The below is an exchange that took place over the past four days between Jared Shalek and Garry “Deen” Rosenfield. In light of Doc Rivers’s move out west and the trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn, there was much to discuss, including Shay freaking out and spilling his psyche on behalf of Boston fans, and Deen bringing the conversation back down to earth with some rational, insightful thoughts. Fair warning, there was a lot to say. Here’s what transpired:
Deen, I’m pretty depressed over this. Paul Pierce, gone. Kevin Garnett, gone. To a much, much lesser extent, Doc, gone. Doc I don’t care as much about, even though he’d been in Boston longer than KG. Doc was disingenuous about his intentions. And honestly, KG made Doc, not the other way around, so let’s get it straight, off the bat, that KG was the turning point for the mid-00s Celtics, not Doc, even though he’s credited with coining “Ubuntu.” There’s no Ubuntu without KG.
We’ll get into the basketball implications of this deal, of which there are many (hint: I don’t like them for either team), but for now, it’s about lamenting the end of both the Pierce and KG eras. I almost wrote “mourning” the end of these eras, but because we’re still only talking about sports and not real life, let’s use “lamenting.” But it does bring up that age old question that you and I tend to ask each other after every tough loss: Why do we care? Why do I care that Paul Pierce will not be finishing his career in a Celtics uniform? This does not affect my life in any way. But for some reason, there’s a cloud hanging over me. For some reason, I was desperate for Pierce to finish his career as a Celtic. I can’t explain it. My obsessive compulsiveness loved seeing those stats about where he ranked amongst guys scoring the most points all for one team. It means something that he’s endured countless ups and downs in his career but always managed to remain a Celtic. He’s got a killer nickname coined by an NBA legend that has come to exemplify him. That is, as long as he’s wearing that green 34 jersey. He’s the captain of the Boston Celtics, and even though ultimately we’re all just “rooting for laundry,” I did not want to see him ever suit up for another team.
Here’s the other thing: In sports, we like things to be perfect, and it nags at us when they’re not. And not just “Man I wish the Pats finished off ’07 by going 19-0” perfect. It’s more like, “I wish the Patriots beat the Colts in ’06 so the great Troy Brown-strip game in San Diego didn’t go for naught” or “I wish the Bruins won the Cup this year so Game 7 against Toronto lives on.” Sure, I’ll never forget Marlon McCree failing to take a knee or James “Rebound” Reimer shaking in his skates. But every time I think of those memorable games, my next thought will be “Too bad our guys didn’t finish the job.”
That’s the feeling I’m getting with Pierce, and, strangely, with Garnett, who will end up having played only about a third of his career in Boston. Sure, we have all these great memories, but it’s too bad our guys won’t be finishing the job. And that’s not even in regards winning championships, because even if Boston kept Paul and KG, if Rondo healed quickly, and if they even added another piece, they still weren’t making the conference finals. These thoughts I’m filled with are more in regards to seeing these guys finish with the Celtics, because Paul Pierce should never wear any other jersey.
I think we need to make one thing clear: Pierce and Garnett are not abandoning the Celtics. One year after signing Garnett and signifying that the team was not rebuilding, Danny Ainge changed his mind and is now building for 2023 (whoops, said I’d save this talk for later). These guys want to keep playing. Competitive basketball is all they know, and before they’re put out to pasture, they want to squeeze every last drop out of the sport. In fact, I give KG the most credit in this deal. He refused to waive his no-trade clause for any previous deal, but waived it to allow this one so he could remain playing with Pierce. So far, that’s what’s giving me the most solace in this mess: That Pierce and KG really are as close as advertised and would only continue playing if they stay together. Normally we’d call them selfish for this (like how everyone railed LeBron and Wade for three years ago), but these guys have won their title, made their millions, and accumulated their stats. They’ve earned the right to go out together, and I’m genuinely happy for that.
If only they weren’t going out wearing those lifeless Brooklyn uniforms on that offensive parquet floor with unlikeable “star” teammates, I’d feel much better today.
Must be a tough day for you. For a few years now I have been yelling at Danny to “blow it up”. I like to think of myself as a rational sports fan, someone who can separate the heart from the head when it comes to making decisions. So as you said, we’ll wait to touch on the basketball implications of the deal, which there are many and I’m excited to discuss. I expected both of these guys gone at some point this year. Not in a trade like this one with Brooklyn, but at some point, gone. Here’s what I didn’t expect – to wake up today sad about this deal.
I started to think about all my favorite moments watching the Celtics. Every single one of them has “BOSTON 34” on the floor, whether or not he’s involved – and he usually is. Why do we care? We care because sports – like a lot of other institutions, people, and events – define our lives. We’re at age 25 where we half think we’re old, half think we need to make important life decisions that will forever change our paths, and half think we’re still young. Oh, and half not able to recognize that four halves equals 2, and not 1. Nonetheless, my childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and now quasi-adulthood is completely defined by sports. Also, I’d say my relationship with my father also has a large sports component. So it means a lot to me today to realize that Paul Pierce is no longer a Celtic. Yes, it’s sad. But he meant a lot to something that meant a lot to me, and as such, it’s important. Also, wouldn’t we have to say that Paul Pierce is really the first and possibly only athlete that we “grew up with”. Think about it – there really isn’t another Boston athlete that we have rooted for, for so long, that we have seen him grow as we have grown. It certainly wasn’t Nomar or Pedro. It wasn’t KG, and can’t be Rondo because he started too late. The closest thing we have to it is Tom Brady, and a case can be made. What puts Paul’s growth with us ahead of Tom’s is that Tom has genuinely had no “growth through mistakes” that I can think of off the top of my head. He has been perfect, and while we joke/not joke about him being one of the three greatest males of all-time to walk planet earth, the worst we’ve seen from him is a bad game, a tough throw, or thinking that he has lost touch with the city of Boston and has gone too Hollywood.
The way we have “grown up” with Paul Pierce over the last 15 or so years is so much different. We have seen him mature, grow up, go through good times and bad. We saw him as someone who truly wasn’t as highly touted as one picked where he was should be coming out of Kansas, but play with a confidence that at first was unsettling. We saw him play second banana to Antoine Walker, sometimes battling for top-banana status. We saw him stabbed numerous times one night at a club in Boston, nearly die, and return for the start of the season. We remember that unbelievable comeback against the Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals, against now-new-head coach Jason Kidd, which taught me that no game is over until it’s over. Then, we saw him struggle as a star trapped on a terrible team in Boston with no hope of ever winning. We fell in love with him at that point, I think, because with the state of the team, it would have been easy for him to demand out of the city. Then, we saw a little bit of luck and good fortunate enter his life – as it has entered ours along the way – and watched as he finally had the necessary parts to put a run together for his first Title. We know the rest of the story. So yes, I think we grew up with Paul Pierce, and trading him is a little like taking one of our friends and trading him to a group of people we don’t really like or don’t really know, and not being able to chill with him anymore.
As for KG, I’m less emotional but still sad to see him go. For me, KG was more of a business arrangement that was a great one. I will forever be grateful to KG for changing the culture of Boston basketball, for helping to bring us an NBA title, and for being a great citizen of a city. Even more, I’m thankful that (hopefully) he has shown that stars can be both successful and happy in making a decision to come play basketball in Boston, because as we’ll discuss further, no star players before him ever made a choice to come play for the Celtics. Not having that intensity, drive, and leadership will surely be missed.
From the emotional side of it, yes, today is a tough day and this trade is tough to swallow. It’s a sad day to be a Celtics fan on that front.
Rumors have been flying about Paul and KG getting traded for a few years now. Every time there’s a near-deal in place, I worry that they’re going to be traded, but I never think it’ll actually happen. Realistically, we did know they were bound to get traded this year while they had value. I just didn’t think it’d be today. And I hate saying that they “have value,” because it makes them sound like cogs in a system. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are not “assets.” Below average players with expiring contracts are assets. First round draft picks are assets. Two of the 50 best players ever are not assets. They’re legends who deserve better than to have their names thrown around in perennial trade talks like they’re some penny stocks in a boiler room scheme. I understand, this is how the NBA works. It’s a flawed system where, if you’re not a top five team in the league, you bottom out and rebuild. To that end, the Celtics have, for a couple years now, been trying to unload their best players, get much worse, bottom out, and get a top draft pick. Again, I get it. But I know for certain that no matter what happens during this rebuild, no one the Celtics get in return for shipping Pierce and Garnett will succeed in replacing the sentimental value they have, and that counts for something. Sure, basketball is won and lost on the court. But you need to like your team. Winning teams are usually likeable, but having that truly special team is irreplaceable.
Of course, this Pierce and KG team wasn’t winning a title in the next few years, likeable or not. That’s a sobering fact, but not quite as sobering as the thought of watching and having to root for Gerald Wallace for three years. Or even watching Kris Humphries for one year. I was always against “blowing it up” because there was no plan. I was vindicated after 2012 when my anti-rebuild stance was correct and the Celtics came within minutes of making the Finals. Had Danny blown it up in January 2012, we would never have been treated to that magical run. I’ve always been a fan of rebuilding on the fly: Retaining some organizational dignity and letting your stars age gracefully rather than shipping them out of town bringing in a bunch of losers to ensure your team really, really sucks for a few years. You know I loved the Celtics offseason last year because I figured Terry, Lee, and Green would bring enough help to improve a Boston team that was so close in 2012. Well, Rondo got hurt, the free agents underperformed, and they went out quietly against New York in the first round.
I want to touch on your point about Pierce, because I feel the same exact way. I remember all of those big games. I remember him making all those shots at the elbow, and missing some too. I remember where I was when I saw the comeback against New Jersey, Game 7 against Cleveland, Game 6 against LA, and even the bad times like Game 7 against LA and Game 7 against Indiana in 2005. I saw each of those games in a different location, and as you said, it was those times in life that help define us. Watching with my parents. Watching at camp. Watching while visiting a friend at school. Watching in LA. It’s so easy to pinpoint a time in life by just saying “How did the Celtics do that year?” with the constant being The Truth. And your Brady assessment is spot on: He was virtually flawless in his ascent. Pierce was more human. He stumbled. He got himself in and out of trouble. He put on immature displays in public. He struggled to lead a team that couldn’t get over the hump. He got help and did get over the hump. He played through pain and nagging injuries to keep his team competitive when it was in decline. His growth from NBA rookie to NBA legend was easy to parallel with our growth as pre-teens to quasi-adults. If you’re making a movie about Tom Brady, any adversity (and there was plenty in college) ends at age 24. If you’re making a movie about Paul Pierce, the twists and turns continue well into his 30s. His career and character arcs are more nuanced, more flawed, more real.
KG was a business arrangement, like you said, but it became so personal and so intense over the past six years that to call it a business arrangement now is borderline offensive. The culture change that KG brought was wonderful, and has remained strong through his tenure in Boston. My fear is that without KG, Pierce, and again to a lesser extent, Doc, the culture that was so carefully crafted will dissipate rapidly. And that might be what Danny wants. If so, even if he rebuilds with young talent over the next five years, it’s not a guarantee that the culture will remain the same. You could get a team full of talented guys with no personality, no heart, and no soul. Actually, here’s some irony for you: The first team that comes to mind when writing that previous sentence is the 2013 Brooklyn Nets. Max guys in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson who lose at home in Game 7 to a banged up Bulls team. Kudos to that franchise for going out last night and acquiring the heart and soul and personality that would have propelled them in that Game 7. For the Celtics, that’s the fear: Talented guys who really aren’t “Celtics.” It sounds pretentious, but I swear, it’s a thing.
One more thing before I throw it back to you. Your point about free agents and whether they’ll choose Boston is an excellent one. Guys don’t really care about the aura of being a Celtic. The team just traded the last two who did care. (Quick note: As you can tell, I’m not laying any blame on Pierce and Garnett, even if they were ready to leave, because I really do believe they always wanted to retire as Celtics and that the Danny/Doc situation, coupled with the team’s underperformance and Danny’s desire to blow it up, is what led to this deal.) We know that no big name players are signing in Boston for the weather. The night life—which players clearly value—is okay, but nothing like the competing cities. The recent selling point was to come play with Doc, KG, and Pierce (in that order). They’re all gone.
Are guys going to want to come in and play with Rondo? Will he be traded? Is Danny trying to sign Josh Smith, Rondo’s old running mate at Oak Hill? Smith is an elite athlete with no real elite skills. Can’t dribble, can’t shoot, though he is a strong rebounder and has the athleticism to be a strong defender. If that’s Boston next big free agent, be prepared for five years of second round exits at best. It’ll of course depend on Rondo’s future and how badly they tank for the draft, but it’s tough to envision any top free agents coming to Boston.
The big blow up has finally arrived, and as we always suspected, there’s debris everywhere. Deen, tell me how we get through it.
You get over it because you recognize that at the end of the day, it has no bearing on the things you need to deal with in your life. How’d we get through that Bruins collapse? By recognizing that everything we had to do that next day was not impacted at all by the Bruins loss. That, coupled with some other rather noteworthy stories of the week, have made that Bruins loss seemingly forgotten. That’s what we do here, move on.
So we’re moving onto basketball now? Before I go in, I just want to give my two cents on Doc Rivers and then I never need to discuss him again. It’s a great game of he-said/she-said going on between Doc and Danny Ainge, but does it matter? To me, it doesn’t. Look, Doc is a sound NBA coach, but like any NBA coach, he needs talent. I vividly remember sitting in UConn’s Bookworms Café reading a Bill Simmons column before a long weekend which he was sure would include the firing of Rivers. Before he had the talent, he was a garbage coach. When the talent came and both KG and Ray Allen could vouch for his abilities, all of a sudden Doc was fantastic. Nobody seems to mention that Tom Thibodeau was the artist of the defensive system; that KG was the most passionate defensive player possibly ever to don Celtics green, and the fact that our defense slipped so severely – and the Chicago Bulls defense improved so significantly – once Thibs left to go coach in Chicago. So I ask how good a coach is Doc really? I think he’s a good coach, but a “top-5” or “top-8” label is so arbitrary, it doesn’t matter. I also don’t care about the contract extension and idea that he quit on the team. What if Danny told him they would rebuild slowly? What if Doc was told that last season, the Cs would acquire a strong player to make one last run at a title? Nobody should claim Doc quit on Boston until we know what assurances were made to him in signing that new deal. Regardless – at the end of the day, he is a coach in a league that is decided by superstar players. That is why I (a) couldn’t care much less about Doc leaving for the Clippers and (b) am thrilled the Celtics got anything at all for him, never mind a future 1st round pick. Good work by Danny there. And congrats to Doc on going from a coach who would be revered forever in this city, to one looked at in no greater light than Claude Julien.
Any thoughts on Doc?
I’m okay with Doc leaving. Five years ago, with all Boston teams succeeding, it was unimaginable for them to each be coached by anyone other than Belichick, Francona, Doc, and Claude. Now half of those guys are gone, and Claude may or may not been on the chopping block had May 13th never happened. Coaches are less valuable than superstar players, and, like you said, that rings truest in the NBA. Someday, it’ll be harder to replace Brady than it will be Belichick. And right now, I feel like it’s harder to replace Pierce and Garnett than it is to replace Rivers.
Doc had won virtually nothing before coming to the Celtics, save for a questionable Coach of the Year Award. And as you said, he didn’t become “Doc Rivers, NBA Genius” until KG and Ray came over, and until Thibodeau took over the defense. The “Top 5 Coaches” stuff is arbitrary, but not inaccurate. Given his experience and how well he’s done the past few years with aging and depleted teams, I think Doc deserves a fair amount of credit. Coaching in the league right now, how many coaches are doing a better job than Doc? Popovich, Spoelstra, Vogel, and Thibodeau would be my other handful of guys. You could argue for Karl and Hollins after each had a successful season this past year, but they’re no longer with their teams. So yeah, I think it is safe to say that Doc has been doing one of the five best coaching jobs in the league over the past few years.
To me, the Rondo injury is really what led to this team’s unravel. They weren’t winning a title, despite all of our optimism before the 2013 season. And they did go on that memorable run right after Rondo got hurt. But Jeff Green really didn’t play well until after Rondo went down. If Boston had “That regular season game where they almost ended Miami’s streak” Jeff Green with a healthy Rondo, it might have been a different story. Yes, Courtney Lee and Terry never did anything, and Lee got buried in the playoffs. Avery had a tough go of it as well. Oddly, the two best players this for year for the Celtics were both over the age of 35. And, once again, are no longer with the team. The Rondo injury went so far in the dismantling of this roster because they didn’t have a chance to really gather some steam ahead of a playoff run. It’s not likely, but it’s not improbable, that Rondo would have figured out how to integrate Lee and Terry into the offense a bit more as the season went on. It’s possible that Green would have become the full fledged running mate for Rondo that Danny had been seeking. Without increased ball-handling responsibilities, maybe Avery wouldn’t have turtled in nearly every game before the very last one they played. If they’d made a deeper run, Danny could have said “Okay, we were close, a few tweaks and we’ll give it another go.” But that’s not what happened, and all of a sudden, the Garnett contract that everyone loved 12 months ago became a burden, and the Pierce contract became an albatross.
It’ll be difficult to replace Doc, but not impossible. There are plenty of solid young basketball minds out there, and you know Danny will get one with a strong personality who’s able to embrace advanced metrics while having a feel for the locker room. I keep hearing about young assistants in Miami or San Antonio, so sure, why not one of those guys? Then again, why even bother hiring a good coach? Seriously, Boston’s goal is to tank for the next three years, so why hire someone who will get in the way of that? It’s not even a question that Danny’s ideal scenario has the team winning fewer than 30 games for the next couple seasons and landing someone like Andrew Wiggins, so why bother hiring a smart coach? If you’re going to make a mockery of your team, may as well go all the way. And unless you find a good young coach who says “Sure, I’m cool with a 75-171 record on my resume after three years,” that might be what has to happen. Where are Bernie Bickerstaff, Eric Musselman, and Tim Floyd when you need them?
We don’t know the truth about Doc’s exit, but it doesn’t look good. In seeing his feud develop with Simmons over the past few days, it’s hard not to side with Simmons. I mean, we haven’t heard the truth, have we? Like you said, the best case for Doc not being a mercenary/quitter is that Danny promised him a year or two ago that they wouldn’t rebuild and would keep reloading, just to decide after this season that they were rebuilding. If Doc was mislead by Danny, then I understand him leaving. But I go back to the Rondo injury as being the final straw. Once that happened, it became inevitable that Danny would rebuild. Even though he had three years left on his deal, Doc wanted no part of coaching a 23-59 team. It seems like the Boston media is as upset to see him go as the fans, maybe even more so. Doc was here nine years and jumped at a better situation rather than rebuild. The fans are more upset about Pierce being shipped out, because for 15 years he stayed loyal, and only left once Danny decided it had to happen. The sadness of seeing Pierce and KG leave makes me ignore any potential feelings I have about Doc leaving. I hope he has fun coaching the most egregious flopper in the league and the most overrated player in the league.
Then again, that will still be better than coaching a 20-win Celtics team next year. Now there are rumors about Rondo being shipped out, and it does not surprise me one bit. Danny will stop at nothing to make this team worse than the ’12 Bobcats, and that includes trading Rondo. Where do you see the Celtics headed from a personnel standpoint?
Danny will stop at nothing to make that team worse? Danny BETTER stop at nothing. Trading Rajon Rondo is not “stopping at nothing”. Trading him, in my opinion, is what is necessary. This is based on a number of reasons. First, and the most widely-discussed reason, is that Rajon Rondo with Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, and Avery Bradley is enough to win between 30-35 games in an incredibly weak Eastern Conference. That’s more than enough games to have no shot at a top-4 pick, never mind a shot at Andrew Wiggins at #1 overall. So sure, there’s that; and trading the last valuable thing on this team (Jeff Green’s contract makes him inherently invaluable) for a couple of first round picks and an expiring contract is a must-pull-trigger situation for any GM. Of course Danny does it. How’s this, though, for another reason to trade Rajon…the fact that this “rebuild”, we’d assume, will take 2-3 seasons until Boston is a playoff team again.
I personally don’t think that Rajon Rondo has it in him to do what is required from a leader in a rebuilding project. That includes staying positive, working with young players both before and after practice, teaching teammates how to be professional both on and off the court, and generally being the voice of a franchise. Now multiply the general sadness of a “rebuilding team” by five because you’re in Boston, and that’s what Rajon will need to deal with, especially because he is picked apart as is already. Heck, fans don’t know what to expect – and I really believe that. The city of Boston can talk all it wants about needing to have “one or two bad seasons in order to rebuild” – but I don’t think that the majority of fans know what that means. It means being HAPPY after the Celtics lose to the Milwaukee Bucks 104-80 because Jared Sullinger showed improvements on the offensive boards, and because Kelly Olynyk hit a couple 17-footers. Seriously, these are the “small victories” that constitute a rebuilding process that the majority of Celtics fans have no idea will build their season. My last thought on Rajon is this – he is coming back from the same injury Derrick Rose had over a season ago. Rose didn’t play this past season. Can Rondo do the same? Or, if Danny Ainge is unable to find a deal that he likes, can Rajon at least rehabilitate his injury until the All-Star Break/trade deadline, and if the Celtics are looking good in terms of the Draft Lottery position, continue to let him “take his time” in rehab? That’s be my hope, and it would give the Celtics the best of both worlds – a worse record while keeping one of the top point guards (when healthy) in the NBA.
In terms of personnel, I think it is nearly impossible to predict what the roster looks like come the start of the 2013-2014 NBA season. I don’t think that the Celtics are done dealing, and we really don’t know whether Rondo will be good to go for the opening night tipoff. Let’s say Rajon gets traded – then what? Do we have another point guard on the roster right now? Are we going to have Avery Bradley play it like he did as this season wound down? I’d hope not, because Bradley is at the point in his career where he needs to fully develop as a shooting guard – that’s what he is. So, if you’re asking “what should the majority of our roster look like?”, I’d have to say that I hope Rajon Rondo does not play for the Celtics this season, that we trade away Kris Humphries for whatever we can, and that we fill the remainder of the roster outside of Green, Bradley, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Green, MarShon Brooks (your mans), Fab Melo (has to get time this season) and Kris Joseph (if activated) with cheap veterans on one-year deals. Of course, you play the guys like Brooks, Melo, Bradley, and Olynyk as much as you can to see what you have there.
Clearly, there is absolutely nothing appealing about this roster, but that’s what rebuilding means. I don’t think the majority of Celtics fans recognize this. It might not be until they see the starting five on the floor on opening night that they do.
Your last point there is by far the most one in regards to the personnel ramifications of the deal. Fans have no idea how bad this team will be for the next few years. That’s one of the reasons I was always hesitant to rebuild, because while Pierce and KG were still All Stars (and they were each among the 15-20 best players in the conference this past season), I believed that the Boston fans still had the right to root for them and see how far they could take the team. And, again, as recently as 13 months ago, they took the team pretty damn far with a very limited roster. Some fans and talking heads were so nonchalantly calling for Danny to “blow it up,” not realizing that it’s not a magical button you can press where everything is guaranteed to be okay in two years, but rather, a slow, painful, risky process that works out less often than most realize.
More on that in a bit, but now, to the matter of Rondo. I agree with your take on his maturity level and how he’ll deal with being the only standout player on a crappy team. He’s going to hate it and be moody. This isn’t a case of “Imma get mine” because Rondo doesn’t want his in the traditional sense that most guys want theirs: scoring points. Rondo wants his assists. He wants his steals. He wants his triple doubles. He wants to win, sure, but he likes to win without having to take too many shots. Where are the assists coming from if the Celtics don’t have guys capable of running an offense, never mind hitting shots? Where are his steals coming from if he can no longer gamble up top, knowing Garnett is no longer in the paint to cover him? All of the luxuries he enjoyed playing alongside Paul, Kevin and even Ray, are now gone. It will be a rude awakening for him, and unless his demeanor improves markedly, he isn’t going to be thrilled with this new arrangement.
That is, if he’s even still here and healthy. I have no idea if he’ll be here. I almost don’t want him back, not because I dislike him as a player and as a competitor, but because I don’t think he’s the best guy on a title team, unless he’s got three mature, balanced, and resourceful Hall of Famers with him (which is what the case would have been had they broken through last year). Say he sticks with the team. Say we employ the “Pierce 2007 Plan” and let him heal as long as possible so Boston can tank and get a top pick. One, when he’s healthy in 2015, and he’s in the almighty contract year, is he really going to want to tank? Of course not! He’s going to want to average a triple double and get a max deal. That’s what makes it so likely that he gets traded this offseason, with two years left on his team-friendly deal. But say he stays. Regardless of how the Celtics perform over the next two years, do you want Boston signing him to that max deal in July 2015? Do you want the Celtics committing $100 million dollars to Rondo and saying “He’s our franchise, and we’re confident that exciting young bigs and cagey old vets will want to play with him”? I sure as hell don’t, and I don’t see it happening. The tricky part is timing a trade in conjunction with his rehab. Does Danny pull the trigger this summer? Or does he display Rondo in the new year and dump him at the deadline? Who the hell knows.
Back to the team, and what fans are going to be in for. We understand the need to destroy and rebuild in the NBA. I’d like to think the majority of fans do. Ironically, I’d be willing to bet that the cabal of fans who’ve clamored to get rid of the old guys are the ones who have no clue as to what they’re in for. This is not going to be pretty. This is going to take multiple sub-30 win years. Just tanking one year and maybe hopefully getting Wiggins (or another elite ’14 prospect) won’t do it, unless you’re delusional enough to think that a stud free agent is all of a sudden dropping everything and declaring in two years “Holy crap, I know I’m an established 27-year old star ready to be a franchise center piece, but I really want to spend my winters in Boston to play with a 19-year old.” Possible, but not probable in the least. Boston will shoot for 20 wins in 2014. They’ll shoot for 20 wins in 2015. Maybe a couple top picks and savvy free agents make them relevant again. Or maybe they shoot for 20 wins again in 2016. Anything is possible (by the way, just typing that gave me some severe KG nostalgia).
I feel bad for people who have to watch this team. I truly do. Season ticket holders, ushers, Grande and Max, Mike and Tommy and Donny. I would not want to be a Celtics journalist right now. I know, it’s the nature of the business. They just had the pleasure of covering a fascinating, likeable, talented team for six years. So now they’ll suffer through three dark and miserable years. Still, I feel for them. They’re like college seniors coming off four amazing years, and now, because they want to be news anchors someday, they’re shipped to North Dakota to get their start because that’s the only desk willing to take on a college graduate. The ’08-’13 Celts were like college to the journalists, and the ’14-’16 Celts will be North Dakota. Not fun, but ultimately necessary if everything breaks right for them. Of course, the danger of rebuilding is that you don’t get the picks, or the picks don’t work out, or the free agents don’t want to sign, and you turn into the Bobcats/Hornets.
I’ll follow the team, sure. It’s just not in me to ignore things completely. But will I actively seek out games to watch? Not as much as I usually do. I don’t live in Boston, so yeah, when I get those few chances per year to catch them on national TV, I’ll check them out. But I won’t be invested. How’s it even possible to be invested when we’re playing with a bunch of reverse mercenaries? (Reverscenaries?). I won’t accuse anyone of being a bandwagon fan if they take a little breather and spread their sports attention. Most fans have been all-in for six straight years and need a psychological break anyway. And if we’re really to be rooting for the best interest of the team, and what Danny’s trying to accomplish, we should be genuinely and wholeheartedly praying the Celtics lose every single game the next few seasons. Some of the best writers on earth have tackled this unnatural paradox so I won’t wax eloquent here, but I fear that many Celtics fans are not ready for the harsh truth of openly and vigorously rooting for their team to lose. Like you said, a blowout loss where Sullinger properly rotates on defense, or where Olynyk hits a few free throws will be a great night for the franchise.
At least the Bruins are bringing back their whole Finals team and the Patriots have the best two tight ends in football Buchholz and Lester are on fire. What’s that, you say?
Deen, take it home.
Indeed, it has certainly been a rough month or so for Boston sports, and that feeling won’t get better when fall and winter come along and the TD Garden is sullen on the regular when the green are on the court. At the end of the day, I think what worries me most is the reverence Danny Ainge is given to be the architect on this project. No, there isn’t necessarily somebody else that I’d want aside from RC Budford or Sam Presti, but those guys are once-in-a-decade franchise builders. Instead, what gives me pause about Danny is how last time’s “rebuilding” – before the Big 3 era – ended up hinging completely on the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft, of which the Celtics struck out completely despite an 18 (yes, 18!!!!!) game losing streak. Why does Danny have this clout? I did some quick research and pulled a list of names of guys that have been drafted since Danny became GM…I knew it wasn’t good, but are you ready for this? Well, I can’t really type all of the names, but let me just say, that since his first draft with the Celtics in 2003, the only legitimate names to have been drafted (in 24 selections) are Avery Bradley, Al Jefferson, Delonte West, Tony Allen. That’s it. Seriously. Jeff Green in 207 doesn’t count because that pick was for Seattle. Moral of the story? If Ray Allen never decides to accept a trade to Boston in setting the precipice for KG to make his way, who knows where we are. Quite frankly, perhaps none of us know what we’re in for.
Let’s be real, though. We’ll be interested. We’ll be engaged. And we’ll root like everything to lose but for our guys to show promise. I thought I could completely detach from a Boston team before this year’s Red Sox squad. Granted, it is currently the best team in the American League, but I’m ALL-IN for so many more reasons. First and foremost, you don’t give your heart to something the majority of your life and then stop caring with a switch of the mind. That’s why no matter what – no matter how bad the Celtics are this year and next – the dials on WEEI and The Sports Hub will be lighting up as fans everywhere try to make sense of what “rebuilding” is.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows what there is to make sense of right now.