Posted: Monday July 17, 2006 1:06PM; Updated: Monday July 17, 2006 3:32PM
It doesn't matter that Gomes continues to develop, because Gomes is three years older than Jefferson, and whether you go by height or statistics, he doesn't measure up to Jefferson. The Celtics can't worry about pairing two stationary low-post players like Jefferson and Perkins, either, not without giving them a chance to work things out (according to 82games.com, they only played 61 minutes together last year), because it was that sort of thinking that led Jerry Krause to dump Elton Brand on the Clippers some five years ago.
But Boston has to be careful. To paraphrase Miles Davis while deleting a string of hilarious but wildly inappropriate blue words: They can't give too much away. Nobody is breaking down King's door to get Iverson at this point, and as training camp approaches, the Sixers GM can only get more and more uneasy at the notion of welcoming such a publicized piece of trade bait back into the fold. Ainge has to wait King out, make him sweat and only send the Wally/Green/Telfair troika (which works, cap-wise) to the Sixers for AI.
Don't read too much into AI's pronouncements of wanting to remain in Philly. Pro athletes take offense at being served the wrong color Gatorade or a too-slow wave from the blankety-blank in the truck they just let merge, and Iverson (even after 10 seasons) is one of the more emotional types the league boasts. So we can't imagine that having to address trade rumors hasn't given him pause about returning to Philly for an 11th season.
And what happens if he does return? The 76ers will pay close to $90 million for the right to win about 36 games, and we'll go through all this again next summer. Better that Philly should get what it can for AI from the Celtics, eschew defense altogether and run the offense through Chris Webber for as many times as he's able to suit up. With his ever-limited range of movement and exorbitant contract, C-Webb isn't going anywhere, and you can still run an exciting high- or low-post offense through his mitts -- especially with a runner like Szczerbiak and a slasher like Green on board.
For the Celtics, a pairing of Iverson and Pierce could do some damage and provide the must-see buzz the Celtics so desperately crave. AI, in and of himself, won't bring the team down. He's not some cancer, on or off court, that will prevent a team from winning.
Still, the C's have to realize that dealing for Iverson signals the end of three years of rebuilding, of smartly acquiring lottery-level prospects with mid-to-low-first-round picks. If they give up too much for AI, they won't have enough offensive firepower to force him into giving up the rock for long stretches. They want to turn Iverson into an efficient offensive fireplug, a 1A to Pierce's 1 -- not a second option, but close. If this trade decimates the Celtics' roster, then the dream scenario is lost. Szczerbiak and Telfair, with Pierce and Delonte West already on board, are superfluous on this Celtics roster. Jefferson is not.
Ainge has shown himself to be one of the more astute GMs in the league, even if the Celtics' record (an average of 38 wins a year during his reign) doesn't attest to that. The worst mistake he could make is to give too much to a beleaguered GM who has nowhere else to turn. Ainge's legacy as head of the Celtics is riding on this deal.