By A.Sherrod Blakely
No one knows for sure when the NBA season will begin.
Even with that uncertainty, the Boston Celtics are no different than most NBA teams when it comes to having multiple plans on how to attack free agency, which will begin at some point after July 1.
Unlike the past couple of seasons, the C's went into the offseason needing to do very little on the free agent market other than shore up a position or two.
This season is a completely different story.
Boston has only five players on the books with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season. That total does not include Ray Allen, who is expected to pick up his option for this upcoming season which is worth 10 million.
The Celtics will initially look to address some of their needs through next month's draft.
But success for this team next season will hinge heavily on the C's ability to acquire talent via free agency that can take some of the pressure off the Big Three of Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
"We have to give them a better supporting cast," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers recently said on WEEI. "We have to put the right pieces around them. We have to play them (Big Three) in a different way; not all of them, but some of them. Even if their minutes are the same which I hope that they're not -- but if they are, we have to do that differently."
Even Rajon Rondo, the youngest member of the Celtics' core group, could use some added support.
Having missed just 12 games in his first four seasons with the C's, Rondo missed 14 games this past season with an assortment of injuries. Although he didn't miss any games in the playoffs, Rondo did suffer a dislocated left elbow injury in Game 3 of Boston's second-round series with Miami, an injury that essentially left him as a one-armed point guard in the remaining two games.
Because of Rondo's age (25) and experience (73 playoff games, more than anyone from the draft class of 2006), finding a suitable backup that can hold things down while he catches a breather will not be easy.
The Celtics were hoping Delonte West would be the guy to fill that void this past season, but several injuries limited West to a career-low 24 games. Rookie Avery Bradley wasn't ready. Former Celtic Nate Robinson had a shot at the job, but it was clear that he was a better fit playing off the ball prior to the C's trading him to Oklahoma City.
Because Rondo plays more minutes than just about any other Celtic, signing a young up-and-coming playmaker wouldn't necessarily be the right fit behind him.
The C's are likely to look for a veteran playmaker who is willing to accept limited minutes coming off the bench.
While you won't find too many household names -- OK, no household names -- in the free agent pool of backup point guards, there are some decent ones who will be available that could certainly provide a lift for the Celtics.
Available point guards (team they played with last season):
Carlos Arroyo (MiamiBoston); Jose Juan Barea (Dallas); Acie Law (Golden State); T.J. Ford (Indiana); Mario Chalmers (Miami), Mike Bibby (Miami), Earl Boykins (Milwaukee); Marcus Banks (Toronto); Anthony Carter (New York); Antonio Daniels (Philadelphia); Aaron Brooks (Phoenix); Patrick Mills (Portland); Chris Quinn (San Antonio); Ronnie Price (Utah); Earl Watson (Utah).
-restricted free agents
Best of the bunch: Brooks, Barea, Chalmers, Ford and Watson.
Best fits for the C's: Ford, Arroyo, Daniels
Why Ford? Because he has Rondo-like quickness, but with a better jumper. That's a nice change-of-pace to throw at teams for those 15 or so minutes that Rondo's not on the floor. Things got a little ugly at times near the end of his tenure in Indiana, so a chance to be part of a winning organization like Boston would do him and his career a lot of good. The biggest hurdle for the C's? What else? Money. Even if a new collective bargaining agreement mirrored the current one, the C's would have a hard time fitting Ford into the pay slot that they have for a backup point guard.
Why Arroyo? He was a solid ready-when-called upon performer for the C's last year, and would not have a problem being Rondo's backup. However, if an opportunity to play a more prominent role elsewhere came along but with a team further away from a title, it would be a tough, tough call for this eight-year veteran. No matter where he goes, Arroyo's likely to get the veteran's minimum which means the Celtics, financially speaking, can compete with anyone else for his services.
Why Daniels? The Celtics had some interest in him prior to signing Arroyo in March. He has good size, decent athleticism and has a proven track record for being a solid locker room figure. The two biggest knocks against Daniels are the fact that he's a restricted free agent, and his age. He was essentially an injury-replacement for Louis Williams. So if he the Sixers decide to keep him, he's looking at being the team's third point guard which means no playing time unless someone gets hurt which may be a similar role with the Celtics depending on how Avery Bradley develops or whether the C's re-sign Delonte West. With the Celtics pushing hard to become more athletic, you also have to wonder if the Celtics will see the value in having a steady presence behind Rondo like Daniels whose athleticism isn't nearly what it was earlier in his career.