Updated March 4
Just look back at Kevin Garnett's nine-game absence from late January to mid-February. Detroit was in the midst of what would grow to a 10-game win streak, yet didn't take a big chunk out of the Celtics' East lead.
|Sam Cassell was ejected after hitting Rajon Rondo with a clothesline in a Feb. 6 Celtics win. (Getty Images)|
So Rondo can play. And he certainly plays more defense than Cassell. Yet here comes the 38-year-old veteran, flying to Boston on Tuesday to sign, adding even more drama to Wednesday's matchup with -- yep, you got it -- Detroit.
Why is this maneuver necessary? Perhaps the Pistons' Flip Saunders, who coached Cassell in Minnesota, can explain it best.
"One thing about Sam," Saunders told the Detroit Free Press, "is he's not afraid to take big shots."
Despite his spike in production during Garnett's absence, Rondo is averaging just 10.6 points per game. He defers to Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen -- as a second-year point guard should do when on the court with three All-Stars.
Cassell, on the other hand, will take and make a clutch jumper if one needs to be taken. He did it when he won a pair of titles with the Rockets a hundred years ago. And he did it for the Nets, Bucks, T-Wolves and Clippers.
Of course, the Celtics pay Pierce and Allen a lot of money to take and make clutch shots. Cassell is also, shall we say, vocal. So will he disrupt the rank and file?
Like any late-season addition to the rotation, this is a chemistry experiment. But remember, these guys have history and they have enjoyed success together. The most productive stretch of Cassell's career was from 1999-2000 through 2003-04, when he averaged 19.2 points and 7.3 assists while playing alongside Allen in Milwaukee and then Garnett in Minnesota. That stretch included a trip to the East finals with the Bucks and the West finals with the T-Wolves.
Rondo says he's glad Cassell is coming aboard. So it's on Cassell to make this work and understand that his role will likely be more limited than it has been in years.
And if he hits a few big shots when the Celtics need them, this chemistry experiment will get a passing grade.
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