That was easily the most stressed I’ve ever been on draft night. After the Cavaliers picked up Shaq to bolster that frontcourt and the Magic traded for Vince Carter to get even better than they already were, I was worried the Celtics might do something drastic in order to keep pace with the other Eastern Conference powers that be.
Usually, throughout my entire Celtics’ fanhood, I have watched the draft with the hope that the Celtics will improve. When your team is nothing special anyways, the draft inspires merely hope. There’s always the hope that your team will get better and finally become a championship contender.
Last year, I watched the draft with peaceful serenity. The Celtics had only the final pick in each round and I wasn’t worried about their improvement or anything else. My Boston Celtics were the defending champions and whoever they picked with the 30th and 60th picks in the draft wasn’t going to change that.
But this year? Man, oh man, all these rumors scared the hell out of me. Nearly every day there would be a new trade rumor sending Rajon Rondo away from my beloved C’s.
The only one that might have made any bit of sense for the Celts was the potential Pistons trade that would have sent Rondo and Ray Allen to the Pistons for the trio of Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey.
I still wouldn’t have been in love with that trade, but at least it didn’t scare the hell out of me like most of the other ones did.
Parting ways with Rondo would have been a big mistake. The man is a 23 year old just starting to fulfill his limitless potential. Right now he is a more-than-capable point guard with the ability to take over some games.
Pound for pound, he is the best rebounder in the NBA. He is a great playmaker and can beat any defender to the hoop. Add to that his selection to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team and I would say the Celtics have an up-and-coming superstar.
Apparently, they also have an up-and-coming asshole. Rondo has been called out for being late to games, including the season-ending Game Seven against Orlando, and news is that he has his problems with his teammates as well as his coach.
In a rare move from Danny Ainge, he has publicly criticized Rondo and discussed how Rondo needs to mature and the Celtics don’t find him to be a maximum-contract player.
Ainge also pinned the Magic loss at least partly on Rondo, saying that his presence on the floor hurt the Celtics because the Magic were able to leave the poor-shooting Rondo and send double teams at the Celtics’ primary scorers.
With Ainge saying all those things about Rondo and new rumors surfacing left and right, I entered the 2009 NBA draft with an anxiety I’ve never had before for the draft. I didn’t want to see my Celtics destroy any chance we had of winning another title, closing our already slim window of opportunity just because of a little disciplinary problem.
If Rondo or Ray had gotten traded for the unproven Tyreke Evans or Ricky Rubio, I would have thrown my computer through the TV. Seriously.
To dismantle a possible title team and get a little younger and a little more inexperienced would have sent the Celtics right back to the NBA’s version of no-man’s land. You know, the place where a team is a pseudo-contender, constantly battling to advance into the second round of the playoffs, maybe even the conference finals, but still very far from being a true championship team.
Kind of like the Boston Celtics from the 2001-2002 season through the 2005-2006 campaign. No team with Antoine Walker as the second-best player was going to ever win an NBA championship, but the Celtics fared just well enough that they continually mortgaged their future to try to bring in veterans to help them win right away.
In the process, the C’s sent a young Chauncey Billups away in return for Kenny Anderson and the rookie Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. None of the guys they got in return ended up helping the team get any better, and meanwhile the Celtics had gotten rid of all their young talent to acquire the aging, over-the-hill vets.
So that was why I was so anxious watching the draft. I could see the Celts itching closer and closer to no-man’s land, and I dreaded it. What fan wants to live in that perilous area caught between rooting for your conference-finals bound team and simultaneously hoping the team gets blown up and starts from scratch because they don’t ever have a real chance to win the title?
As the draft moved farther and farther, I gradually started to loosen up. Not only had the Celtics not yet made a trade, but there weren’t even any rumblings.
When the Pacers picked Tyler Hansbrough to solidify their spot as the whitest team in recent NBA history (Travis Diener, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Hansbrough, Rasho Nesterovic, Josh McRoberts, and Jeff Foster) and the Suns selected Earl Clark, I was almost comfortable that the Celtics weren’t going to make a trade and I would see the Celtics I know and love get another shot or two at the Larry O’Brien trophy.
About an hour later, the Cavaliers selected the complete unknown, Christian Eyenga, to round out the first round and I was almost in the clear. There were no more trade rumors and the quiet made me joyous. I heard Adam Silver finally announce the Celtics’ selection of Lester Hudson and, two picks later, the draft was over.
The Celtics managed to dodge all trades and emerge victorious from the draft by doing more or less nothing. Hudson was a good value pick at 58, a strong, tough guard with shooting ability and a scorer’s mentality, but I’m definitely not as excited as I am about the draft just because we picked the best player ever to come out of UT-Martin.
I’m excited because Danny Ainge did the first thing he had to do to keep us contenders, which was staying away from hastily making a trade.
Now, Danny, all you need to do is use the mid-level exception to sign a backup small forward, a backup center and, hopefully, a backup point guard.
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