What's Ainge's plan?

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What's Ainge's plan?

With two days left before all hell breaks loose across the NBA, Danny Ainges objective is as clear as Todd Day:

1. Trade Rondo and whomever else (seriously, take everything!) to the Hornets for Chris Paul: Dont worry about the extension. Just get him to Boston.

2. Play out the season with a core of Paul, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and an assortment of other pieces with an emphasis on a serviceable swing man and a center capable of playing more than 15 minutes without his knees turning to goo. Is that enough to win the 2012 title? Probably not, but neither is the alternative.

3. Pray that Orlando doesnt trade Dwight Howard: While that may not make a ton of sense in the big picture for the Magic, there are a few short-term benefits: 1) Theyre opening a new arena. 2) Theyre hosting the 2012 All-Star Game. (What a disaster if he comes back in another uniform.) 3) Howards still a Top 10 player, the No. 1 center in the league and maybe the most dominant defender in NBA history. With him in the middle, the Magic are contenders; at least more than theyll be for a long time after his eventual exit. So why not bite the bullet and roll the dice on one last run? Ainge hopes they do.

4. At seasons end, with KG and Ray off the books, make a simultaneous push at Paul and Howard: In Pauls case, the temptation to join his buddies in NYC will still exist, but at that point, no one can offer more money than Boston (Bird Rights). Plus, wheres his best chance to win: In New York, with a core of defenseless Melo, Amare and Coach X, or in Boston with Howard, Pierce and Doc Rivers?

With Howard, you make the same pitch. Give him a call preferably sober and before 1 am and say: Dwight! Three things: Max contract, Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. What do you think?

You play the two off each other, sell them on the dream and hope it clicks.

5. Spend the rest of the decade building around Paul and Howard, and consistently field one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Not bad, right?

Right. All emotions aside, no Celtics fan in his or her right mind would or could have a problem with this. Its realistically Bostons last chance to build a legitimate contender for a long time to come.

Look at it like this: In the last 30 years, only one team has won an NBA title without a legitimate superstar. It was the 2005 Pistons, and they possessed a level of balance and depth that will become exceedingly difficult in todays NBA, especially given the Celtics current predicament. So, Bostons best and perhaps only chance to contend is to immediately land a superstar (or in this case, two). The league is going the way of the super team, and if Boston misses out now, it will be a while before they can recover.

Danny Ainge knows this.

But, of course, its not that easy. We cant present this five-step plan without asking a few obvious questions. Celtics Nations version of Lloyd's: What if they shot you in the face?

What if Howard does get traded? What if Paul still loves New York? Or, before we even get there: What if the Clippers or Warriors make the Hornets a better offer? What if the clock strikes midnight on Friday morning and Dannys still staring at the same aging, depleted roster thats haunted him for the extent of this extra long offseason?

One common suggestion: Sign-and-trade Jeff Green or Big Baby for as much you can and patch together the rest of the roster through free agency. Make one last run with this core, hope for the best and try to make a splash next summer.

A few problems:

1. This cores not good enough to win another title.

2. Its hard to make a splash when youre jumping into the kiddie pool.

I say that because, assuming the Celtics find themselves in this scenario, Paul and Howard will both be out of reach next summer. Without Howard, they're also unlikely to woo Deron Williams.

Take Paul, Howard and Williams out of the mix, and heres the list of former and current All-Stars who will be unrestricted free agents next summer: Mehmet Okur, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Steve Nash, Elton Brand, Jameer Nelson, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Chris Kaman, Ben Wallace, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis and Antawn Jamison.

Short of a time machine, theres nothing there. Certainly not enough to compete with a League of Extraordinary Super Teams.

Danny Ainge knows this.

Which brings us back to the present, two days away from all hell breaking loose, and Ainge is scrambling. His team's title hopes are fading like LeBron's hairline, and Ainge is shooting for the moon. Call him crazy, but which would you prefer: That he tries and fails, or merely accepts failure?

That's not Ainge, and he's proved it again albeit behind the scenes over the course of this past week.

Surely, there will be consequences. It's hard to imagine the relationship with Rondo will get much better after this string of well-publicized and highly-believable rumors. Given Boston's current situation (and those potential burned bridges), it's hard to see Rondo back here at all. He's still their only viable chip. Even if he can't help bring Chris Paul to town, trading Rondo is still Boston's best chance to completely overhaul a roster that, if we're being realistic, badly needs it.

What other choice do the Celtics have? Trade KG? Blow the whole the thing up?

Would anything shock you? If your answer was "yes," you've got two more days to prepare.

Because while no one knows exactly what Danny will do, we all know what he won't.

And that's stand pat and die.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.