Danny Ainge is in a precarious situation with the brewing Ray Allen debate. It was 22 seasons ago that Danny Ainge was traded from the Boston Celtics for Joe Klein and Ed Pinckney. The Boston Celtics were faced with a depleted front-line, as Larry Bird would sit out for the entire season with bone spurs and the front office decided to take action now rather than later.
With the championship five of the 1980's aging and injured, the Celtics were faced with the decision of dealing the most tradeable player of that era's team (the big three was off-limits) or watching the Celtics core of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge, and Dennis Johnson run out of gas every postseason.
Danny Ainge was 29-years-old, in the prime of his career and one year removed from his first all-star appearance when then-general manager Jan Volk (ouch) and team president Red Auerbach decided to make the big move. The trade set Ainge back, and he always considered himself an exiled Celtic as he played into his mid-30's as an NBA journeyman cast away from his only real home.
Twenty-two seasons later, Ainge is contemplating moving the team's most tradeable player in Ray Allen. As I said earlier today, like Ainge in 1988, Allen epitomizes Celtic Pride; and yet, some times tough decisions must be made.
I constantly remark that Red Auerbach's philosophy was to provide his stars with job security and afforded those that contributed to title-winning teams the right to retire part of the organization they fought for. That was decades ago, and the harsh reality is that in today's NBA, loyalty is rarely seen nor even a consideration. Today's NBA is a big business and the future of contending franchises is nearly as important as the established core of today's team.
Lets face it: the 2010 Celtics are resembling the 1988 team that Ainge was cast away from. The 18 years that followed were not kind to Boston as the team coasted, without an action plan, into a post (original) big-three-era that resulted in a tailspin that left former rivals and past opposing legends full of satisfaction. You can't tell me that after years of losing to the Celtics that the likes of Jerry West, Robert Reid, Bernard King, Elgin Baylor, Ralph Sampson, and Dominique Wilkins did not take some satisfaction in the fact that the Celtics were falling apart.
Though today's championship bid is in the forefront of all Celtics fans' minds, we would be foolish not to think that the future is just as imperative as the present. I have been one of those fools, wrapped up in the romanticism of the Boston Celtics past. I have ranted and raged over the idea of trading Allen away, and earlier today I stopped. I realized that I cannot cope with another decade of NBA purgatory that took place during the 90's and early/mid 00's.
The Celtics of today resemble the starting five of 1969 as well, wrapped in bandages and braces, hobbling towards a showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers that no one saw them winning, but it was that win that only added to the Celtic Mystique. The championship of '69 displayed a rare moment from the legendary Bill Russell, as even he, the league's most celebrated winner, was held speechless by the victory.
Damnation to NBA purgatory?
Now, that's a bit dramatic. The truth is, as displayed through the first half of the season, the Celtics are not the team we remember in 2008 or even 2009. They are struggling to beat inferior opponents and as they face the leagues top tier teams (minus the Cavs) at the close of this week, the team will have to put aside the injuries, wave off the trade rumors, and draw on some of that nostalgic mystique that held Russell speechless in 1969. Without the ghosts of championships past, this team will struggle to compete with the likes of the Hawks, Magic, and Lakers.
My nostalgic take on the Boston Celtics has left fans, readers, and listeners scratching their heads in confusion. Debates have ensued over it's relevancy, and perhaps it even left them rolling their eyes in annoyance. The fact remains, this franchise was not born in 2008, and the losses and victories of the past are all part of what made 2008 so special.
If we can draw any lessons from the 1969 and 2008 championships, it has proven that "anything is possible" in Boston; 2008 has become the 17th chapter in a book with a 22-year-gap. The fears of bringing aging NBA superstars to Boston in 2008 are now reality, and with their legs bundled in braces and arms sleeved for support, we find all the ingredients for another long gap before we can print the plot of chapter 18—unless the ghosts still swing from the rafters like the 17 chapters of the book that defined Celtic Mystique.
Does history repeat itself? I believe so, and that in itself is enough incentive for me to keep talking about it.
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