The irony of the NBA trade deadline coinciding with the Ides of March seems most fitting for the denouement of the Celtics New Big Three. From the outset of their assemblage it was obvious that as they aged, the only way the Celtics would remain contenders was for their supporting cast to grow strong enough to supplement, and then begin to replace, their fading brilliance. Alas it was not to be.
This past week was not the fail, however. The last chances for a less than ignominious death were dashed in the defection of Krstic precipitated by the lockout and the heartless slings and arrows of outrageous fortune delivered by the cardiac specialists concerning Green and Wilcox. Lady Luck smiled on the Ubuntu gathering in 2008, but her favors were decidedly elsewhere these following four seasons. Her fickle disfavor reached a crescendo this season as the Celtics were cursed with aortic embolisms. The odds are long that such an ailment would strike a young athlete in the superb shape of an NBA player. Two such occurrences on the same team within four months push the chances into the realm of a single person winning two MegaBall lotteries or being struck twice by lightening (in this case death by thunder bolt being more appropriate). God didn’t just say No to the Celtics, but Hell No!
Danny Ainge tried, oh how he tried. He recycled former greats, only to find the emphasis was on former. He tried broken warriors on the mend, only to find the mend broke again and again. He tried to reform knuckleheads, only to find that ignorance was a trait not a treatable condition. He even tried to infuse new talent by trading off an emotional favorite who he recognized was limited, ultimately flawed, and increasingly expensive.
Nothing worked! Given his resources, Danny was likely trying to make silk purses out of sow’s ears; but the bottom line is, nothing worked. You might damn him with faint praise by pointing out that none of his acquisitions went on to make a significant contribution elsewhere but that is more of a compliment to Doc Rivers while still an indictment of Ainge. You can point out that of the parts that he moved, only Perkins has done much—but then he would have benefitted from dropping that 30 pounds several years ago rather than after leaving the Green. I can’t fault Danny for his new athletic acquisitions suffering life-threatening heart ailments, nor for his replacement center bolting to Russia, or Perk’s Golden Triangle knee blowout, or injuries striking every single player at the same position two years in a row. Yet at the end of the day we are left with a team in decline with few resources to carry over to a new regime.
Yet even in this final whimper of the Do-Nothing Deadline, I find it difficult to find fault. I think Ainge would have pulled the trigger in a nanosecond if a deal came along that suited him. I’ve seen some bloggers taking Danny to task for not grabbing a second round pick if that was all he could get for Allen or Pierce. I’ve read reports of other GM’s complaining that he wanted a development player and a 1st to move any of the Big Three. I say good for Danny. He didn’t hold a yard sale. Sure, the puncher’s chance for the Celtics is a lot more Buster Douglas than Rocky; but I’ll sign off on going down swinging rather than dumping aging Champions for a 2nd rounder that many clubs consider flotsam. And you can be sure that any 2nd rounder from a contender (and that is who were interested in our oldsters) is at the tail end of the draft.
As we contemplate a torturous end with our battered, aging, and depleted few battling insurmountable odds; there are the further dismal prospects of a decidedly weak free-agent class. That sad fact led me to the only potential move I saw mentioned that held any interest. There were reports that New Jersey might give up their (a) first to clear cap room this summer. The suggested trade was Johan Petro and Jordan Farmar ($7.75M for, and ending in, 2012-13) for Diaw, primarily for his expiring contract. If you see, as I do, benefit in rolling over the cap room for one more year, I like moving J.O.’s expiring (along with Dooling and/or Daniels and including Jordan Williams to boost the savings over $8M if that sweetens the pot for NJ) for that additional pick. I just see the draft this summer as a more attractive pool than the free agents.
Certainly I expect a lot of Celtics’ garb will be relegated to the back of closet’s for the next year or two. And indeed this is going to be a better period for the arm-chair general managers than for the pub crawlers who prefer to wax rapturously over “their” team’s success. Yet rather than wailing over paradise lost with the end of the Big Three era, I am looking forward to the Green Phoenix rising from the ashes. I like the ownership, and leadership, of these Celtics—something sorely lacking around the turn of the century. I will however put every bit as much effort into reading draft profiles and free agent lists as current events. I find I am already more interested in DraftExpress than in the box scores, and I’m O.K. with that. The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on.
Boston, and all points beyond