One of the great Boston traditions and experiences is attending the Fourth of July fireworks event at the Hatch Shell. Alongside the esplanade of the Charles River, the Boston Pops play glorious music to go along with a majestic display of fireworks, celebrating the birth of our country. For the Boston Celtics, and the entire landscape of the NBA, those fireworks will be on display three days early.
First and foremost the Celtics need to know who their coach is going to be. Doc Rivers is absolutely perfect for this team. His decision to return or resign will be the figurative spark that lights the wick of the dynamite of their off-season. As the regular season drew closer and closer to its mediocre end, Doc probably decided he had enough. However, in light of their amazing run at banner 18, along with his recent involvement in the draft and assistant coaching search, Doc may have changed his mind.
Nobody would blame him for stepping down for cited family reasons, but at the same time the majority of Celtic fans would be (or SHOULD be) ecstatic if he returned for the final year of his contract. He's even hinted at possibly "merging the two families" if that were possible. I'm not sure how that would work or if the players would be completely ok with it (I think they're all close enough that they would all figure out a way to work it out) but it might be the final discussion point amongst Doc, Danny and ownership. At any rate, Doc's decision likely affects what Paul Pierce and Ray Allen decide to do.
For now, the Celtics' plan is not to make one more run, but most likely two more. The main reason for that is the length of Kevin Garnett's contract. With KG's contract set to expire after the 2012 season, it's unlikely that the Celtics can blow it up and rebuild completely as long as he is here. Yes, he would be an attractive expiring contract all of next season, but if Pierce opts-out then re-signs an extension, and Ray Allen re-signs it would make no sense to explore trade options for KG. Unless of course, the C's are completely out of the running (but with the main core of players that's not very likely).
At the end of it all, I think Pierce opts out and signs a 3-year $45 million extension. I'm not sure money will be an issue with Ray Allen as much as the length. If I'm Ainge, I don't go beyond two years. From all accounts, it seems that Ray really likes it here in Boston, so a 2-year $16 million deal seems reasonable. The major wild card will be all of the teams with tons of cap space that miss out on all of the big name free agents. The Knicks are a prime candidate to vastly overpay for Ray's services, so watch out for that scenario.
The other major piece of business for the Celtics is how to spend their mid-level exception and veteran minimum exceptions. They've already been rumored to be targeting Brad Miller. This would be a decent choice so long as he doesn't demand the full MLE. If they could somehow split it between he and Mike Miller (or even Kyle Korver), then that would be a very good off-season. Brendan Haywood would be a great choice to fill in for Perk while he is recovering from his knee injury, but it's unlikely they sign him for a few reasons.
First of all, he would probably require more than the MLE (believe it or not). Secondly, he's more of a starting center, which for the C's they only need an interim starting center. You only make a run at Haywood if you plan on replacing Perk with him in the long term. I highly doubt he would be happy with a backup role on the C's one Perk returns. He didn't take too kindly to it while he was on the Wizards when he was battling for playing time with Etan Thomas.
The Celtics would do themselves a favor by looking into signing Udonis Haslem. He'd be a solid big/vet to add to the bench, but something tells me that once the dust settles in Miami, he'll find his way back there. Players such as Kurt Thomas, Francisco Elson, Ben Wallace and Joe Smith could all possibly be signed for the minimum, but some of the contracts that get signed in years past have been more surprising.
With the drafting of Avery Bradley, Nate Robinson's brief career in green is most likely done. Even if the C's re-sign Ray Allen, they will need depth at the SG/SF position for backups to Pierce and Ray. While Ainge's trade of Robinson (and subsequent jettison of Bill Walker) at the time was understood and accepted by most, it would be nice to have a guy like Walker making very little money, but being very capable of spelling Pierce/Ray for 10-15 minutes per game in a long season. Ideally, it would be great if they could sign a free agent like Matt Barnes or Raja Bell.
Both players fit the C's system well. They're instigators, they thrive on defensive challenges, the can both shoot the three fairly well, and they both hate Kobe (ok this is made up, but if you do some Googling on historical encounters between Barnes/Kobe and Bell/Kobe, you'll see my point). It's highly unlikely that they would sign for the veteran's minimum so at BEST you're looking at getting one of them in a split for the MLE. Bell has reportedly been interested in becoming a final piece to a potential Miami Heat superpower.
Luckily for Celtic fans (as well as NBA fans) we all don't have to wait until the 4th of July for the fireworks to begin. Ours commence on the 1st. Get your bottle rockets, M-80's and Black Cats ready.