Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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My Thoughts on the Celtics Trade and the Pierzynski DFA

Good morning, everyone. I write this knowing there’s a strong likelihood I’ll have a lot more to say later today about a certain Arsenal transfer story. If that is announced, expect my thoughts and analysis on it in the late afternoon.

Yesterday in Boston saw a couple moves from our hometown teams. The Red Sox took step one towards 2015 by designating A.J. Pierrzynski for assignment in order to make room for rookie catcher Christian Vazquez. The young backstop is major league ready defensively, but his bat will take time. I’m a fan of giving him time to adjust in the major leagues for the next few months, as he could struggle now rather than in April and May of next year. Hopefully given some at-bats, he’ll find his stroke at this level. At worst, he’ll be another sub-.200 hitter for the rest of the year, but if he can throw out some runners and get comfortable with the pitching staff, it’ll be a good investment in the future. Being around the veteran David Ross could also do wonders for Vazquez. Last night’s walkoff win was an exciting start to the Vazquez era, and who knows, maybe this team still has some life in them this year.

As far as Pierzynski, I feel for the man. Clearly he thought that coming to Boston would be his best opportunity at another championship late in his career, but instead he got three months on an uninspired team. He struggled at the plate, devoid of the power that once made him a valuable bat in the lineup, and his swing-at-the-first-pitch style never was going to sit well with Boston fans if he wasn’t producing. At his age and with his short-term contract, keeping him in the lineup was doing nobody any good at this point. Hopefully he can catch on as a backup on a contender for these next couple months, but I think getting rid of him was a solid first step towards next year.

The other trade in Boston yesterday saw Danny Ainge and the Celtics collect three assets for essentially nothing. Ainge’s track record on trades gets better by the minute. With the trade exception from the Paul Pierce departure (when did everyone decide that trade was the Pierce trade as opposed to the Garnett trade?) set to expire this week, Ainge had a lot of incentive to make a move. And with lots of teams trying to shed cap space in the LeBron James hunt, it was the perfect opportunity for the Celtics to improve. In addition to acquiring another first-round pick, which can never be a bad thing, Ainge also added an intriguing expiring contract in Marcus Thornton and a young center in Tyler Zeller.

Marcus Thornton could help this team in a number of ways, even if he never puts on a Celtics jersey. His expiring deal will be attractive to many teams looking to shed cap space in 2015, and he could be a valuable trade chip. He might even be a piece the Celtics could use in the hunt for Kevin Love. I doubt he ever plays in Boston, but Thornton could help accelerate the rebuilding process in other ways than his play on the court. Zeller, on the other hand, will be a true center on a team that lacks one. I’m sure many Celtics fans will remember Zeller having a couple good games against us in the last two years, and he’s somebody who could play alongside Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk. There won’t be much pressure on the UNC product, but he could prove useful, even if he’s no superstar.

That’s all for now, but hopefully there will be big news today on the Arsenal front. Check back later.

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Analyzing the Celtics First Round Draft Picks and the Big Night for Nik Stauskas

I had built up a lot of hope about the NBA Draft tonight for the Celtics. I allowed myself to believe Kevin Love might come to Boston a couple weeks ago. And then I allowed myself to think that Joel Embiid might fall into our lap. Then there were the moments tonight when I hoped the Celtics might trade up, or when I thought they could potentially wind up with Dante Exum. But then pick number six arrived and none of whom I wanted was still there. I should know not to get too excited when it comes to the Celtics and the Draft.

When Marcus Smart put his Celtics hat on at number six, my first thought was that this rebuilding process is going to take a while. I think Smart will be a good player, but probably never an all-star. I can see him being a defense-first point guard on a contender in a few years, one who needs to play alongside a scorer to thrive. Ideally, he will develop a jump shot at some point, but right now he’s not going to light it up offensively in the NBA.

I’m afraid this pick will signal the end of the Rajon Rondo era, if not now then later this season, and that’s a bit sad to think about. A long rebuild with Smart manning the point could lead to another great time for Celtics basketball in a number of years, but count me as one who would have liked to see Rondo given another shot with a star player in Boston. This pick also was the second time recently that the Celtics have taken a probable number one pick the year after they should have come out of college, with Jared Sullinger being the other. I guess that’s a good thing – but maybe there’s a reason these guys have fallen out of the top spot after another year in the spotlight.

At number 17, the Celtics pick of James Young was another case of drafting a guy who had the talent to be picked a lot higher. Personally, I was never very impressed with Young when I watched Kentucky play – which was a lot. He of course was immensely talented, but like the Harrison twins, I always wanted him to do more. As a shooting guard, he is not a pure shooter, and at that position, I would have liked the Celtics to have added a more consistent shooter.

I would have taken Gary Harris or Rodney Hood ahead of Young. For me, if Young works out, he’ll be a double-digit scoring energy guy off the bench on a good team. Best case scenario he becomes a Reggie Jackson type scorer. His performance in the NCAA Tournament was sensational, but it’s hard for me to ignore how many bad shots he took over the course of the regular season. In Kentucky’s two losses against Arkansas, his reaction to any adversity was to huck up threes. That doesn’t do it for me. But at pick seventeen, his upside as a scorer is great, so I shouldn’t complain, especially having watched the Celtics’ second-unit struggle to score for much of the latter half of the season.

In the current state of the Celtics, these two first round picks won’t change much for next season, and I don’t see them being cornerstones for the future. They can certainly contribute going forward, but Danny Ainge will have his work cut out assembling top line talent in the next few years that Smart and Young can complement. At this point, if Love isn’t coming, I say trade Jeff Green and see if you can get any assets for him. Keep Rondo for now, until an offer blows you away. Trading Rondo for fifty cents on the dollar right now would be a huge mistake.

I would also like to congratulate Nik Stauskas on his meteoric rise to the number eight pick. I saw him play a couple years in high school and always knew he was a player, but the speed at which he took over the spotlight from his high school teammates Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski (two top-ten recruits) was incredible. I’m proud to say I was the official statistician for Stauskas’s high school team’s league, emailing his stats out to Boston newspapers every week and once telling his coach in an email that he was “probably the best player in our league.” That same New England prep school league also produced Shabazz Napier, who himself was taken in the first round as well. Needless to say, it’s a big night for the Independent School League. I’ll be rooting for Stauskas every step of the way with Sacramento.

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Wimbledon and Joel Embiid – Two Non-World Cup Related Stories

It is amazing how much the rest of the sports world has been tuned out over the last two weeks while focusing on the World Cup. I’ve avoided ESPN for the most part, in the hope of writing original content. But there’s actually a ton going on. While I nervously await the USA-Portugal match, I want to share my thoughts on a couple sports stories outside of soccer.

Who knew Wimbledon was starting tomorrow? I am a big tennis fan, but I’d completely forgotten about one of the best events of the summer until quite recently. Haven’t there been more advertisements for the U.S. Open in September than for Wimbledon? Anyway, the tennis should be full of intrigue this year, and will be well worth some attention. There are so many interesting story lines at the All-England Club this go around.  We have Rafael Nadal coming off of yet another incredible run at the French Open, having struggled mightily on grass recently. Then there’s top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who despite a great year of tennis, has not won a major in nearly 18 months, something that would have seemed unthinkable not that long ago. I was not a fan of Djokovic’s decision to switch coaches this past winter, so for me he has a lot to prove in these next two weeks.

Don’t forget about Roger Federer. I believe he’s got two runs left in him at major tournaments, and one might very well come here. He knows his time at the top is running out quickly, and crowing his career with a final Wimbledon victory would be the ultimate reward. And how could we not mention Andy Murray? Since he won Wimbledon last year, getting the monkey off Britain’s proverbial back, he has sometimes lacked the same intensity. A few weeks playing in front of his home crowd might get him going again. There are many other names who could succeed this tournament, as the men’s tennis world has opened up in recent months, but I think the winner comes from these well-known four. I tip Djokovic to take home the crown.

Another major story line this week has been the Joel Embiid injury. While it is obviously a devastating blow for the young big-man, it may be incredible news for Celtics fans like me. Having seen our hopes for landing Kevin Love fade in recent days, with some reports suggesting the team might go in the completely opposite direction and trade Rajon Rondo, the injury offers a glimmer of hope. That Embiid might slip into our hands is tantalizing. I don’t think he’ll slide all the way to the sixth pick, but he could. Should he be there, the Celtics have to take a chance on him. His upside is tremendous obviously, and given that the Celtics probably are at least a year away, they are in no hurry to see him produce immediately, and could wait for him to be healthy, however long that may take.

The question is, if Orlando is picking at four, and Embiid is still on the board, would the Celtics want to trade up for him there? Given the riskiness of the pick, how much would you give up to trade up two spots? I think I’d be willing to trade up for him, but only if the cost was reasonable – maybe the 6 pick and a future first. Otherwise, call their bluff and hope Embiid is still there at six. If we don’t get Love, Embiid would be a nice consolation. I’ll have a post about my ideal Celtics’ picks on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Now, back to the soccer. Brutal to see Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen pick up an injury in his big chance. Let’s hope this isn’t the last chance he gets.

I believe.