Q. Ira, doesn't Danny Ainge get Executive of the Year for the trades he didn't make? But seriously, doesn't he have to think about keeping it together now and bringing back Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett?
- Ellis, Medford, Mass.
A. I said it at the trading deadline, I'll say it now: I don't understand how anyone could sleep on a team that has Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. I still think you can build a team around Rondo and Pierce and maintain enduring success.
But with Garnett's revival at center, and the reality that there aren't any legitimate big men for the Celtics to replace him with in the middle, it makes sense, if the right numbers can be worked out, for the Celtics to retain KG in free agency.
While Garnett likely will be looking for another score - he seemingly always does - he also has to appreciate that few coaches would nurse him through a season like Doc Rivers, saving him for the stretch run and playoffs.
As for Allen, he is a bit more expendable now with the emergence of Avery Bradley, but also a healthy fit off what remains a limited Celtics bench. Allen, though, long has prided himself on his conditioning and it wouldn't be surprising if he makes a starting role a requisite of his signature on a free-agent contract.
The real issue is whether all the behind-the-scenes headaches with Rondo are tolerable enough or whether this success instead could allow Boston to flip him for similar productivity but less drama.
Yes, Ainge deserves credit for the moves he didn't make, although I'm not sure doing nothing is enough to earn Executive of the Year.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to how the Celtics do in the playoffs, to see whether it validates Rivers' approach of saving his players for when the games mean the most.
One-and-done in the postseason, or even something close to last season's swift second-round exit might not be enough to prevent Ainge from yet moving forward with a rebuilding plan, able to still somewhat control free agency through sign-and-trades.
Q. This is the third time I've written and you still won't answer (although this time I think you might have to), but isn't it time the Spurs start getting the respect they should have had all season, while you were pontificating about the Lakers and Thunder and the overrated Clippers?
- Stoney, Boerne, Texas
A. There's a reason the Thunder, Lakers and Clippers received the majority of attention in the West this season: They were the more compelling storylines.
Look, even a Spurs fan would have to appreciate how mundane this season has been for them, as coach Gregg Popovich has nursed his players through the regular season. Yes, Kawhi Leonard has been a revelation and the Spurs have gotten quality play from their depth.
But it's still all about Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and for Popovich that means it's still all about the playoffs.
Based on how the Spurs have finished the regular season, you'll be hearing plenty out of San Antonio as we move along. If nothing else, last season's early exit sobered them to what really matters.
It's just that they're, well, boring.
Q. You wrote earlier that the Nuggets got the best of the Carmelo Anthony deal because the Knicks gave up too much. Do you still feel that way?
- Steve, Westminster, Colo.
A. If you're talking about the way Carmelo Anthony has lifted the Knicks on his shoulders in recent weeks, then you have a point about the value of a singular scoring star.
But the Nuggets' side of last season's trade has yet to be fully written, what with Wilson Chandler spending most of the season in China and only now working into form. Plus, the time missed by Danilo Gallinari has altered the equation for the Nuggets.
Through it all, there are no guarantees that either the Knicks or the Nuggets (if they make it to the postseason) make it through a single playoff round.
Yes, the Knicks got the better player in the trade. But the Nuggets still got enough to possibly make it a winning proposition for themselves, as well.
Q. If LeBron James can't lead the Heat to a championship and can't get his team into first place, why do you think he should be MVP?
- Harrison, Moore, Okla.
A. I don't. At least not definitively. Not now.
I think the MVP race won't fully be sorted out until the playoff seedings are fully sorted out. (Even though the ballots already are out. And, yes, I am holding one.)
But even with his late-season slowdown, James still has recorded statistics for the ages, and this still is a regular-season award that does not take the postseason into consideration.
All of that said, Most Valuable Player is an award voted upon by the media, so it is somewhat natural that there would be concern about rewarding a player who again does not exactly have the look of one capable of leading his team to a championship.
But, again, what we're really talking about is a vote for who is considered the league's best player.
If the award was truly for "most valuable," then Chris Paul would move to the top of the list if only for making the Clippers relevant. And based on how he carried his team earlier in the season, such criteria also would put Kobe Bryant and the top of the list.
It is fascinating, though, how many "ensemble" teams have flourished this season, from the Bulls in Derrick Rose's absence, to the Spurs, to the Thunder, to the Pacers and even to the Grizzlies.
The MVP of the 2011-12 season, as Time magazine sometimes cops out with its Person of the Year, might be the "Team Player."
Q. Where do you stand with Deron Williams? He can't possibly be staying with the Nets after this season?
- Marty, Irving, Texas
A. I think Williams was 75 percent gone as soon as Dwight Howard opted-in to the 2012-13 season on his Magic contract. But now with Howard clearly miserable again in Central Florida, the Nets might be able to salvage Williams by finding a way to make it work with Dwight through a trade.
Otherwise, it is difficult to overlook the possibilities in Dallas, where Williams would have a much stronger base of talent to make a legitimate championship chase in the short run.
While Williams has said all the right things about Brooklyn, the Nets have been so awful this season that I don't think anyone would begrudge him washing away the aftertaste of the 2011-12 season as soon as possible, from as far away as possible.