I'll admit that I was caught up in the glamor of the Lakers that I failed to realize how good the Celtics really were. Although last night's game was a blowout, Lakers vs. Celtics was a nice change of pace from the Spurs vs. Cavs dud last year. I wasn't old enough to understand basketball when this rivalry was at it's peak, so revisiting the history of these teams was pretty fun to watch too.
The Celtics were easily the best team in basketball. I was convinced of that when I went to watch them beat the Spurs earlier this year in San Antonio, without Ray Allen. Their championship is well deserved.
Bill Russell thinks his boy KG and the Celts are going to win 4 or 5 titles. My initial response was "No way! Bill Russell is old and senile." Bill Russell may be on to something though. There were no growing pains with the Celtics. They even handled a bold prediction from an over-zealous Wizard in their first home game. Gil, like me, probably did not expect them to come together as quickly as they did.
The Celtics are only going to get better. KG is there for the next five years, Pierce four, Allen three. Perkins, a great low post defender is there for the next four. Rondo, Powe, and Big Baby have two years left on their rookie contracts. Posey's contract is up, but I doubt that he or the Celtics will let him play anywhere else for a while.
For me, this is clearly the team to beat in the East over the next 4-6 years. The #1 contender in most people's eyes seems destined for a break-up. I'm not sold on LeBron and the Cavs being a consistent contender either. With so many teams shaking things up, it seems logical to keep our team as is. All Ernie needs to do, as mentioned, is stockpile young talent and IF you want to make a trade, make a trade that matters like the Celtics did. I'll take the team that has 3 superstars and the longest tenured coaching staff in the East over a team in flux any day.
Ernie should learn a few lessons from the Celtics, such as...
1. A good defense needs an anchor. One thing that both the Lakers and Celtics have is a defensive anchor, not just a role player who excels at defense. Watching KG in the middle of that zone last night was a thing of beauty.
IMO Rondo has just as much impact leading the defense from the PG position. His defense was especially delicious last night. When healthy, the first guy to defend the ball for the Wizards is usually Gilbert Arenas. His defense is passive at best, guys get into the lane too easily which then screws everyone else up. If Gil can't hold his own up top, our perimeter defenders cheat into the lane. You've seen what happens then, wide open threes whenever you want em.
Solution: Find a player that can defend the PG position with no assistance. A couple of names that everyone likes here are Mario Chalmers and Kyle Weaver. Weaver looks great, however, I'd worry about him playing point guard in the NBA. I honestly didn't watch him play much at all so I'll let others chime in on his abilities there. I saw Chalmers a lot and he appears to be ready to step in right away so I'll run with him.
Draft Chalmers with the expectation that he will start at point guard in certain situations. I know changing point guards depending on the match-up can cause chemistry problems, but if there is a team that is used to a plethora of starting line-ups, its the Washington Wizards. I don't see that being a huge issue.
I would much rather see Gilbert guarding Ray Allen off the ball than guarding Rondo with the ball. Chalmers should be able to stick with Rondo well enough that our perimeter defenders can stick with their shooters. I would also start Chalmers/Arenas against Delonte West/Daniel Gibson, Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton, Kurt Hinrich/Ben Gordon, and potentially Derrick Rose/D-Wade (can you smell a rivalry?)
Obviously this wont work all the time. For instance, you wouldn't want Arenas guarding Joe Johnson when we play the Atlanta Hawks. Here, I'd move Chalmers to backup PG, throw in Stevenson or NY to match up with Johnson, and wish Bibby the best in trying to keep Arenas from dropping 40.
There may also be times where neither of those pairs looks like a good matchup. One example I can think of is the Spurs. I go to the Spurs vs. Wizards game every year in San Antonio and it never ends well. I wouldn't want Arenas to be matched up with Parker or Ginobili. In this case I would start Chalmers/Stevenson and bring Arenas in off of the bench. The pessimist in me doesn't believe that Gil's knee won't give him fits next year. I don't see any way he can play 40 minutes a night. Night's like these would give his knee some much needed rest, and provide us with some major fire power off the bench. If the worst case scenario happens, and we lose him again for an extended period of time, we will have a young guard who has already been fed minutes and should be able to step in...permanently if need be.
2. Length matters. Going back to the Celtic's zone last night...I had a good conversation with a friend of mine about how incredibly long the five man unit on the floor for the Celtics was. Rondo, Posey, Pierce, Garnett, and Perkins. With their arms extended, there were zero passing lanes for the Lakers to work with. Of course the length is only one part of it...cohesiveness, athleticism, and intensity is what made the Celtics defense great.
Going with the theme of stock piling young talent, this idea made me re-think potential draft picks. I'd still feel the same about Brandon Rush, CDR, and Dorsey. Each provide a great deal of length as well as pure defensive talent. Rush goes up a few notches in my mind because he plays great team defense as well, which is what we are looking for. There may be some undrafted players that would fit the bill as well. I'd like to see Ernie look at Patrick Ewing Jr. and DeMarcus Nelson. I still can't support us picking Hibbert despite the fact that he has done well in workouts. Although we had success with a slower pace this year, the Wizards are not a half court team. He would never keep up.
3. It feels better with your own guys. I know, winning a championship with any guys is an amazing feeling. Last night, I was the most excited for Paul Pierce. I didn't care at all who won the series, but I found myself rooting for the Lakers because a majority of their squad were players that they developed like Vujacic, Walton, Farmar, etc. The Celtics ripped off other teams for two HOF players and filled their role positions with a bunch of guys who were looking to mooch off of the big 3 for a title. Do you honestly think Posey, Cassell, and PJ Brown would be in Boston for any other reason? PJ Brown was retired!
Believe me, I want a title in Washington by any means necessary. I'm just saying it will be much more satisfying if we do it with the guys that we developed. I don't want to take anything away from their win, it was awesome. I just would have been more satisfied had Al Jefferson tried to take home Michelle Tafoya as opposed to KG.
This brings me to my next lesson learned...
4. All it will take is one good season. I whole heartedly agree that stock-piling young talent is the way to go if you want to win a title. I think that gets you about 75% of the way there. The other 25% comes from having one good run to the playoffs, and then getting solid veterans with 3-4 years left in their careers sign on to try and mooch a championship. I would love to see an exact figure of how many of the champs over the last 10 years have had at least one very effective veteran sign for less then they were worth with hopes of getting a ring. The Rockets did it, the Spurs did it, the Lakers almost did it with Malone and Payton, and now the Celtics did it.
The Wizards play the style of ball that players love. There are no problems in our locker room. Good venue, great city. Where's the mooch love for the Wizards? I guess being a "Wizard" isn't as cool as being a "Celtic" or a "Laker". Maybe if we were still the Bullets...sigh.
5. Decide who the best player on your TEAM is. Kevin Garnett is the most unique talent on the Celtics. He was head and shoulders the best player on the Timberwolves. Just because he is the rarest talent doesn't make him the best player on the Celtics. The best player on the Celtics won the finals MVP award. Luckily for the Celtics, your team can take on the personality of either one of these players and be just fine. Such is not the case for Washington.
Gilbert Arenas is the most unique talent on the Wizards. There are only a handful of players that you have to be legitimately worried about scoring 50 points on you on any given night...he's one of them. That doesn't make him the best player on this TEAM...if it did, he would have been named a captain by now. Teams take on the personality of their team's best player. I hope that our team is as convinced as I am that Caron Butler is the best player on our team. Our Wizards would do themselves well to take on his personality instead of Gilbert's. I'd like to see Arenas play with Butler's intensity on both ends of the floor and see where that gets us.
6. Choose a slogan that your team can rally around. I kept hearing "Our time" from Doc Rivers at halftime. Think Eddie Jordan gave any motivational speeches revolving around "Ready to Rule"?
Never Let Up...that should be our mantra.