Ah, the golden years for the Boston Celtics were outstanding, from the dynasty of Bird-McHale-Parish, to the early years of Russell-Red-Cousy, there never seemed to be an off year. Red Auerbach built the Celtics organization with his blood sweat and tears. I was lucky to be in attendance this year on April 13th when the Celtics played the Bucks in a meaningless game, on a very meaning-full night. On that night the Celtics honored their first championship team, which had won their title 50 years to the day. With an untouchable record of eight straight NBA titles, to their league leading 16 championships, it is safe to say the Boston Celtics are one, if not the most historical franchise in the league. In the past, say 15 years, the Celtics haven’t had any ‘luck’, they’ve had quite the contrary.
It all started with a pain in the back. Larry’s. In 1992 Larry Legend bid farewell to the NBA thanks to miserable chronic back pain. Bird, who had helped carry the Celtics to three championships and five NBA finals, would be severely missed.
Just one year later, tragedy struck. Reggie Lewis, an emerging player who Boston felt as if he would carry the franchise in the post-Bird era, passed away of a heart attack while playing the game he loved. With all of Celtic nation mourning, a shimmer of hope appeared on the horizon. Len Bias, an athletic combo forward out of Maryland was selected with the second overall pick. Many thought he would be a star the minute he put on a Celtics jersey and that he would lead them back to the promise land. Once again a devastating occurrence took place; Bias passed away less than two days after he was drafted.
In 1997, hope once again resurfaced. After finishing last in the league in 1996, the Celtics had their sights set on Tim Duncan, a power forward out of Wake Forest, and a new coach. That new coach came in the form of the hot college coaching prospect from Kentucky, Rick Pitino. Pitino came to Boston on a beautiful white stallion, looking like a savior to the storied franchise. This would be his second stint as an NBA head coach, and he would be getting full control of the team. That’s about where the glamour and the hoopla ended. The balls didn’t bounce right, and San Antonio got the first pick and selected The Big Fundamental.
Thus the C’s never got to experience the Tim Duncan effect. San Antonio made the playoffs his rookie year and has made it ever since, Tim is a 2-time MVP, has been named to the All-Star team and NBA First-team nearly every year of his career, and lets not forget his 3 NBA titles, (in which he won all 3 NBA Finals MVPs). Don’t forget about this year, as the Spurs look like they are in great shape. But then again, they did experience the Tim Duncan effect. Duncan had been 18-0 vs. Boston until this year when the C’s snapped the streak on St. Patrick’s Day.
Anyway, Boston ended up with pick number 3 and number 6 and selected a point guard out of the University of Colorado, Chauncey Billups at 3. Billups however, was dealt an a trade that sent Kenny Anderson to Beantown, during his rookie year. With the 6th pick Pitino took former Wildcat Ron Mercer, who never turned out to be much. During Pitino’s stay, the C’s compiled a record of 102-146, thanks to horrible moves such as those. Pitino sent veterans like Rick Fox and David Wesley off (and both excelled with their new teams). I guess someone should have reminded him that Tim Duncan wasn’t going to walk through the door.
Pitino left Boston and got a job at a very nice school, Louisville, and thanks to his growing success there, and his legendary success at Kentucky, his NBA stints turned into just a footnote in his career, joining the line of great college coaches to find no success in the NBA. While Boston was left in arguably a worse mess than before Rick, Pitino left with just a nick on his massive ego after coaching the New York Knicks and Celtics without sticking. That same massive ego inspired him to demand the Celtics give him the title as President of the club (a job that was currently being held by Red).
Unfortunately things didn’t get better for us anytime sooner. 2001, the draft after Pitino, Boston selected Joe Johnson with the 10th overall pick. Mid-way through the season new GM Chris Wallace shipped him to Phoenix along with a few mediocre players, for two average at best players, Rodney Rogers and Milt Palacio.
Lately Danny Ainge hasn’t been helping the cause any. While he was a key cog off the bench in Boston’s last era of dominance, he has only raised eyebrows since becoming the C’s GM. One thing I will give him is he has proven that he can draft extremely well, snagging guys like Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and two guys who look like they have a tremendous upside beside Big Al, Gerald Green and Rajon Rondo. His trades have almost all been abysmal. A few deals turned out great, such as the deal that brought Ricky Davis to Boston, and the trade that reunited us with Antoine Walker. But both of those deals didn’t end in a happy ending, but only another questionable trade.
Ainge broke up a team in 2003 that was coming off an Eastern semifinal appearance by trading ‘Toine to Dallas for basically a draft pick.
Maybe someone should let him know that the object is to build a team to win a championship, not assist other franchises, and give them that final boost. Danny, no more excuses. During the 2004 season, Ainge eagerly jumped into a deal to be the third party to make a trade go through that sent Rasheed Wallace from Atlanta to Detroit. Then in the off season in 2005 he took place in a 5 team, 13 player trade that was the largest in NBA history. The Miami Heat acquired the right tools to push them over the top in James Posey, Jason Williams, and Antoine Walker, and had to give up names like Rasual Butler and aging Eddie Jones, and a couple 2nd round picks.
Ainge continues to keep Celtic’s fans on their toes. Consider the move he made around this time last year, during the NBA draft. We traded Dan Dickau, Raef LaFrentz, and the 7th pick in the draft for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and a second round pick. How’s that worked out so far? Ratliff was unavailable more or less all year, Telfair was waived a few months ago after multiple run-ins with the law, and that 7th overall pick? We could have had Randy Foye or Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy.
If Boston does end up with one of the two top picks in this years draft, (I’ve got my fingers crossed) I just hope Ainge doesn’t turn into the second coming of his former teammate, Kevin McHale, and have a great player like KG, and can barely get past the first round, or nowadays even into the playoffs. I do have some confidence in Ainge because of his ability to draft; my only worries are what he does with those players after he drafts them. Unfortunately Boston doesn’t have the market and money to reach deep into their pockets and bring in attractive free agents.
So tomorrow, on May 22nd, 2007 at 8:30 pm ET, Celtics fans everywhere will be huddled around TVs watching the lottery, hoping, praying, for our ball to pop up into the number one or two slot. Tomorrow may be the day marked as the start of the turnaround of the Celtics franchise, or just another devastating day in recent memory for the C’s. So the question remains, since we don’t have a pot of gold to offer, will a 38.7% chance of getting one of the top 2 picks be enough to lure the Leprechaun back?
(This was posted a long time ago, I just recently noticed I took it down by mistake and wanted to have it on here)