Exclusive Interview with Eric Weiss

Here is an exclusive interview Celtics 24/7 conducted with Eric Weiss from Draft Express on January 1st, 2007.

What’s your opinion on the Telfair robbery situation?

This may be somewhat “old news” now, but I completely agree with what Scott Souza wrote the other day. I think its undeniable that Telfair was the victim in this situation and from there the details and specifics aren’t available for more than speculation.Is there a probability of a corolation between the two incidents? Probably so, but so many variables are in play I say give a nice kid the benefit of the doubt in light of the available evidence. Vilifying people without direct knowledge of circumstances is irresponsible in my opinion and no good would come of it.

How do you think Pierce and Wally will fit in with the young guys over the
course of the season?

In terms of leadership and consistent production, Pierce and Sczcerbiak will be a great complent to the young players, especially Ryan Gomes and Delonte West because of their ability to play off of the two veterans.In terms of running and playing uptempo? I don’t think Pierce and Szczerbiak will get out on the break as much as we all might like to see, but I think they will be extremely effective in the motion half-court sets, which is probably just as important. Team’s spend the majority of their time playing in the half-court and these two know how to move and contribute off-ball in the fundemental areas that lead to winning basketball.I do think that both players will be good in transition when the lineups get shuffled after the first set of substitutions however. These guys are complete players in terms of there understanding of the game and how to make their teammates better through floor spacing, setting picks, cutting off screens, making the pass that leads to the assist, identifying matchup advantages, and communicating on-court. It’s a cererbral tandem.

Who starts at the point?

I think Telfair is going to start at the point. He has the NBA experience, though it may not have been the best experience it has given him an understanding of how team’s defend and what adjustments he has to make. He’s also actually a very effective spot-up jump shooter out to three point range, he rates abouve the 80th percentile for uncontested shots, which he’ll get a lot of with the attention Pierce and Szczerbiak will command.He fits better with the starting unit in my opinion because he’s the best half-court point guard on the team. He’s a better shooter than Rondo and is better off of dribble penetration than Delonte.Rondo is clearly a tremendous talent and he has shown that he deserves a prominant role this season. But, his game is much better suited to playing transition basketball at this point in terms of having an impact on the game. Defensively he’s tremendous, but offensively he can be relagated to “solid but unspectacular” because he has no reliable offense outside of lane penetration. he’ll move the ball well in half-court sets, but he’s not going to be able to penetrate all the way to the basket with inpunity the way he did to start off the preseason.In time, he should be the team’s most complete PG, but until he can pose a threat from the perimeter, he can’t be relied on as a kick out option. This has shown itself to some degree in the last 2 preseason games, where the attention has shifted more toward the wings and bigs. During the regular season, Pierce and Szczerbiak are going to be taking the lion’s share of the offensive scoring load.

Both Telfair and Rondo can penetrate and kick out equally well, but given that Pierce and Szczerbiak are going to be getting the most posessions, there are going to be a heavy amount of touches that they themselves will need to pass out of due to double teams and other defensive attention. This is going to put the ball back out on the perimeter late in the shot clock where the defense is already drawn to the interior. At that point, the PG is going to need to hit perimeter shots. Telfair is better suited for that role given that the Pierce/Sczcerbiak starting lineup will spend more time in half-court sets.

Is Ryan Gomes STILL being undervalued by the coaching staff as they try to
bring Al back to his near superstar status that he received from the Celtics
world in his rookie campaign?

The coaching staff couldn’t be more behind Gomes at this point. They are relying on him to be a principle threat from 15-18ft on the same type of kick-outs that the PG is going to be responsible for hitting in the starting lineup. Gomes is also the principle running partner for the starting PG, and the team is going to expect him to play off of the others to draw attention to himself and away from our two primary threats.From the looks of things, Gomes is going to be asked to be the 3rd scoring option in that starting lineup and will be getting looks early in isolation from the baseline and the elbows, where he can be a threat to shoot as well as drive. With Gomes’ ability to draw fouls, he should thrive playing off of the other starters because they’ll create room for him to attack quickly off of ball rotation and double-teams.I think the team is banking on Gomes taking his game to another level and have simply focused on Jefferson more this preseason because they are less certain about what he’ll bring to the table this year.

Out of all our young guys, who are the ones you keep and who do you use as
trade bait (meaning you aren’t as high on them but hope other GM’s might

That’s what this season is for. The catch word “seperation” has been used by the organization this preseason to describe the situation. I feel that it is the proper year to take this approach because of where the young players are developmentally.
A player’s 3rd season is statistically the one that a majority of NBA players show their biggest jump in maturity and acclimation. The team has a wealth of these players and should get a definitive sense for who is going to do what and which work best for this organizations future.Personally, I don’t think its about “not being as high” on any of the youth as much as its a study of “goodness of fit” and determining who truly does fit best. Its a bit premature to select these players yet, but by midseason the team will probably have a clear picture of who they want to keep and who they can make expendable.Keep in mind that the expendable players may not be enough to get the All Star veteran everyone is clamoring for, but if the “keeper” youth on this team work out, that could be a moot point.If I was choosing now, I’d be looking to keep Perkins/Jefferson/Powe as a 3 man frontcourt rotation, Pierce/Gomes/West at the wings, and Telfair/Rondo at the point…after that it gets tricky.

Gerald Green has amazing talent and promise, but I think he has to show that he can be a productive team player before Delonte West or Ryan Gomes become expendable because they play a complete floor game. Both West and Gomes can play in the backcourt and frontcourt respectively, whereas Green is simply a wing. I don’t differentiate between SG and SF for the most part because they have similar responsibilities.

Both Telfair and Rondo are pure PG’s that can play together enough minutes to keep them both in the game for the minutes they deserve at this point. If one or the other becomes a complete player, that would enable the team to trade the other because of West’s ability to man the 1 in spot minutes. But, until either shows that they can do everything necessary to run a team for 35+ minutes per game, both are needed to maintain a highly productive backcourt.

So, Green and Allen are the two most tradable commodities in my mind, based off of where the current team stands and what it can afford to lose without hindering its ability to win basketball games now. Of course, this can change based off what other players can be aquired and at what price. It’s just too early in all their careers to say with certaintly who should be dealt. Fortunately, the team has every one of these players under its control for 2 seasons or more, so there is no true rush to judgement required from a pure basketball standpoint.

Who’s our first all-star and who’s clearly a bust as far as you can tell?

Based off positions and current level of development, I’d have to say that none of our players have shown much of an indication that they can become All Star caliber players. Gomes and West are the most consistent and both have great offensive potential, but they are wing players and that is the hardest position to make an All Star team at.Jefferson, Green, and Telfair have had the most moments in the NBA that show the promise of All Star potential, but the sample size isn’t enough to justify the expectation. Rondo fits in here as well as 5 preseason games isn’t enough to warrant that talk, regardless of what anyone says to the contrary.In the end, Perkins might be the surest bet to be called a future All Star because the statistical demands from the center position are so miniscule, he has the least amount of improvement to do in order to qualify for that status. 12 10 and 2 could get the job done, well within reason based off what we’ve seen out of him to date.I can’t label a single one of these players “busts” based off their draft position, the average production from those draft positions historically, and the developmental curve associated with the players drafted at those positions.

Despite many people’s feelings to the contrary, none of our players have produced statistics that vary substantially from the mean averages of production associated with their respective draft positions. This data is even more ambiguous when broken down by the positions the players play. Al Jefferson is a popular player for this type of question right now because of how polar the fanbase has become in regards to his future. However, his statistical averages in points, rebounds, blocks and fg% all remain above the average for PF’s drafted at 15 going into season 3. Bottom line, 2 season samples of player production isn’t enough to classify any of the team’s players as “busts” based off their current production levels.

If the Celtics start the season poorly (by start we still mean atleast by
the all-star break) do we tank and hope to get Oden? Would Ainge ever
consider giving up on a season, and would this attitude come even close to
being ok with the young guys?

I don’t think you can “tank” a season ever unless you’re not planning on keeping anyone around from the team that tanked. If the team is 15 games below .500 at the All Star break, there will have been major miscalculations in terms of the team’s talent base, so a number of things could happen at that point. But, it depends on what’s going wrong. Was it injuries? Was it lack of player development? The factors specific to the struggle will determine the course of action.Personally I think that the team won’t be that bad if they’re healthy, at which point it becomes about player development and determining the core and who is tradable.

Where you surprised in the beginning how Danny Ainge specifically snagged
Rajon Rondo, rather then going after the higher ranked and available point
guard, Marcus Williams?

It wasn’t surprising that Ainge took Rondo after making the Telfair trade. Williams is an offensive PG and Telfair is probably a superior version of him, certainly more experienced. Rondo made sense in light of the lack of value with the remaining big men and the team needs at PG. It made sense to be redundent because neither Telfair or Rondo were a known commodity in terms of playing with the Celtics and their skill sets differ enough to be complementary.

Was trading for Telfair instead of drafting someone at the #7 pick a mistake
considering that we have Rondo and West who could do the job instead?

I don’t think so, no. West is a combo guard and despite his tremendous overall skills, he isn’t the type of PG that can take advantage of the new rule changes and doesn’t have a pure PG’s court vision. Rondo and West combined still don’t guarentee 48 minutes of high level PG play and Telfair gives the team complete depth at the position.In addition, the Telfair trade was made before the team knew that they could aquire another first round pick, so its really a question of whether the team should have drafted Rondo at #7 instead of trading for Telfair it would seem. If that’s the case, I don’t think the team could afford to go off the hope that Rondo would be as game ready as he currently looks to be, especially with West’s injury history and lack of true PG skills. I think you’ve got to go for depth first and sort it out later.

Any last comments?

As always, its preseason and there is plenty left to see in terms of how this team comes together. I feel that the depth of talent on the team should help to offset a decent amount of the inconsistency that comes with being a young team.

The fact that most of our youth now have 2 full seasons under their belts should also help to alleviate some of that inconsistency, so the need to rely on the less experienced youth should be lessoned to some degree.

I think we’re going to have a productive season, one that will be fun to watch and should yield a playoff birth in my opinion because most teams in the league cannot compete with our depth of talent. This depth will help to keep most games close.

*Eric Weiss currently writes for DraftExpress

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Hunter Thomas
As a lifetime New England sports fan, Hunter was determined in October of 2005 to finally start using that passion and determination to create the site now known as Celtics 24/7. Formerly known as Celtics Pride, Celtics 24/7 has become one of the most well-respected and followed Celtics websites. Our motto “For Fans, By Fans” rings entirely true as we’ve built and grown a community of passionate and enthusiastic Celtics fans. It all starts with you–the fans, and I appreciate every single person who supports us on our journey to the top.
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