Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Shove Toward Regionalization

Sometimes even good ideas need to be forced, and in the case of regionalization of government services, budget problems might finally be pushing forward the idea.

Most famously in Fitchburg, Police Chief Robert DeMoura is pushing for regionalized dispatch services. The goal is to get some of the nine officers put into dispatch shifts back on to the streets. Of course, DeMoura is losing patrol officers due to budget cuts, so the idea of regionalizing gains new urgency due to limited resources.

We've talked about regionalization in the past here, and I'm going to maintain my cynical "I'll believe it when I see it stance." It's an idea that has been kicked around without progress for far too long to get all geeked up about it happening. I don't know if it's inbred parochialism, an inability to get a near-deal finished, or something else. All I know is that whether it's sharing dispatchers, snow salt, or school bus contracts, the history of regionalization ideas end up in the dumper when it's all said and done.

That said, I'm hanging some hopes on this gaining traction because of the money situation. Desperate times, desperate measures, and all that. I know there's a lot of internal stuff that goes into figuring all this out, but if the current situation isn't enough motivation to make something happen, I'm not really sure what will be.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Library

OK, I'm going to write about the budget and the library for a little bit today. It's probably not going to seem this way when it's all said and done (yes, I do go into these ramblings with a semi-plan), but I think it's very unfortunate the library budget was cut so steeply, and I'm very open to considering options (that's a funky way of saying, yeah, I'd probably vote for a library override today).

While I don't cling to the emotional "great center of knowledge" as tightly as hard-core library folks, I will say that there's some amount of civic pride invested in the library. No way around it: It's embarrassing to say the city doesn't have a library that's open full-time, or even state accredited (although the two kind of go hand-in-hand). An active, vibrant library is a symbol of, well, an active and vibrant community.

We should be doing better by the library, but we aren't. And some folks would say we can't. Some will say we can. But the situation is pretty complex, when you think about it.

It's still considered gospel in these parts that an override might as well be stamped "DOA" on the ballot. So that means when going into the budget process this year, the mayor and City Council were in cut mode, not "let's try to find areas that might be override-palatable."

Big cuts are hard to come by. The schools are pretty much off-limits, due to state mandates, minimum funding standards, and the huge proportion of state funding that goes to the schools. That, and the schools should be priority number one for the city (yes, that's my priority, and I don't want to have this fight again. And if you're getting ready to type the "too many administrators in schools" arguement, please, finally, come with titles that can go, and the state would allow cut).

The next biggest departments are police and fire. We've seen in the last two months how much of a premium the City Council puts on those departments. Would Wong have been able to get a big through in either of those departments? Negative. Next is DPW, probably. People already hate the condition of the roads. 'Nuff said.

In some ways, making a big cut in the library is a logical -- although difficult -- idea. While there has been much tsk-tsking and what-not, note the relative lack of outrage from the City Council. They're on board with this. This thing is falling into the "fact of life" category, unfortunately.

Importantly, this isn't a short-time issue. It seems unlikely -- impossible? -- that the library is suddenly going to get a $800,000 boost in next year's budget. It's best chance of full funding if an override. And while it's possible, I wouldn't be betting the homestead on folks bucking up via an override. Maybe things will be better in six months or so, but if it was today, I wouldn't see it happening.

Now, all that said, there's been some, eh, fuzziness on the part of the library fandom. For starters, inevitably, someone says something like "It's horrible the library is closing. We're losing such a vital resource." That's not true. The library is staying open, just not seven days a week. Is it inconvenient? You bet. Is it lock the doors and try to read e-books? Nope.

The biggest issue here is the loss of inter-library loaning. If the FPL doesn't have a book, it's off to amazon with you, because most local libraries aren't going to give it to you (Leominster's vote is pending, but that sounds like an iffy situation for Fitchburg). That's really the biggest problem here.

I'd also question the decisions the library leadership has made in terms of hours. If inter-library loaning is issue number one, access is number two (although the two might be flip-flopped). Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., might be the worst possible times for most people to get to the library. How about noon to 8 p.m. one day? Even better, why not go Thursday, noon to 8, Friday, 9 to 5, and Saturday, oh, 10 to 4. It might be a little crowded in the evening and on Saturday, but isn't that a good problem? Why can't this happen? There might be a reason, but I don't know it.

Next week, the library goes to its new hours. As these things often do, the issue will probably die down. Regular library-goers will notice the change, but most people won't. The issue will come back in the winter or spring, as override talks get going again. For library lovers, the bitterness of the situation needs to get swallowed, and it's time to put on a charm offensive and convince the city that the library is a worthy target of the city's first override approval, or some other plan needs to be cobbled together. The hand-wringing must end and the work must start, or the only way to get to the library will be to go during lunch or take the morning off to get there.

UPDATE, Thursday, 4:03 p.m. -- The Telegram has a story on the library today. I refer to it for two reasons. First, the library hours will be noon to 7 p.m., which I didn't know when I wrote yesterday. I'm an idiot. Second, it doesn't take long in the story for someone to say the changes will "shutter" the library. Why does this get said so often. It's not being shuttered. It's being reduced. Jeez. The truth is bad enough.

Labels: ,


Thursday, June 19, 2008


You're not going to believe this, but other stuff has been happening besides basketball the last two weeks (or, two months if you're me). I was surprised to hear it, to be honest.

The council continues to grind through the budget, with a handful of cuts ready to go. There's also more focus on boosting the Police and Fire departments.

Certainly, police and fire are two of the city's core services, and every effort needs to be made to keep those departments functioning top-notch. There's more than just level of service at play here. The city's public safety is chronically a sore spot for residents (some deserved, some not, as we've discussed in the past), so there's some political expediency that helps things out.

It's no big surprise that preserving police services is a top priority for city officials. It's been that way for years. Hopefully those departments can be stabilized a little bit this year, and other departments can be focused on in the future. At some point, the focus needs to expand.

While we're here, I'm still wondering what the overall preference is among the city's residents. Cuts, or saving services? I get the feeling that the overwhelming feeling is cuts, but then you hear groups of folks talking about preserving the library, or preserving public safety (where's the folks trying to save the pool at Coolidge Park, by the way?). What if all those little groups got together? Would their combined voices (and mutual but competing interests) come close to the folks who are perfectly OK with the cuts? Is this even a discussion at this point?

Certainly, the city can't save all of the services in danger, but how deep is the incentive for folks to demand some of them be saved? Or is the level of frustration with government and taxes so deep that they don't care, they just want the cuts? It's kind of an important question going forward that the city is going to have to figure out as it moves forward.



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Let's Go Celtics

In the early 1980s, I lived in St. Petersburg, Fla. The only local sports team was the Tampa Bay Bucs, and they stunk on ice.

So, the first team I truly loved was the Boston Celtics. I was 9 when Larry Bird won his first title, 15 when he won his third and last in 1986. By then, I was living in Maine, so was somewhat regional.

Over the last 22 years, deep down, the Celtics were still my true sports love. Basketball is my favorite sport. Sure, I had my appropriate affair with the Red Sox, and that has been good fun over the years, but the Celtics were always the one for me. Before the playoffs started, I said here the Celts winning it all would be bigger for me than either Sox World Series wins. After last night, I haven't changed my mind.

The last 22 years, of course, have been difficult. I was shooting hoops behind my parents' barn when my dad told me Len Bias died. I was a senior at Northeastern when Reggie Lewis died, and spent the next day putting out a special edition. (I met Reggie a handful of times, including a few times when he stopped by the NU Sports Information office, where I co-oped. He was also extraordinarily kind, and I was thinking about a few of those chance, quiet meetings last night.)

Beyond the tragedy, however, there was some outright sucky seasons. I was covering the Celtics draft for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel when they picked Acie Earl, who plummeted from a Top-10 pick to the Celts (picking at 17, I think). The universal feeling in the room was that it was not just the obvious choice, but a steal. Yeah. A steal alright.

It just never seemed to get better. For a stretch, Kevin Gamble was the best player on the team. Then came the Pitino Era, which seemed like such a good idea at the time -- kind of like Acie Earl, now that I think of it. Pitino's lasting legacy is one of the great tantrums of all time -- and little else.

Up until last night, my best Celtics moment in the last 20 years was Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002, when the Celtics came back in the fourth against the Nets. I sat in the very last row of the FleetCenter -- stood in the very last row of the FleetCenter -- and watched one of the great comebacks ever. It was probably the loudest Celtics crowd since 1986 until last night. That crowd last night was absolutely phenomenal. In the first quarter and first half of the second, you could tell it was on its game and just ready to explode, just needing that little burst to get going. They got it, alright.

Obviously, all the bad times -- all the sitting through the M.L. Carr era, the ups and downs of Antoine Walker, the sad fade of the Big Three -- came to an end last night. Paul Pierce got what he deserved, a permanent place in Celtics legend. Kevin Garnett got the validation he desperately needed. Ray Allen gets the last piece to his Hall of Fame puzzle. The fans got order restored in the basketball world.

No more remembering Acie Earl or Ron Mercer, (as my pal Jon mentioned last night/this morning, Dontae Jones). No more hoping Tony Battie would "reach his potential" and no more wondering what could have been if Joe Johnson hadn't been traded, or Pierce had been.

For too long, the Celtics were an afterthought. For years, I'd go to the FleetCenter, see a crowd of 12,000, and think it was a pretty good attendance. For too long, the NBA was sucky, the Celtics suckier, and nobody cared. What can be worse than not caring? What can be worse than getting excited for the draft lottery year-in and year-out? What can be worse than sitting through a series of 35-win seasons (or worse) with hope years away?

Instead, a season that began in Rome ended in Boston, and the NBA's longest-running empire is back on top. Since 1986, Celtics fans have given more than they received. Last night, the ledger was finally balanced. Who's up for Banner 18?

Labels: , ,


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yes, Sir!

After 22 years of Acie Earl, Dino Radja, Vitaly Potapenko, and sadly much more, the Boston Celtics are the champions of the basketball world.

I spent most of the second half pondering all that lost time, and how awesome tonight is. Good times, indeed. The bubbly tastes so, so good at Save Fitchburg Mansion.

I also thought back to about 10 years ago, when Jon Tapper, Greg Levy and Danny Brem joined me in getting season tickets after Rick Pitino came to town. We're all spread out now, three of us have kids and wives and we all have different lives, but for three years we spent 20-something nights together watching the Celts and hoping for this someday. Unlike the bozos in the Globe today, Jon Greggy and Danny deserve this one. Here's to you, fellas.

More tomorrow. Enjoy, y'all.

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 13, 2008

24 Down, 2 Up, 1 to Go

So, I started the third quarter last night playing a PSP, and peeking at the game. I figured I'd give the Celtics a shot to get back in the game, but after a horrible first half wasn't really expecting much.

Then the Celts quickly got it to 11, so I put the PSP down. Then it was back down by 20, so I picked the PSP back up. And then, quickly, the Celts went to work. I quietly played my Tiger Woods while really watching the game (my round of video golf when in the dumper right fast). Mrs. Save Fitchburg wasn't really a fan of my seeming disinterest, but at that point I wasn't sure the comeback was fully legit, and I had some small superstitions working.

The PSP got put away for the fourth quarter, and you know the rest. After toying with taking the lead, the Cs went down four about halfway through the fourth, and then a little mini-spurt got them a lead they wouldn't give up. The Celtics are one game away from the title.

Considering how last night, there's not much to say, except starting to decide whether or not I should play hooky some day next week.*

If you're a Lakers fan, you're devastated. The Lakes finally played to their full potential, and looked amazing. It was the high-level quality of basketball they had to think they were capable of. But in the last 18 minutes, all their inadequacies -- the things on a smaller scale lost them Games 1 and 2 -- were bare to the world. They couldn't defend. Odom went from all-world to on the missing person's list. Gasol was his consistent non-factor. Kobe couldn't get to the rim, and the offense ground to a halt. Vujocovic (or whatever) looked like he was going to cry on the bench. Obviously it was their 18 minutes of the series (of the season?), but the problems were the ones they've had all series.

Phil Jackson put the right scheme in place when he put Bryant on Rondo. Poor Rondo, exposed to the world. But Doc Rivers (who has pushed all the buttons in the last two week -- reminicent of Francona in the 2004 playoff run) made the (semi-gutsy) move to go with Eddie House and Posey and spread the floor. You'd have to think we'll be seeing a lot of that lineup the rest of the way. The C's don't need too much in terms of power and bigs against this team, so that lineup has potential the rest of the way.

Paul Pierce said after last night he wants to finish it on Sunday, Father's Day. That's absolutely fine with me.

*-Yes, yes, I know this series isn't over yet. Yes, yes, everytime I hear the "28 times a team has gone up 3-1 in the Finals, and all have won the series" I think of "No MLB team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit," but at this point you have to believe, right?

Labels: ,


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Opportunity Lost

As Joe Castig would say, it was "a giant squander."

The Celtics lost a winnable game last night. I'm as ticked as I am optimistic, weirdly.

You have to figure that last night was the night the Lakers put on their Sunday best. They were coming home, they were desperate, they had a legendary coach bitching about the officiating and had a great ref crew to rely on. They had everything going their way.

I went to bed angry at the Celtics. With six minutes left, I declared the game lost. Four minutes later (at least in game time), I announced to Mrs. Save Fitchburg that the Celtics are winning this series.

Simply, the Lakers came in last night knowing they needed their A-game. It appears they got a lot of the things that constituted their A-game: Kobe was great, a role player stepped up, they played with aggression (missing: Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, but I'm starting to wonder if they'll ever play very well for an entire game in this series), and Phil Jackson threw in a puzzling adjustment (Kobe on Rondo).

If this was the Lakers' A-game, it's time to start stitching Banner 17.

The Celtics should have won last night. The offense stunk, and Garnett and Pierce were chief el stinko offenders. Pierce forced every shot he took, I think, and Garnett missed some "bunnies" while taking some bad shots. Ugh. Why didn't Ray Allen get the ball more down the stretch (or, for that matter, why was Eddie House getting contested looks late)? The Celtics played probably a C game (they played an excellent third quarter, and did enough to have a shot late). A B, and they're up 3-0.

The Celtics need to get the flow back to the offense tomorrow night, and they need to find a way to get around this Kobe-Rondo thing. It gives Kobe freedom to roam, and really exposes Rondo. It's almost embarassing to see Rondo passing up 17-footers. Win or lose this series, you know what Rondo's working on this summer. It was an unexpected wrinkle, and one the Cs need to solve before tomorrow night (I'd want Allen to go after Derek Fisher, but that's just me).

I'm taking the optimistic view. I felt going into the series the Cs needed to hold serve in Games 1 and 2, and then take one of the next three. After last night, you gotta feel good about that happening. At least I do, even though I'm pissed they let a golden opportunity to lock this up go by.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Halftime Adjustments

As the interminable halftime drones on, what I'd be looking for in the second half:

Just some more shutting off of Bryant to the hoop. When he's got the ball crossing halfcourt, he's thinking getting to the basket. They need to slow him down a little bit. They don't need to junk the defense, just tighten it up a little bit.

They need more flow on offense, but really, they need Pierce and Garnett to take good shots and make them. That's it.

Down 6, 24 minutes to go. A win tonight -- still within reach despite a bad first half -- would be so, so, so big. Let's go get 'em.

Labels: ,


Monday, June 09, 2008

About Last Night: Halfway There

The Celtics played seven stink-o minutes last night, and it almost ruined 41 minutes of very good basketball. But they pulled it together in the end, and head out to LA up 2-0 in the NBA Finals. And if you're a Celtics fan, there was plenty to like in the first two games.

First and foremost, Paul Pierce is the man. Last Thursday's drama aside, he was the best player on the floor in both games, not only making big shots, but getting others involved and playing good defense. The knee seems not to be an issue right now.

Second, the Celtics are playing good defense on Kobe Bryant. Bryant had some easier buckets last night, but the best things the Celts are doing is keeping Bryant away from the basket, and off the foul line. He can go 9- or 11-for-26 all series, and that's fine. When Bryant kills you is when he goes 11-for-26, with 12 or 15 trips to the line. He's not living on the foul line, where his good games go to great games. That might change with some home cooking, but I don't think there were a lot of penetration fouls missed on Bryant last night.

The Celtics still have some work to do, obviously. It would be very beneficial to win one of the next three. I'm not going to say the Lakers can't win in Boston, but it appears to be a very, very difficult task for them. The Celtics need to take their defensive intensity with them to LA. The offense will take care of itself. Compared to Cleveland and Detroit, the Lakers' defense is subpar.

Since they lost Game 2 of the East Finals to Detroit, the Celtics have been playing some very, very good basketball (and you might want throw Game 1 of the East and Game 7 of the Cleveland series in there). The only stinkbomb was that horrible Game 4 in Detroit -- a game the Celtics could have (should have) won. They played a great Game 3 in Detroit, and owned Games 5 and 6 of that series. In the first two games of the Finals, they've clearly been the better team.

That will change tomorrow night. The Lakers will be ready to go (as they were in the first six minutes last night, when they were the far more aggressive team). The Celtics don't always play their best on the road. But they need one of three. It's a doable mission.

For the Celtics to win out there, they'll need to stick with the defense, continue to get good bench help (Leon Powe doesn't need to go off for 21 points, but that would help), and Kevin Garnett needs to start making baskets. He's not getting to his spots consistently, and when he does you feel like he's trying to will in the hoop as often as not. You have to think he'll be OK, but I'd feel much better about things if he started making baskets.

Kobe's going to have a say in all this -- or at least will very much try to (he was desperately trying to take the game over in the second quarter last night and just couldn't quite make it happen) -- and the Celtics are going to have to deal with that. But there's a lot about the Lakers that need fixing. They've played terrible defense, they've been inconsistent offensively, and they just haven't seemed quite all together at times. The defense should get a boost from the home crowd if things go well, the offense should get better, and they should just look better at home. But the way the Celtics played the first two games, they should get their chances out there.

The Celtics needed to win both these games. Just had to have them. Now they go out west knowing that one-of-three will do just fine, thank you. After what we've seen so far, you have to be optimistic. Still on edge, but optimistic.



Friday, June 06, 2008

A Different Override Question; About Last Night

Mayor Lisa Wong said this morning she wants to put non-binding override questions on this fall's ballot, and then proceed with perhaps some binding override questions early next year. You can read all about it at the Fitchburg Pride website.

It's an interesting move. It opens the override discussion, but doesn't create a one-and-done atmosphere that makes override debates so heated. How hard to advocates push in November? What's the threshold for getting onto the early-'09 ballot? Has this ever been done before?

It does give residents a clear say in what they funded. Even if nothing passes in the end, it gives some a road map to city officials of what people want to see money put toward.

It will be very interesting to see how this turns out. In November, voters would be essentially given a wishlist. Do you want money to be spent on X, Y and Z? But early in '09, it will be, do you want to spend money on X, Y and Z? That's a big different. I'm guessing a solid majority of people support the idea of spending more money on the library. But would a majority of people actually support the funding? I'm sure there will also be a bloc of folks who will vote "no" on everything through sheer principle.

I'm not sure if this has been done anywhere else, but it should be an intriguing experiment.


If you're a Celtics fan, you have to pleased with how last night turned out. The Celtics and Lakers both played well, and except for the back end of the second quarter, you felt like the Celtics were either in control or close to taking control of the game. The last three minutes of the third and the first 10 minutes of the fourth were particularly well-played by the Celtics. In short, if the Celtics play well, they can win games.

Some interesting stuff out of L.A. in the aftermath. After spending almost the entire night outside of the paint, Kobe Bryant said he just missed a lot of "bunnies," and he was getting good looks. Of course, SportsCenter then shows a series of 15-foot fadeaways with a hand in his face (including that second-half airball) and other tough shots. Will Bryant go 9-for-26 again? God, I hope so. But that's kind of unlikely. But was shooting 49.7 percent in the playoffs before last night, so what is it? Bad shooting night, or good defense? Or both?

Also, Bill Plashke falls for Phil Jackson's bizarre whining after the Paul Pierce episode last night. Jackson questioned how hurt Pierce actually was. Plashke takes it a step further in his column this morning. I don't know how hurt Pierce is, but Mike and Mike were on point his morning when Golic questioned how Pierce could have the presence to fall down, immediately act very hurt, and know that his triumphant return would get the place charged up. That's a lot of scheming in about a half-second. But whatever. As a Celtics fan, I'm hoping Pierce was faking it, because they won't this series without him. They get an extra day off with Game 2 on Sunday, so hopefully he's ready to go.

In the end, a good start last night for the Celts. Now they have to take care of business Sunday night and really put the pressure on the Lakers.

Labels: , ,


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cats and Dogs Living Together

As Jack Buck once said, "I can't believe what I just saw."

The City Council, during the budget process, moved money from one area to another through free cash and cuts. They can do more than "only cut the budget." Who knew?

In case you missed it, the council used some free cash and a cut or two from some other areas to fund new cruisers for the Police Department. These were the new cruisers that had funding cut under duress in 2006, and never had a chance last year.

This is good news for a couple of different reasons that have nothing to dollars and cents.

First, I feel like I spent the second half of last year howling into the wind that the council's hands were not as tied on budget matters as they claimed. One mayoral candidate in particular tried to wash his hands of all things budget problems while on the trail, leaning on the "the council can only cut" mantra. Then, and now, I argued the council has political power and legislative maneuvering to get stuff done. Ta-da. Look at this week's action.

Second, on some level, this council has some priorities. If they did in the past, it wasn't always clear. There was a feeling of 11-councilors-and-11-cabs no one really tried to refute. Clearly, public safety is a chief concern for this council. They targeted the PD, and are making noises about Fire. Let's see what happens there. Can this council do it again?

All of this is good news for the city. Watching the council over the last 18 months or so has been fairly interesting. You could kind of sense it was trying to figure out last year how to get going, but was so busy squabbling with Dan Mylott that it couldn't quite get there. Now, it's picking priorities and making things happen.

I like a proactive council, and I like what happened this week if only because this council is proving that it can pick a target and hit it. And it's only been together five months, which is also encouraging. The next step: being proactive on something other than budget survival. But I like this first step.

I have some questions on this, purely in the wondering sense. I wonder if this gets done if Marcus DiNatale isn't on the council. By all reports, it sounds like he was the driving force on this. I wonder what kind of signal we should take from this on the council-mayor relationship. She could have told them to stick it (although she said from the outset she'd go along with reasonable changes). You'd have to think everyone is getting along right now.

This isn't good news for everyone. If you're a library supporter, it's pretty clear that the council's general "public safety first" philosophy was more than talk, it was an action plan. While there may be some dollars here and there to shuffle around, clearly moving them toward the library isn't a top priority. And considering the library's big cut, I'm not sure there's enough dollars out there to fill in that hole.

While we're on the topic: the library folks will be out tonight, picketing during First Thursday and protesting the cuts. I'm not sure I'm a fan of that move. On the one hand, public protest is all well and good, but usually those protests are centered around political events, like a council meeting. This is a community event. But a high-visibility one. I can't say I blame them, but I think there's something to be said for keeping the politics with the politics. It certainly didn't hurt trash fee opponents to plan their protest around a council meeting.


If you're tired of the Celtics, stop reading. If not, let's get ready for tonight.

First, here's what I wrote right after Garnett got traded to the Celtics. After, a few thoughts on those first thoughts.

UPDATE (4:55 p.m.) There's a slight change in the Garnett deal from what I have below. Rajon Rondo stays, Bassy Telfair goes. So long, Bassy, we hardly knew ye. That said, the more I think about it, the more I like that trade. A bunch of people have mentioned it to me today, and it's great that the Celts are relevant again. That alone might make it a great trade.

More importantly at this point, the Sox just finished a trade for Eric Gagne. That means in October, you'd better be beating the Sox after six innings, because Okijima, Gagne and Papelbon are waiting after that. Yikes. Sure, Gagne's back my cripple him any day now, but whatever. That bullpen is now ferocious.

I know, I know, you don't want to hear it. If you don't want to read about the Celtics, you're free to go. But....

My first reaction to the megatrade for Kevin Garnett was immediate anger. I didn't want to see Al Jefferson go away. Throw in two serviceable players (Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes), the C's best trade bait (Theo Ratliff's contract) and apparently the starting point guard (Rajon Rondo) -- and a top pick, and that's quite a bounty.

My negativity -- Rick Pitino would be so proud -- was that fact that the Celtics traded away the future we've had to sit through and nurture over the last few years. Coming on the heels of the Ray Allen trade, I was done with Danny Ainge yesterday afternoon.

In the long term, this might not be a good trade for the Celtics. In three years or so, when Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all in their mid-30s, this will be an old team (hello, late 80s/early 90s Celts). There is so much money wrapped up in those three players that there will be little cash to flesh out the roster. By the way, who's the point guard? The team's two "best," Delonte West and Rondo, are gone.

But for the next two or three years, the Celtics suddenly matter. A lot. And for 82 games a year, we get to watch a star (Pierce) and a superstar (Garnett) on the same court for the same team. Cool.

More importantly, for the next two or three years, the Celtics are in fact contenders to at least make the Finals, if not win them. Part of that is because the Eastern Conference stinks. Bad. A Celtics team of its latter-day Big Three, me, and Dan Mylott would make the playoffs (allegedly Mylott is a great spot-up shooter).

Cleveland won the conference this year, and that team was a one-man band. Detroit's on the downside, Chicago is a player short (Allen or Garnett would be huge there, in fact), Miami could be dangerous if Shaq muscles up, but that mystique is fading fast. In short, the Celtics are suddenly in the mix.

So, today, fresh off a mini-vacation, I'm taking the optimistic outlook. Even at best, a fully matured Jefferson with Pierce and other parts would be looking at a two- or three-year window to compete -- in two or three years. That timetable just got moved up, and this team is more solid.

Obviously, it's better to have your teams always competitive and able to just reload through its monster resources (the Red Sox) or its smarts (the Patriots, although they're not my team. I'm a Raiders fan). To think Ainge and Doc Rivers will be able to reload this team is still not a trustworthy situation. So you have a two-year window to sit back and watch three stars try to get the Celtics back to basketball's biggest stage. That would be cool.

OK, thoughts...

I'm still pissed at how far off I was on Gagne. Boy, did he suck. I was so psyched when they got him, though. I'm a silly boy.

Nearly a year later, I'm also pissed I was upset for even 20 seconds about this trade. Hindsight is grand, but I should have been more excited at the time. I'm almost there back then (it was July 31, by the way), but didn't have it figured out then.

I think the one thing that was a big problem then, without an obvious solution, was the rest of the roster. Posey, Eddie House, P.J. Brown, none of those guys were even on the radar at that point. Glen Davis was optimistic potential. Somehow, Ainge pieced it all together. It's one thing to make a couple of good trades, but to fill in the back half of the roster the way Ainge did was a great job -- and probably a tougher one.

As you can see through the update, the rumor mill got the trade wrong at first. Obviously, hanging on to Rondo was gigantic, and probably allowed the Cs to get this far. Would Bassy Telfair have gotten into the Finals? Ugh. Looking back on this year, Rondo's growth has been the one of the best things to see this year. He's not all the way there, but he's significantly better than he was in November. Hell, in February, when Cassell jumped on, there were still questions about Rondo. I think at this point Cs fans are perfectly fine having Rondo on the court for 40 minutes, even when he's not playing his best. If nothing else, he just doesn't turn it over. After wrangling with Billups the last two weeks, he should have a little more freedom this go-around. He'll be a key, as usual.

I still think there's a two- or three-year window, and God knows what happens when Pierce, Allen and Garnett get creaky, but they're taking advantage of the window, and that's all that matters.

So, tonight's the night. For the first time in 21 years there's June basketball in Boston. I can't stinking wait. Let's Go Celtics.

Labels: , ,


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What's the Rush?

This started out in the comments, but I got a little long-winded (shocking), so here you go.

Everyone seems anxious about losing CVS. But what's the harm in using a few months -- and only a few -- to see if a bigger plan (with CVS) can be had?

Consider the cash involved for everyone.

The land owners are looking at a huge score. Would anyone believe their bluff if they said they were walking away?

The developer also has big bucks on the table. This might be the biggest issue in that this particular developer might walk away, and then no "CVS plus" developer is found. But if no "CVS plus" is found, would this developer really leave millions on the table if invited back?

Finally, there's CVS. They already have an outpost a mere couple hundred yards away. But clearly, they believe there's more money to be made on the other side of the tracks. And that's what this is about in the end for CVS, money. Someone said it in the comments over the last week. CVS could give a darn about community building and boosting downtown and all that. They just want to make more money. This fits that mission. If "CVS plus" meets all their standards in terms of space and parking -- and why wouldn't it -- there shouldn't be a problem.

Simply, there's too much money on the table for all the parties involved. There is, certainly, some risk here. But considering the millions of dollars involved, you have to think the risk is minimal. If a "CVS plus" isn't looking good by summer's end, bring on the stand-alone CVS. But the money involved all but guarantees that the parties will stay in this -- or come running back if they say they're walking away.



Monday, June 02, 2008

Let's Talk Hoops

Nope, the weekend did nothing to lessen my obsession with the Boston Celtics. In fact, it was a distraction all weekend.

Part of the problem is that for the last six weeks, the Cs were playing an every-other-day schedule. No game last night was a little weird. I had been conditioned for one day on, one day off. Whatever, I cleared up some of the "Lost" backlog (no discussion, please. Still three episodes away from being done. Yes, I stink).

Anyway, it's time to talk hoops.

Of course, for the Celtics, dealing with Kobe Bryant is issue number one. Of course, he can go all LeBron and drop 40 at a moment's notice, but it seems as if his playoff MO this year has been to get 30 or so, but get them in bunches when it matters. Taking over games is his speciality. That's a problem.

You'd have to assume they're going to run something similar as they did with James, doubling way up high and stopping him before he gets a head of steam. Part of the problem, though, is that Bryant has a dependable jump shot, which James doesn't have. Also, Bryant has a better supporting cast, namely Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (who can disappear at times, however). Derek Fisher is a troublesome spot-up shooter.

Set aside the Kobe situation for a second, and there are still problems. Gasol is very, very good, and will keep Perk busy (Garnett has to go on Radmonovic, to be a free to wander). Odom will be a significant problem. He's big at 6'10 for Pierce to cover, but it's gotta be Pierce, which means Pierce can't cover Bryant, forcing it on Ray Allen. Doc Rivers should note that bringing James Posey in for defense isn't a bad idea if the offense is clicking OK (see Friday night's fourth quarter), and I'd think about bringing in Posey regularly to try to keep Kobe down as much as possible (good luck on that one).

The short answer is the Lakers are a very, very good offensive team. The good news is the Celts are the best defensive team in the NBA. This won't be the slogfest of the Pistons or Cavs series, although the Spurs did keep the score in the high-80s/low-90s a few times.

The good news is that the Lakers aren't in the same league defensively as the Cavs and Pistons, and the Celts will provide some matchup problems equal to those the Celts face. Rondo is much quicker than Fisher. If Rondo can play his confident game, he should be effective on both ends. Kobe is going to have to cover either Allen or Pierce. In either case, the Celts have to make Kobe work on the defense end, either chasing Allen from one side of the court to the other, or having Pierce grind him away by going to the basket and running him off pick-and-rolls.

More importantly, perhaps, the Lakers' best chance at guarding Garnett might be Odom, but the Celtics are looking at a significant mismatch in Garnett vs. Laker X. Maybe a Luke Walton brings some high-energy, change-of-pace D to the game, but for the most part the Celtics need to see Garnett has a super-quality option in this series -- particularly in the post and his now-patented elbow jumper. It just might end up being the key to this series.

One more thing: If Phil Jackson wins this series, he ties Red Auerbach for most titles as a coach. This can't happen. It just can't. Not on the Celtics' watch. I expect this plotline to become bigger, but the legacy of Red must be protected.

So, in the end, here's a fan's prediction: Celtics in 6. They take the first two at home, win Game 4, and then finish it at home in Game 6.

Labels: ,