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Rising tide

Flurry of moves has Atlantic Division dreaming big

Posted: Monday August 27, 2007 12:15PM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 11:35AM
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Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen weren't the only people in Boston smiling over the Celtics' decision to bring the three All-Stars together for the 2007-08 season.
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen weren't the only people in Boston smiling over the Celtics' decision to bring the three All-Stars together for the 2007-08 season.
NBA Offseason Report Cards
BURNS: Flurry of moves has Atlantic dreaming big
ASCHBURNER: Young talent piles up in Northwest
BURNS: Lazy summer for strong Central Division
FORRESTER: Southeast is looking wide open
BURNS: Suns still clearly the class of the Pacific
ASCHBURNER: Rockets primed for Southwest run

It's back-to-school time. So why not take a moment to look back on the NBA offseason and hand out some grades? We'll start with the Atlantic Division, a group that has had so many teams under water in recent years it has become known as the "Titanic."

With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce in Boston, the Atlantic won't be a laughingstock anymore. One could argue the division now boasts three teams (along with the Raptors and Nets) that have as good a chance as any to win the East. Even the Knicks made a big move that might put them back in the playoff hunt.

Boston Celtics

What Went Right:

They scored Da Big Ticket.
In the offseason's big blockbuster, they landed 10-time All-Star Garnett from the T'wolves for Al Jefferson and a package of spare parts and draft picks. With KG joining Pierce and Allen, the Celtics immediately became an Eastern Conference title contender. It represented a coup for GM Danny Ainge, who was in danger of being run out of Beantown.

They found Jesus.
Looking to do anything to shake things up, Ainge first acquired Allen (aka Jesus Shuttlesworth from the film He Got Game) from the Sonics in a trade for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the No. 5 pick in the draft. The seven-time All-Star would have helped Boston with his sweet outside shooting alone. But his arrival also helped persuade Garnett to sign off on the subsequent deal that brought him to Boston.

They got Boston buzzing again.
Whether or not the Garnett trade pushes Boston over the top in the East, there can be no denying its impact on the Beantown sports scene. After a decade of futility, the Celtics suddenly are relevant again. In a market that already has two championship contenders in the Red Sox and Patriots, it can't be underestimated. Even some NBA players seem to have caught Green fever: free agents House and James Posey signed with the Celtics.

What Went Wrong:

They lost out on No. 2 pick.
It actually turned out to be a blessing, but at the time it seemed like another terrible blow to the franchise. Despite owning the second-best chances, the Celtics didn't land either the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft lottery -- and a shot at Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.

Reggie Miller decided to stay put.
Despite a call from Ainge, the former Pacers great and future Hall of Famer opted not to come out of retirement and join the new-look Celtics. Boston could have used his clutch three-point shooting to open the floor for its other stars.

Grade: A+

He owes friend Kevin McHale a hearty "Thank you," but Ainge managed to transform his doormat club into a legitimate Eastern Conference title contender.

New Jersey Nets

What Went Right:

They kept their Vin-Sanity.
Despite rumors All-Star small forward Vince Carter might bolt for Orlando or some other NBA destination, the Nets locked him up with a four-year, $60 million deal. Like him or not, New Jersey couldn't afford to let Carter walk away for nothing. At the very least, the decision sent a message to Jason Kidd and the team's fans that the organization still wants to win.

They added Jamaal Magloire.
Figuring one can never have too many big men, the Nets signed this 6-11 former All-Star center to a one-year, $4 million free agent deal. New Jersey hopes that Magloire, who was stuck in a rebuilding situation last year in Portland, just needs a change of scenery. If he can regain anywhere close to his old form, he could be a bargain pickup.

Nenad Krstic continued his recovery.
The 6-11 center, who averaged 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds before his season was cut short by a torn left ACL last December, appears healthy and ready to go. The Nets need him to come back strong since the rest of the frontcourt appears thin.

What Went Wrong:

They didn't land Garnett or O'Neal.
The Nets tried hard to swing a deal with the T'wolves for Garnett or the Pacers for Jermaine O'Neal, but didn't have the right pieces. Then they watched the rival Celtics land Garnett, leaving them with blue-collar Jason Collins once more at the starting power forward spot.

They lost Mikki Moore and Eddie House.
Nets GM Rod Thorn wanted to re-sign both of these free agents, but Moore signed with the Kings while House took a deal with the Celtics. While Magloire might pick-up some of the slack for Moore, the Nets could really miss House's scoring punch off the bench.

Grade: B-

By re-signing Carter and adding Magloire, they showed they want to win now. But would they have been better off breaking up the Big Three and bringing in some new blood?

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