Courtside: Celtics poised for overhaul

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is escorted off the court after being ejected from the game during...

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is escorted off the court after being ejected from the game during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills, Michigan Feb. 19, 2012. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:49 PM ET

No team seems poised to overhaul its roster more than the Boston Celtics, a team that can’t stay healthy, a team in desperate need of a youth infusion.

As bad as Boston played heading into the NBA’s all-star break, it may actually get worse before any signs of improvement are achieved.

What awaits is anyone’s guess as the March 15 trade deadline looms.

A year ago, GM Danny Ainge made a controversial move by trading popular big Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for a package that brought Jeff Green to Beantown.

Green had a difficult time finding his rhythm with the Celtics and became a non-factor during Boston’s abbreviated post-season run.

On paper, the deal made sense in that Perkins wasn’t going to accept Boston’s contract offer and in Green the Celtics were getting an athletic perimeter piece whose length would help on defence.

When Ainge looks at his roster and the East, he must see how little hope there is in the event Boston gets matched up against either Miami or Chicago in the opening round, assuming the Celtics actually qualify for the playoffs.

Barring an injury to Derrick Rose or LeBron James, Boston has no chance of getting out of the first round.

When the NBA last experienced a lockout-shortened season, New York emerged as the eighth seed and made an improbable run all the way to the final before losing to San Antonio in five games.

Back in 1999, opening rounds were a best-of-five format.

Also keep in mind that there was no such thing as a super team like Miami and no sublime point guard in Rose.

For the Celtics to take one last shot at a title, it’s apparent that it must finish no worse than sixth in the East.

The next few weeks will likely decide Boston’s fate and ultimately the direction Ainge plans to take the franchise.

“My feelings haven’t changed yet,” Ainge told reporters as Boston ended its road swing heading into the break. “You don’t panic when things aren’t going well and when your lineup isn’t 100%.”

Even when healthy, it’s doubtful the Celtics will evolve into a championship-worthy team.

It’s why Ainge has the next few weeks to decide what team he has and what changes are required.

A STERN WARNING

During annual state of the union address, commissioner David Stern touched on many topics, including the potential move of franchise player Dwight Howard.

When asked what, if anything, the league could do when a club faces such an important decision, Stern was as frank as ever.

“No. Why should we?’’ Stern said. “We have a system that has a draft that basically tells a player where he’s going to play in this league when he’s drafted, and a further system that has a huge advantage to the team that has him. Our players could play for seven years for a team they didn’t choose. And we think that’s a system, but not a prison.

“I’m sure Dwight will make a good and wise decision for him.”

If he leaves Orlando, Howard will forfeit $30 million.

Whether it’s Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh or LeBron James, teams lose control when it allows a player to enter the final year with no extension.

Denver did well in being patient with the whole Carmelo Anthony drama, willing to sacrifice short-term pain for long-term flexibility.

O-FER FOR ODOM

Lamar Odom’s transition from Hollywood to Big D has proven to be a lot more difficult than anyone imagined, including Odom himself.

In 32 games for Dallas, which swept the Lakers last spring when Odom played for L.A., the small forward has made four starts, posting career-low averages in points (7.7 per game) and shooting percentage (.357).

Odom has reached double figures in scoring only eight times.

All that said, head coach Rick Carlisle is hopeful Odom will turn it around.

“I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been to him playing well,’’ said the head coach of the reigning champs. “We’ve just got to stay the course and stay positive about it. The guy’s too good of a player.

“He has two bad games in a row and everybody’s ready to jump again, but I’m not going there. I’m looking forward to getting him back after the break, and we’re going to get right back at it.”

BIG UNEASY

Eric Gordon is no closer to returning to the court after recently undergoing knee surgery.

During his absence, there’s been a perception in New Orleans that the shooting guard doesn’t want to be a Hornet, a claim he denies.

“Some people might think since I’m injured I might not want to be here,’’ Gordon said. “People might think I may not be happy, but at that same time this was an injury I could not control.’’

OAKLEY UNLOADS

Charles Oakley came out of self-imposed exile by appearing on Jim Rome’s radio show doing what Oak does best, which is to say he held nothing back.

Oakley singled out three individuals, former player turned talking head Charles Barkley and current players Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.

When asked to comment on Garnett, Oakley said: “He’s one of the weakest guys to ever play the game. He’s a complementary player and went to Paul Pierce’s team and won a championship. I wouldn’t consider him a top-10 tough guy.”

On Sir Charles: “Barkley, for his size, was a good player but he’s a coward, though. He wasn’t a leader and wasn’t a role model. Now he talks so bad about younger guys, I don’t respect that from him. He wants to be funny, that whole TNT thing and all that, they’re like some clowns on that show.”

On Perkins: “He’s just like Garnett. They holler and complain. If Kendrick Perkins would play basketball, Oklahoma City would win a championship the next three or four years. You’re a power forward, you don’t let guys dunk on you. I played 18, 19 years, I got dunked on three times.”

END OF STORY

In an era where so few big men are featured, DeMarcus Cousins is an exception, an exceptional talent whose an all-star in waiting.

During all-star weekend, Lakers centre Andrew Bynum ruffled a few feathers in Sac-town when asked to opine on Cousins.

“He’s a good player, definitely coming up,” Bynum said. “It’s terrible that he has to play in Sacramento. He could take his talents somewhere and really help a team.”

Cousins, naturally, dismissed Bynum’s comments.

“Those are words coming from another man’s mouth,” he said. “I don’t know where he got the idea from. I guess you can take it as a compliment.

“Sacramento is where I want to be. I want to bring the organization back and start back winning. I love the city of Sacramento. That’s where I want to be. End of story.”

If the city and the Kings don’t agree on a plan to finance a new arena, Sacramento is in danger of losing the NBA.

In its heyday, Sacramento was abuzz with basketball, but the team has fallen on hard times in recent years.

If a new building isn’t in place, Seattle seems like the logical choice for a relocation.

GASOL WINDY CITY BOUND?

Derrick Rose saw his name get tossed around in the rumour mill.

It’s not like Chicago’s star point guard will be moved, but what irked Rose were published reports claiming he went to Bulls management.

According to the speculation, Rose privately pines for Pau Gasol, whose time with the Lakers has been a hot-button topic.

“That’s something I wouldn’t say to anyone, that I need someone to come to this team or I’m trying to get rid of someone on this team,” Rose said. “It was all false. That’s something I would never do.”

Basketball gossip had Gasol going to the Windy City in a deal involving Carlos Boozer.

“I talked to (Boozer) a little but he already knew they were false,’’ said Rose. “It’s something I wouldn’t do. I’m good with the teammates I have. I’ve always been saying that. The team we have has been winning games. We’re not in position to look to trade anyone right now.”

NICE GUY DIDN’T LAST

For those unaware of the Jeremy Lin story, the NBA’s flavour of the month was waived by Houston after getting a look-see by Golden State.

“Did I see all this?’’ Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “No.

“If anybody did, we would have cut half our team to keep him.”

Lin, who got exposed against Miami last week, spent the grand total of 12 days with the Rockets during the league’s shortened training camp.

McHale had three point guards under contract at the time.

“He was a great kid,’’ McHale said of the Knicks point guard. “Every time he stepped on the practice court, we said: ‘Wow, does he practise hard.’

“You talk about a wonderful person. There wasn’t a guy on our staff who didn’t say I’d love to have Jeremy Lin on our team.”

THIS WEEK’S BIG GAMES

Chicago at San Antonio, Wednesday

A great matchup pitting two teams that could potentially see each other in NBA final.

New York at Boston, Sunday

Linsanity comes to town at a time when plenty of questions surround Celtics.

Miami at L.A. Lakers, Sunday

Basketball’s marquee doesn’t get any bigger with these two high-profile teams.


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