The Boston Celtics won’t sit still this winter. No matter how abbreviated the offseason is this year, be sure that the Celtics will make a move at some point. Danny Ainge has to.
Entering the summer of 2007, the storied 60-year franchise was at rock bottom. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge had arguably the worst roster in the league, a disgruntled superstar in Paul Pierce and a fanbase that had been frustrated into apathy. In the blink of an eye, he pulled an ace from his sleeve and stole Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in two blockbuster trades.
Ainge shocked the basketball world in the summer of 2007. And there are 10 reasons why he will do it again...
While trade rumors regarding a trade of Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul have certainly simmered, don’t be surprised if they resurface before Christmas Day. Especially now that the rival Lakers are reportedly interested in the services of the New Orleans point guard, expect Ainge to make another push for the Hornets star.
Although Paul’s repeated claims that he refuses to sign an extension with any team during the season have scared off several GMs, Ainge and the Celtics are one of few teams that could truly afford and benefit from a one-year player rental. Unlike other suitors such as the Warriors and the Clippers, only the Celtics would become an immediate championship contender with Paul in their lineup.
There is no doubt that the trade would risk the future of the franchise, but if it came at reward of another title…be sure that Danny Ainge will consider pulling the trigger.
However, that will change.
When the contracts of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal all come off the books next summer, an intriguing free-agent pool awaits Boston. Joining Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are unrestricted free-agents Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Vince Carter. If the Celtics so choose to wait a year to make a splash, the summer of 2013 is headlined by Josh Smith, Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin.
Also, if Boston were looking to replace Garnett with another dominating power forward, the Clippers' Blake Griffin is a restricted free agent that summer.
Regardless, in order to remain a viable option for these players, the Celtics must remain championship-competitive with All-Stars already on the roster. Boston doesn’t have South Beach, Jay-Z or Hollywood to use as a marketing ploy for talent like Nash or Griffin. Instead, they have a ceiling of full banners with a promise and opportunity to add more.
For the past four seasons the Celtics have been a focal interest point for New England sports fans, and for good reason. But now, they rank fourth in terms of interest level in the Boston sports market.
With the Patriots in play to compete for their fourth Lombardi Trophy, the Bruins en route to defending their Stanley Cup Trophy and the Boston Red Sox assembling a new team of players and management, the Celtics are old news in every meaning of the word. In addition to competing for a title, the Celtics need to compete for ratings!
They need something new to sell to their fan faithful. Or more importantly…someone new.
Are Celtic fans truly supposed to believe that coach Doc Rivers signed a five-year contract extension this past summer to slowly suffer and fade with an aging team?
After a heart-wrenching loss to the Lakers in the finals two seasons ago, it took every ounce of energy from players and management alike to keep Doc from retiring. Yet, less than a year later, Rivers signs a five-year extension without further consideration?
Doc has worked with Ainge for over eight years now and is very involved with personnel decisions. While it’s not fair to assume, it is without doubt that Rivers didn’t sign an extension until 2017 merely to watch KG, Paul and Ray turn into old men.
Danny Ainge knows a little something about "Big Threes" in Boston. Aside from assembling the current group of All-Stars in Beantown, Ainge played with a Hall of Fame trio of his own for over eight seasons. Although Danny celebrated two world titles with the Celtics, he recognizes that management overcommitted to Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale as they got older.
He even went as far as sharing such sentiment with then-team president Red Auerbach.
"I said it then, and I told Red that, too," Ainge said. "But Red went his own way. The difference then is that you could see that there wasn't a lot of hope for that team.” Ainge added, “Back then, Larry was in a cast. Kevin was slowing down. Robert was, what, 36? You didn't think that team had a realistic chance of winning the championship."
Danny watched Red make the mistake of riding his Big Three for too long. Now that he’s in charge, be sure that Ainge won’t make the same mistake.
Whenever a championship is won in a team sport, no one individual is deserving of all the credit. But Danny Ainge is certainly worthy of most of the praise for the Celtics' ‘08 title.
Somehow, Danny dealt a plethora of overrated talent (Al Jefferson, Wally Szczerbiak, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and others) for two future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. He teamed them up with another future Hall of Famer, Paul Pierce, surrounded them with solid role players and the rest is championship history.
However, since that trade, Danny’s wheelings and dealings are significantly less impressive—even detrimental.
Additions like Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson and Darius Miles never found their role on the roster and were all gone within a year. Equally, Ainge felt a need to surround an aging roster with even more veteran “talent.” Players like Rasheed Wallace, Sam Cassell and Michael Finley were all past their prime and out of shape. Both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal proved to be injury-prone and unserviceable.
It has been four years since Ainge made a significant splash in the trade market that improved the Celtics' title hopes. It’s time.
The Kendrick Perkins trade debacle that debilitated the team a season ago does not, by any means, compare to the Red Sox sale of the immortal Babe Ruth. With that said, the Perkins deal just may be the legacy of Danny Ainge if he fails to redeem himself by grabbing an All-Star sometime this winter to help the green team grab banner No. 18.
If Garnett, Allen and Pierce had won a championship title after a 66-win season for any other franchise other than the Celtics (and maybe the Lakers), it would be celebrated and reminisced about for decades. Those three athletes would be given standing ovations no matter where they traveled for the rest of their living days.
Not in Boston though.
If these three players leave the Celtics winning only one title, it will be considered a disappointment. If a team wants to enter the halls of Celtic lure, they have to win multiple titles. Bill Russell led the Celtics of the 1950s and '60s to 11. John Havlicek and Dave Cowens achieved another two the following decade while the Celtics of the 1980s won an additional three.
Garnett, Allen and Pierce know they need at least one more. Let’s believe Danny Ainge knows that too.
The Celtics made the No. 3 sexy again in the NBA during their 2008 title run. Since then, the Lakers built a trio of their own around Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Miami introduced their Big Three on a grand stage with a firework show (literally).
And then there’s the Chicago Bulls who finished with a league-best record of 62-20 in just their first year under coach Tom Thibodeau. With rumors swirling that they are prepared to sign a solid guard to complement Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer (maybe Aaron Afflalo or Jason Richardson?), prepare for the Bulls to be even better in their 2012 campaign. As it stands now, Boston’s three just aren’t good enough to win a championship in 2012.
Ainge knows that in Boston they don’t raise banners for conference championships or division titles and he’s not content with that either. Look no further than when Ainge took over the team in the spring of 2003, inheriting a roster that was two just wins away from the finals a year before.
Yet, without hesitation, Ainge blew it up.
He traded captain Antoine Walker, surrounded Paul Pierce with an entirely new starting lineup and all but pushed coach Jim O’Brien out the door. Why? Because Ainge knew that he did not have a championship-caliber roster that year. Sure, he had a playoff roster—maybe even a division-winning roster—but he didn’t have a championship team.
And that’s what the Boston Celtics are about: championships.
Ultimately, Ainge was not content with a good team; he wanted a great team. And he didn’t stop making moves until he built that great team. Right now, the 2011-2012 Celtics are good. Prepare for Ainge to try and make them great again.