Blakely: Lee trade part of the bigger picture

Blakely: Lee trade part of the bigger picture
January 5, 2014, 11:15 pm
Share This Post

Boston trading away Courtney Lee to Memphis for Jerryd Bayless was a salary dump, plain and simple.

Not only will the Celtics save money this season in acquiring Bayless and his $3.1 million contract while sending Lee's $5.225 million salary to Memphis, but they also shed the two remaining years of Lee's contract - worth about $11 million - while Bayless comes off the books this summer.

Even though the Celtics come out on the short end in terms of talent (Lee is a better, more complete player than Bayless), this is the kind of deal that won't truly materialize as a positive for Boston until some time has passed.

When the Celtics sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn this past summer, the Celtics knew building the Celtics back into a title contender was not going to be an easy task.

However, this is the kind of deal that speeds that process up.

In addition to acquiring Bayless, the Celtics are also expected to acquire a trade exception.

But by creating more future cap space, the Celtics better position themselves to absorb a high-salaried player via trade sooner rather than later.

Plus, with a slew of future draft picks at their disposal courtesy of the Garnett-Pierce trade with Brooklyn this past summer, the rough times experienced by the Celtics aren't going to last for long.

That's the good, sunny-side up view of life for the Boston Celtics.

But in the interim, it's going to get ugly - really ugly.

Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City was just one of many defeats Boston (13-21) will suffer to teams that are clearly their superior.

As hard as the Celtics may compete, they simply don't have the firepower to sustain the level of play needed to be successful, consistently.

And this trade moves them even further away from that.

The one thing the Celtics need right now on its roster is a player, maybe two, who are consistent.

Bayless is many things, but a consistent player ain't one of them.

But his arrival won't do much in terms of helping or hurting the team's chemistry.

The bigger issue Boston has to contend with is the guys who are still here, the ones who have been through this meat grinder of a season that seems to be wearing them down both physically and mentally.

The regression that's visible in their body language, the mounting losses and the overall lack of tangible progress being made, is tough on everyone involved.

After Sunday's loss, head coach Brad Stevens was about as sullen as we've seen him this season.

It was hard to tell which was more disappointing to him, the blowout loss or the loss of Lee.

Keeping this team's emotional compass going in the right direction won't be easy, but it is part of the challenge that awaits Stevens throughout the remainder of this season.

That's easier said than done, especially when you look at a Celtics team that has lost seven of their last eight and are in the early stages of a road trip that, if they're fortunate, may result in a win or two.

If anything, Celtics players should be even more motivated to play well knowing that if they are traded, chances are pretty good that they'll wind up on a team like Memphis that has made getting to the playoffs a priority.

The postseason is not on the must-do list for the Boston Celtics, and for good reason.

Miami and Indiana are so far ahead of the rest of the teams in the East, getting into the playoffs to face one of them is pointless.

Boston is right in making getting their financial house in order, a priority this season.

After all, Boston's last title didn't come about because they intentionally went about losing games - also known as "tanking" - in order to land a bona fide stud in the draft.

Instead, they simply played guys who weren't as good as their opponents, and thus the losses came about while the players learned how to compete and thus, became more attractive pieces to trade.

Boston is following the same script now, except they are going to have draft picks and more cap flexibility than they had before the 2007 draft day trade for Ray Allen and later that summer, the trade for Kevin Garnett from Minnesota.

So as much as the idea of dumping a good player because of his salary doesn't sound all that appealing, just remember this.

This isn't about Courtney Lee.

This isn't about 'Riggin for Wiggins' either.

This is about building a team that will compete for a title sooner rather than later, and unloading Lee's salary is part of that process.

Period.