Image via Nestor Galina on Flickr

When I play chess, I don’t play to win. I love the game, but while the tactics required, the psychology employed, and theoretics make it my favorite game to play outside of poker, I’m not very good. Even in times when I’ve played quite a bit I’m never really that good at it. I could throw some sort of claptrap about my short attention span but in all honesty, it’s that I tend to play with people who are smarter and better than me.

But when I do play, I sacrifice my queen for theirs first. Generally, speaking. As I’m usually playing a smart player, that player is generally strong in logic and understands that his queen is his or her second most powerful piece on the board. So I sacrifice mine, recklessly, in the pursuit of killing theirs. It’s always fascinating, because in making the queen vulnerable, these players are almost never able to resist taking it, even though it means losing theirs (generally I never leave it as an option anyway). This does not increase my chances of winning. In my attempt to extract their queen, I almost always lose multiple pieces, and even if I don’t, I’m left to try and win with my knights, which I suck at. The reason I take this approach is in conjunction with the remainder of my strategy. I don’t try and play to any particular strategy, I just try and counter whatever it is my opponent does. When you think about it, chess is remarkably similar to playoff basketball. Both sides are really only trying to counter their opponent in the interest of establishing their own approach.  If you focus your whole approach around countering what your opponent is trying to do, you increase your odds of a stalemate. You decrease the odds of a victory, but I think those odds are pretty well.

Any above average chess player is going to whomp me, by the way.  I play people smarter than me. I didn’t say I played smart people. Not like I’m playing ranked players or anything.

What’s the point?

Otis Smith just decided to go sacrifice his queen for theirs.

(NOTE: Please spare me any joke that involves the “queen” bit. We’re neither thirteen nor Shaquille O’Neal.)

At first I was baffled by the trades. Not that they didn’t make sense. They do. You don’t have to have a grinch-like face towards Vince Carter like I do to recognize that he wasn’t good for the Magic. Call it whatever you want, but they brought in Carter, they regressed, and they never hit the high gear with him. That destruction in the first two rounds they unleashed last season? Not driven by Carter, simply the predictable result of inferior competition crossed with experienced execution. But my confusion over the trades was this: do they make Orlando a team that can beat Boston?

Of course not.

Not if we consider convention.

They didn’t acquire a fleet of bigs to throw at Garnett and Perkins and Shaq and JO for the forty five seconds he’s available, and the drunken seal. They didn’t bring in a lockdown wing defender to keep Pierce away from that God-forsaken elbow shot which he plunges into your heart over and over and over again. They didn’t bring in a top flight point guard to make Rondo’s life difficult or a perimeter defensive expert to neutralize Allen or a superstar to throw at them. They didn’t get tougher, didn’t get slower, didn’t get more defensive. If Boston plays the way it does and Orlando tries to play the way Boston does, Boston wins. It’s that simple.

But this?

There’s an alternative.

SVG has to let them go.

They have to go full-tilt offensive firepower.  Their greatest success was 2009, that has to be the model to some significant degree. Yes, Garnett was absent. No, he won’t be this time. But if you aren’t willing to accept that you’re screwed, which you can’t be, the answer is not to try and fight on their turf, it’s to fight on yours. Instead of trying to adapt for Garnett, you ignore the big husked screaming elephant in the room and you fire, and you fire, and you fire again. And if that’s your approach this is a pretty good deal.

Richardson is the big gun here. Lost in the Arenas dramatics and the Turkoglu jokes is the fact that Jason Richardson is the best part of this deal. Richardson can take over a game. He’s one of those players who can run up in transition, nail a three, and you don’t wind up pondering how marvelously stupid that decision was. You can find him on a backdoor cut and the ball’s going down through the hoop with a particular velocity. He’ll share the ball, work in the offense,and he’ll fill it up.

But Arenas could help. I mean, he sucks now. The gamble is on him, specifically. Turkoglu’s marginal. If he does anything it’s gravy. But Arenas still has the ability to raise that percentage back up to 45% and 37% from three and in doing so, he can raise their ceiling. And that’s all you’re talking about. The objective is to take the game out of the Celtics’ comfort zone and put it into Orlando’s for long stretches. Attrition is not a war they can win, but quick firefights with intense artillery is how they took 2009. (Again, without Garnett.)

The defense doesn’t have to improve. They’re fourth in defensive efficiency. It’s not better than Boston. Guess what?  It’s not going to be.  Nothing Orlando does will make them better than the Boston Celtics at defense. So the only way they get past it is to gun. I’ve written about how Boston struggles with teams that push the pace. Orlando does not. Not yet. But they can. They’ve got two guys that can get up and down the floor, Nelson can do it if you take the leash off of him. Dwight’s there if you want to slow it down. It’s true that Howard’s gotten better in terms of what he’s able to do. But the trick with Howard should be to get him fewer touches, and have him be more efficient, not the opposite. If they have weapons filling it up and then nail them with Howard? That’s their peak. That’s how they won in 2009 (again, without Garnett).

This plan may not work. It has a very low percentage shot at working. But the goal isn’t to win. It’s to force a stalemate. Because in basketball, when that happens, it all just comes down to who the shot is falling for.

It’s not a great plan. It’s just a gambit. It’s what they’ve got.