4X4 With CLNS Media: A Weekly Discussion on the Boston Celtics and the NBA

This new weekly segment brings together the CLNS Media Celtics content team to discuss the latest in professional basketball news.

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Celtics trade deadline analysis?

Nick Cherico: Danny Ainge chose to stand pat at this year’s deadline and I am perfectly fine with it. We heard the rumors of Tyreke Evans or Lou Williams being possible targets for the Celtics, and while those would have been fine additions to this team, price tags always seem to go up around this time of the year. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable parting with Memphis’ asking price of a first-round pick for Evans. He’s having a great season, but I think the fact that the Grizzlies didn’t even end up moving him says a lot. They were simply asking for way too much, which I’m sure was the case for anyone else the C’s had been looking at before the deadline. The picks that Ainge has stashed away in his arsenal are simply too valuable to move on from for a rental.

Hunter Perkins: Not mad at all with the Celtics standing pat. They kind of got Monroe at the deadline, as he suited up the other night against the Wizards. If they get Gordon Hayward back, no one will care at all. It would have been nice to see Evans in a Celtics uniform, but I no longer have the right to question Ainge. The Celtics are still the top seed in the east. No need to panic when our already good team is only going to get better. The emergence of Terry Rozier made this less painful, as well.

Cory Prescott: Considering the Celtics have already made a splash without giving up anything (see: Monroe) and the NBA buyout market is expected to be robust, Danny Ainge was smart not to part with any significant assets at the trade deadline. The Celtics are still under the luxury tax and can expect to have their pick of talents come buyout season. The team has plenty of depth already and as we’ve seen in the past, it’s often difficult to integrate key pieces this late in the season.

Devon Clements: Content is the word to describe how I feel after the trade deadline came and went for the Celtics. Even though I felt like they should have made a move for another offensive weapon like Evans, the buy price was too high so I understand why Danny Ainge didn’t reach into his pocket too deep. Since reports are coming out that Joe Johnson will be bought by the Sacramento Kings and this will give Boston the opportunity to get into a bidding war with whomever else wants him, that gives me even more reason to not be upset at the Celtics quiet trade deadline.

Would you have parted with Marcus Smart?

Cherico: I personally would not have traded Marcus Smart, so I’m glad that he’s staying here in Boston. The team hasn’t had a problem winning games without him, but I feel like Smart’s presence is a huge asset for them. He catches a lot of heat for some of his careless decision making on offense, but he’s sort of like a Swiss army knife on defense. You can put him on almost anyone on that side of the ball and I think he’d do a fine job keeping them contained. Smart helps set the tone for the Celtics defense, and I think Ainge would have been a little careless to get rid of that.

Perkins: Nope. Watch the Houston game.

Prescott: The Celtics were rumored to have offered up Smart in exchange for a first-round pick, but with first-round picks as valuable as Bitcoin these days, that was always an unlikely scenario. Even if a mid-level first-rounder was offered up, I would have been hesitant to part with Smart. His defense is truly game-changing and despite the outstanding play from Terry Rozier, taking Smart off of this year’s team would have been unwise. Plus, the NBA salary cap has halted its increase, few teams will have cap space this summer and Lou Williams (borderline all-star this season) just signed for 3-years and $24 million. Perhaps this is a clear signal that Smart’s worth may not be what he hopes it is.

Clements: Honestly, yes. As much as I love Smart as a defensive playmaker and as a facilitator on offense, he is just too much of a liability as a shooter. Seeing the way Rozier has played since Smart has been sidelined made me think Smart would be gone by the 3 p.m. deadline. I felt, and still do feel, that the Celtics could lose a little bit defensively in order to improve their offensive consistency, but according to what Ainge said after the trade deadline, the organization values Smart a little bit higher than I do.

Biggest winner and biggest loser from this season’s trade deadline?

Cherico: The biggest winner at the deadline must be the Lakers, right? Sure, they only wound up with Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, but the moves they made weren’t so they could win this season. Instead, what they did was very necessary for their master plan; signing LeBron James this Summer. By getting rid of Jordan Clarkson’s hefty contract, they have now opened space to not only sign James, but add another max player into the fold as well. I’m sure the idea of bringing another big name to LA with him will only increase LeBron’s interest in the Lakers. As for the biggest losers, I’m going to go with the Oklahoma City Thunder. They opted to stand pat at this year’s deadline and did not make a single move. Avery Bradley was reportedly made available by the Clippers, so I’m not too sure why they weren’t all over that, especially after losing Andre Roberson. Their decision to not make a move at this year’s deadline might come back to haunt them if Paul George decides to sign elsewhere this Summer.

Perkins: Cavs won the deadline for sure. Team chemistry got way better and they added solid bodies. George Hill is an upgrade; Larry Nance does some things well; Jordan Clarkson is reliable as it gets for a second-string point guard; Rodney Hood is a great offensive weapon. The Cavs made their team better and more formidable to face Boston. Biggest losers are all the teams that traded with the Cavs. Those returns were gross.

Prescott: Can the Cavs be the biggest winners and losers? Yes, they can. The locker room was clearly divided, and rookie GM Koby Altman had to do something – anything – to try and salvage what could be LeBron James’ last season as a Cav. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert are all gone. The Cavs got younger and more athletic with their deals, bringing in Hood from Utah, Hill from Sacramento, and Clarkson and Nance from the Lakers. Although the Cavs likely improved their team, there are also huge question marks surrounding the play from Hood (inconsistency, effort) and Hill (old age, effort). Plus, the contracts from Hill and Clarkson have the chance to cripple a team that’s already well over the luxury tax.

Clements: The Cleveland Cavaliers. For those of you who don’t know, Cleveland tied for the most players traded away (six) at the trade deadline in the last 30 years, and the only other team to do it – the 2008 Cavaliers – tried to make a roster around a young and star-studded LeBron James. And that is exactly why they are the losers of the trade deadline. Not only were they playing horrific up until this point into the season, but now with just a couple months of regular season basketball left to play, they now must find their identity once again because chemistry just isn’t possible when you play with a superstar like James. Growing pains will for sure be the issue since Cleveland’s roster was flipped at the trade deadline, and even though their roster looks more promising than it did two days ago, a huge turnover should not have been necessary to win games when you have the greatest player in the world on your team.

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Favorite Paul Pierce moment of all-time?

Cherico: Oh, there are so many great Paul Pierce moments to choose from, but I know which one I’m going with. Game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Miami Heat. The Celtics were up by one with little under a minute remaining. Pierce had the ball at the three-point line, covered by LeBron James. With just 5 seconds left on the shot clock, Pierce gave James a little hesitation move, then pulled up from three and drilled what was ultimately the dagger right in LeBron’s eye. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs after Pierce buried that shot to give the Celtics a 3-2 lead in the series. He had been struggling with his shot all night, but no matter what, you always felt like Pierce could be trusted with the game on the line. He just had that clutch gene in him.

Perkins: My favorite Pierce moment has to be Game 7 of the Conference Finals back in 2008. Pierce and James were absolutely going at. LeBron had 46-5-6 and was handling everything the Celtics threw at him. Thankfully, Boston had Pierce. The Truth had 41-4-5 with 57/67/92 shooting splits. It felt like everything he shot went in. The 2007 season was the first time I watched the Celtics extensively, and I’m real glad I started when I did. I had never seen a performance like this from a Celtic and I was absolutely mesmerized. Pierce is partly responsible for my love of basketball. Coming in at a (shockingly) close second is Pierce’s last three in Boston. Doc gave him the final 18 seconds and he cashed a three. The crowd went absolutely nuts, man. It was the perfect ending for both sides. Cannot wait for his jersey to get retired this weekend.

Prescott: From his Finals MVP trophy to his Game 7 duel with LeBron, there were too many to count really. What often gets lost in Pierce’s great career is his stellar 2005-06 season, Doc Rivers’ second as head coach, one in which Pierce posted the best PER (23.6) and points per game (26.8) of his career. Note that Wally Szczerbiak and Ricky Davis (traded for one another that season) were Pierce’s two best teammates. Pierce hit one of his most difficult game winners that season against the Wizards.

Clements: My favorite Pierce moment has to be during the first round of the 2002-03 playoffs when the Boston Celtics played the Indiana Pacers. I was still very young at that point in my life and did not watch it live, but game four of that series I had seen and still love to watch time and time again. This was the game when Pierce and Al Harrington got face-to-face and let each other know how they really felt about one-another. Pierce let Harrington know he was going to score on him, and Harrington made it clear that was not going to be the case. Sure enough, Pierce shot an off-balance fadeaway from about 27-feet out with Harrington perfectly guarding him, and made the basket. Boston went on to win the game and Pierce ended the night with a 37-10-7 stat line and gave the Celtics a 3-1 series lead.