The Celtics have a big hole that needs to be filled. While the greater New England region is in the midst of a heat wave, think back to the spring when those crater-sized pot holes were all over the roads from the typical brutal winter weather. That's about the same sized hole currently occupying the big man depth on the Celtics' roster right now. Now that Danny Ainge has made the plan clear by riding out Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and (assuming he re-signs) Ray Allen, filling that hole has almost reached desperation status.
The first name to be churned around the green big man rumor mill was Brad Miller. Solid fill-in option until Perk works his way back. Since then, we've heard the names of Shaquille O'Neal (mildly intriguing), Kwame Brown (desperation is a stinky cologne), David Lee (recreational drugs are bad, kids), Brendan Haywood (can't afford him), Erick Dampier, (pound for pound, softest big man in the NBA), Jermaine O'Neal (best-worst FG % in a single playoff series ever), Marty Conlon (spotted him myself at the Garden in The Finals) and even Rasheed Wallace un-retiring before he ever really retired.
The "read-between-the-digital-internet-lines" message from the C's is loud and clear: If you are relatively close to being seven feet tall and have a pulse, we will have interest in signing you. Don't for one second underestimate how vital it is for the Celtics to hire a temp. More importantly however, don't underestimate how important the impending free agency of Kendrick Perkins is.
Perk is officially in a "contract year." While he is not the dominating scorer in the post, he is one of the rarest creatures left in the NBA today. Facing extinction, the true center of yesteryear is being phased out at an exponential rate. As the playoffs proved (especially the Finals), having a solid group of bigs is vital to winning a title. It was key for the Celtics obliterating the Heat, Cavs and Magic and nearly overtaking the Lakers. It was a huge reason why they were the only team that put a real scare into that Laker team.
Watching this entire free agency madness this summer has made it even clearer how important it is for the Celtics to re-sign Perkins. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are an impressive core to build upon. Spare me of the 2007 Celtics off-season comparisons, Mr. Bosh. Mario Chalmers is a nice player but he is no Rajon Rondo. On his best day, Joel Anthony is not even close to Kendrick Perkins WITH a torn ACL, even the 2007 version.
Perkins is due a now laughable $4.1 million for this upcoming season. After that he is an unrestricted free agent. If there is one good thing about his injury (that could only been seen while examining through an electron microscope), it's that it gives the Celtics leverage. If Perk were a free agent this summer, he would probably be offered close to a max deal (doing my best Rick Kamla impersonation), especially if Darko Milicic got $20 million!
So while Danny Ainge is focusing on re-signing Ray Allen and rounding out the rest of the roster for a 2-year title run, it would behoove him to make an attempt to extend Perk THIS summer as well. While next summer's big man crop is enticing (Al Horford (R), Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah (R), Yao Ming, Marc Gasol (R), Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden (R), Tim Duncan (ETO)), it's doubtful that any of them sign here for the mid-level exception. Plus, the better names are not going to sign a long term deal here with the looming lockout.
Within the next 2-3 years, the Celtics will NEED to transition from KG, Pierce, Allen completely to Rondo and Perkins. Building the foundation of your team's future with a top tier point guard and a solid, traditional big man is always a great place to start. Perkins should be the big man the Celtics target at the five spot, but his name has surfaced in off-season trade rumors for two consecutive years now. That probably has more to do with the fact that he (and his cap-friendly contract) are the only realistic asset they have (Rondo is not going anywhere unless the Hornets offer Chris Paul and some sort of package).
Ainge made a shrewd move when he extended Perkins the first time. His knee injury puts his trade value at an all-time low right now and unless Dr. Brian McKeon, Ed Lacerte and Ainge think Perk's knee injury will transform him into Acie Earl, then they should extend him.