nine guys for their first post-trade game against the Kings Friday night. With just nine bodies at shootaround, Assistant Coach Paul Pressey filled in on the second unit so that the team could run through some plays at HealthPoint Friday morning.
"I don't know yet," said Rivers when asked if Szczerbiak would be able to suit up tonight. "I don't expect him to be allowed to play tonight, but if he is, we'll play him."
While the move definitely shakes up the roster, it doesn't jeopardize the future of the franchise, as the Celtics didn't have to part with any of their most prized young players to acquire Szczerbiak. While Marcus Banks has shown flashes of brilliance, Orien Green passed him on the depth chart this season, and Delonte West is firmly entrenched as the point guard of today and tomorrow.
From a rotation standpoint, the move clearly opens up playing time for third year man Kendrick Perkins, who's recently returned to the starting lineup and along with Al Jefferson, represents the Celtics' future in the front court.
"I like freeing up minutes at the 'big' position," said Ainge. "We really want to dedicate a lot of the minutes to Perk and Al. This gives us an opportunity to see what those guys can do."
As for Szczerbiak, he's one of the best pure offensive players in the league and a bona fide three-point threat who should extend opposing defenses. Having Wally on the perimeter gives opponents a tough choice: double up on Pierce and gamble away from Szczerbiak or play The Truth straight up and face the consequences.
Additionally, the acquisition likely moves Pierce over to the two-spot, matching him up against smaller players, which will amplify the size and strength advantage he's generally held over opposing quick forwards now that he'll be facing shooting guards.
Pierce was sad to see Davis and his other teammates go, but he understands what the team is trying to accomplish.
"We weren't progressing like we thought we would. We're making a move to try to make a playoff run," said Celtics Captain Paul Pierce. "The team felt the need for a shakeup so that's what we did. [Szczerbiak] is having one of his best years as a pro. He's versatile, can post up and shoots the ball really well."
More on the deal
Ricky Davis issued a statement through the Celtics regarding his depature: "I love Boston, it's a great place. Thank you to the Celtics organization and the fans for accepting me while I was here. I am going to miss my teammates - this is the best group of teammates I have ever played with. This has been a great stop in my career, and I thank everyone."
- Pierce on Davis: "Trades are a difficult, you feel like lost a brother. Ricky and I have a good relationship and we're going to continue that regardless. But it's done and we'll move on."
- Ainge said that the team won't likely make an immediate move for a backup point guard to play behind West and Greene, but we could see Allen play some point, something he worked on in the Vegas Summer League before being derailed by his knee injury.
- Szczerbiak was trying to catch a plane to Boston that would get him to the city by 1p.m. to be able to take his physical and be ready for action tonight, but the deal is not complete until all active players from both sides report to their respective teams and pass physicals.
With that in mind, there were rumors that Ron Artest may not be eligible to play for Sacramento tonight for the same reason; the Kings did not make him available to the press after the 11 a.m. shootaround at the Garden and the hold-up was believed to be that Peja Stojakovic had yet to complete a physical with the Pacers. But the Pacers have called a 6 p.m. press conference so Stojakovic will likely be introduced, meaning Artest should be ready to go for Sacramento.