Okay, I am going to say it out loud because I can't believe it. The Boston Celtics are relevant. There. I said it. A while back this Summer I wrote a blog about the Celtics' tragic demise as an organization. It's hard for me to think of an NBA team who has dealt with so much pain since the 80s. And I think former Celtic player and current Celtic president Danny Ainge was aware of that. This past season, whether or not he will admit it, the Celtics did a tank job in order to try to get Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, and even that ended up being an unmitigated disaster.
(This was no surprise to me and my friends. In high school we used the name Danny Ainge to reference any person who made a bad move, on the court or off. For example, if you asked the hottest girl at school to prom and your selling point was that " My Dad said I can keep the car out until eleven, as long as I bring my kid sister," then you would henceforth be known as Danny Ainge. And the rule doesn't just apply to Ainge. Feel free to throw in any unathletic white player from the Golden Age of the NBA. Kurt Rambis? Check. Tom Tolbert? Check. Matt Bullard? Double Check.)
But I digress. So with the 5th pick Ainge and Celtics fan assumed the normal position, their **** hung low, and prepared for a draft that would offer no surefire answer to their woes. They tried to pull the trigger on a deal for Kevin Garnett but had no such luck. See, Boston was no longer the town that legends came to dwell. It seemed all was lost in Beantown for Celtic fan.
And then a miracle happened. I don't know how it happened. I don't know why it happened. Maybe Danny woke up on the right side of the bed draft day. Maybe his dog chose not to gnaw on his slippers. Maybe the ghost of Red Auerbach came into his room Jacob Marley style (Not a cousin of Bob or Ziggy Marley by the way) and showed him the Celtic Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and of course Future. I can see it now. Auerbach dangles his chains and chomps on a cigar yelling in an ominous voice, " Theo Ratliff! This is your future! Luxury Tax!" Any man would weep at the sound of that. Whatever the reasoning may be, Ainge finally got a wakeup call. I am guessing he looked at all the rosters of teams that made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and said, "Holy ****. Orlando made it in with only one star player. I have a star player. Maybe, and I am just throwing this out there, if I got TWO star players I could make something happen." And so it was done. Boston traded away the 5th pick, along with Wally "Remember me in college at Miami of Ohio?" Sczzerbiak , and Delonte West to get veteran guard Ray Allen and the rights to Glen "Big Baby" Davis. The trade received mixed reviews from Boston fans. Some even called Ainge insane.
The truth is that once the Celtics lost out to the likes of Portland and Seattle there was no player who was going to turn this team around in the draft. Or was there? Little did we know the former BYU great had more tricks up his sleeve. The Celtics' storm of disappointment was nearing an end. And at the end of the trade rainbow sat a certain Kevin Garnett. All of the sudden Ainge doesn't look so stupid anymore. And the Celtics, whether you agree with the decision, are finally relevant again in the East. But enough with the hyperbole. Here's what I honestly think about the trade to get Garnett.
Those who hate the KG trade argue that Ainge foreited the future of the franchise by giving up rising star Al Jefferson, high riser Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian "Can he ever start? Only time will" Telfair, Theo "Max Dollars, Minimum Talent" Ratliff, and 2 future first round picks. Now on paper that seems like a lot, but this is the thing. I would only take one of those guys for the future. I love Gerald Green in the dunk contest, and he is a Houston area kid so I'm partial, but he wasn't saving this franchise. And can you see Al Jefferson being the cornerstone of the Celtics organization? Me neither. As far as the trade picks go one of them was a pick Timberwolves President Kevin Mchale gave up in a previous trade anyway. I don't see any reason not to make this trade if you're Boston.
Ainge must have called Mchale up late at night and said "Hey pal. I dropped my 3 point percentage in the 86' season five percent so your **** could get a couple more rebounds. You owe me," and Mchale had to comply. My only wish would have been for Mchale to not hold Garnett ransom the past years as the talent on his team faded away. When the Clippers steal your players you know you have problems. And Mchale definitely didn't do Garnett any favors by letting talent slip away. But no crying over spilled milk. KG is in Boston and he looks revived. Not that he isn't still a solid player. The guy still gives you 22 points, 10 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks a game.
This looks like a great situation for Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce. They all help each other. Garnett no longer has to take the team on his back. Pierce doesn't have to take the last shot because sharpshooter Allen can. And Ray Allen can rest his ankles some by deferring to the other two. Keep in mind Allen averaged 26 points a game last year. He may not be starring in Spike Lee films anymore but there's no doubt that he got game.
The one issue I have with the Celtics is their alarming lack of depth at the point guard and center position. Kedrick Perkins doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of his opponents. Maybe in high school he did but we a long way from high school baby. If Ainge continues to make intelligent moves, and nobody can be certain he will, he will find a way to swing a trade or get a low salary guy to shore up the remaining starting positions. The Celtics, after all, are maxed out now dollarwise.
This trade reminds me a lot of the 97' Rockets with Hakeem, Drexler, and Barkley. That team brought some excitement to Houston but was ultimately doomed when they rested their defensive hopes on Matt Maloney guarding John Stockton. I think I saw Matt Maloney working at the concession stand of my local movie theatre the other day by the way. He looks good. I bet he could grab at least five minutes playing for the Grizzlies.
Do I think the Celtics are the team to beat in the East? No. The Chicago Bulls are a young and talented team full of depth. the Cavs still have Lebron and the Pistons always seem to have a say in who gets out of the East. But I am excited for the Celtics. A few weeks ago on ESPN's First Take actor Donnie Wahlberg, yes the former member of the New Kids on the Block, predicted the town of Boston would be celebrating not one, not two, but three team championships this year when the Pats, Red Sox, and Celtics all brought titles home. I scoffed and then starting singing "Hangin' Tough" as I listened to his further explanation. He said "I think Danny Ainge has a couple more tricks in his bag." Who knew that Donnie Wahlberg could see the future of a Celtics team that could be headed for the NBA Finals. To expect a title would be too much to ask. But I do know this. This team sure beats the hell out of hanging out in the NBA cellar. And if the whole thing goes to hell then where are the Celtics? Right where they were before Ainge pulled the trigger on these trades. Does it smell of desperation? Maybe. But I can guarantee you there quite a few teams wishing they had KG on their team right now. Goodbye lottery, hello playoffs. I'm ready to do an Irish jig.