Thursday, June 29, 2006
The Saddest Music In The Wyc
Yes, this has all been said today by others, but it still bears repeating. In five years these draft night moves will be painful memories, as the players we passed up on develop into stars and our franchise continues to struggle. We have yet again foolishly squandered the opportunity to slowly develop a young core of players, and instead make personel moves in the name of appeasing an ownership group that equates "success" with "gate receipts."
In all of this, Danny Ainge is either an imbecile or a victim, or perhaps both. Either way, he's the custodian of this failure, and his reign is soon about to end.
The Big Dumb Telfair Trade
From a purely basketball standpoint, this was the worst and most short-sighted trade of the Ainge era. Swapping stiffs to save money is one thing, but I can't imagine there is anyone who truly believes that in 5 years Sebastian Telfair will be a better NBA player than Brandon Roy or Randy Foye. Of course, if you believe the spin, we are at such an evolved status as a franchise that we no longer can content ourselves with drafting the best player available, and instead have to trade "assets" for need. Because, remember, Paul Pierce is such a unique and rarified talent that he deserves a chance to play for a championship and these dumb moves will soon make that eminently possible.
It's all such bullshit, and last night was filled with the loud sound of scraping from the bottom of the barrel. During the pre-draft interview on FSN, Danny actually had the temerity to say that Telfair was a "veteran" of the sort that they were seeking out to improve the team. A veteran. Two years out of fucking high school with 136 games under his belt. Unless he's Chris Paul we're pretty much fucked, and believe me, he's not going to be Chris Paul.
So regardless of the insulting spin coming out of "Celtics Draft HQ" on FSN, the reality is that this deal was mostly based on saving Wyc's Daddy's money. We sacrificed a top pick to ship off the 2nd most embarrassing contract of the Ainge era for a sorta-soon-to-be-expiring deal that seems tailor made to either pad the Iverson deal immediately, or to sit on the books until 2009 when the team's payroll will cut nearly in half and Wyc's consortium of Generation W failures can cut bait and fade back into the moneyed ether from whence they came. Get ready for draft-day retrospectives where we watch Brandon R.O.Y and Randy Foye's recent exploits on a highlight reel juxtaposed with the losing records of the teams that passed them by. We will be one of those teams. And Sebastian Telfair will look all the smaller.
More on AI soon, I have an epic piece in the works, but last night had some gems from the spin cycle that deserve some attention.
1) Mike Gorman actually said the following in response to Dickerson's query about whether or not AI and Pierce could play together: "Absolutely. If Paul Pierce could play with Ricky Davis (rueful laugh), he can play with Allen Iverson." What the FUCK is that? Wasn't RickyD this wonderful player and a great kid and a reformed super-duper Celtic and all that goddamn bullshit not 7 fucking months ago? RickyD was something of a ball hog, sure, but not nearly in the same class as Pierce, let alone Allen Iverson. For Gorman, it was a disgraceful moment for a man who should know much, much better.
2) This trade will be entirely about putting asses in seats, and when was the last time a trade like that ever worked? Oh yeah, when we killed a #1 pick to rent Antoine Walker. They even put a chart up on the FSN show that pointed out how Philly is the number 5 team in the league for attendance, averaging about 2000 more than the Celtics. AI is Wyc's easy way to guarantee robust ticket sales for the next three years, allowing him to re-sign his trophy buddy Pierce to an extension, get on ESPN a few times, and be able to brag to Mark Cuban about his club's power at the gate.
The Small Exceedingly Stupid Trade
The Rondo pick for next year's #1 was inexcusable and embarrassing. This is Ainge at his absolute worst – fixated on obscure talent he finds singular, unable to let it go. See Robert Swift, Marcus Banks, and Telfair. In the same embarrassing way that he seeks to prove his scouting ability by drafting under-heralded 2nd rounders who succeed as fringe NBA players (when everyone else figured they just plain sucked), he refuses to simply draft the best players available, instead harping on those semi-diamonds in the semi-rough that he's obsessed with polishing into stars. That's why he could never make a conventional pick like Randy Foye or Brandon Roy. They have no allure to his scouting heart, they are fully formed good players, and by picking them it marginalizes the only role as an executive he's comfortable with. His dream is to draft someone he finds under a rock who becomes the next LeBron James, allowing him to take sole credit for the team's turnaround. In this way he is the exact opposite of Larry Bird, who has contented himself with being a patient gardener, and for the most part has succeeded by not overreaching.
Rondo equals Orien Greene with a better college pedigree. That is it. For a fucking #1 pick.
Unfortunately, a 33 win team cannot afford these kind of indulgences. It needs talent, lots of it, and the patience to develop it. Last night was a serious step backwards.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Trouble Every Day
Anyway, as we approach the draft, the talk out there in Celtics land is downright terrifying. A friend tells us he heard a report on WEEI this morning that Ainge is looking to move up in the draft, dangling Perk and the #7 for whoever will bite in the top 5. This is being done, apparently, in order to acquire the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, aka, "the guy no one really wants to pick because everyone compares him to Mark Blount."
Admittedly, I don't follow college hoops beyond the local Jim Calhoun ego stroke-a-thon, but I've read all the reports on Aldridge and if this is true it's so fucked up it almost hurts to ponder. We're trading our only viable big man (and the only legitimate draft steal from the Ainge era) for a guy who is at best, two years away from being a semi-upgrade. Perk may not be all-world, but he's tough, he can rebound, he can block shots, and he has shown more improvement over the past three years than any of our other lauded draft picks. Not to mention, he has developed into something of a fan favorite.
Of course, Perk's biggest weakness is that Coc doesn't like him, which has been apparent in the way he screws with his minutes, pisses all over him to the press, and generally mishandles his career. It's a testament to Perk's simple yet patent contributions that Coc still has to find a way to put him on the court, but I can only imagine what kind of monstrous spin the organization is going to unearth in order to justify trading our toughest interior presence when toughness and interior presence are exactly what the team has lacked for the past 10 years. Sorry Wyc, you can't blame this one on Ricky D!
As for Aldridge, who the fuck knows, but from a point of simple logic, most draft scenarios have Aldridge probably available at 7 anyway. A typical mock, shaped by the putative promises that are floating around, looks something like this
1) Toronto – Bargnani
2) Chicago – Tyrus Thomas
3) Bobcats – Morrison/Gay/Roy
4) Portland – Morrison/Roy
5) Atlanta – Sheldon Williams
6) Minnesota – Gay/Roy or Aldridge
7) Celtics – Aldridge/Gay/Williams
Of course, we can all choke on the irony that if Coc and Scalafuckhead had simply ditched the last game of the season, we could have picked Aldridge up at 6 where he's virtually guaranteed to be available. It is my relentless hope that if this trade comes to pass, someone in the legitimate media points out that this one superfluous salve to Coc's wounded ego could cost us Kendrick Perkins.
And then there's the whole deal with re-signing Paul Pierce, and the apparent promise being made to him that we will trade the young players for some of superstar Paul's beloved "veterans" in an effort to annihilate what little progress the franchise has made over the past 4 years and content ourselves with being a perpetual 7th seed in the playoffs. The obvious candidates include: Green/Jefferson/picks for Jermaine O'Neal. Conditional pick/Inmate #42 for Mike James sign-n-trade. LaFrentz/pick for Ratliff "save Wyc $11 million" deal. Or the ever popular, "Dan Dickau for two future second round picks."
In all cases, the winds bode ill fortune. Wyc has decided that it is more important to preserve his goofy trophy-friendship with Paul Pierce than it is to build a winner, and the franchise will be relegated to perpetual "tinkering" status while the entire league ebbs and flows around our static irrelevance. In the words of the great Eric Gaffney, "as the world dies the eyes of god grow larger."
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Pick My Ass
It is an interesting point of view, but one based on a strange myopia regarding the amount of talent currently on the roster of the 7th worst team in the league. It seems to indicate that the Celtics are at a point as a franchise where they need to add specific kinds of players, and not just try to improve at every position. It yet again speaks to the ongoing perception that the only team in the league that couldn't string together three wins is "a player away."
This entire "trade the pick" school of thought has its roots in the ongoing myth that the team is building a winner around Paul Pierce, and we have no more need for youthful players because we have young talent in abundance and the wise course would be to develop them as we add veteran talent into the mix. Of course, the kool-aid crew "see no/hear no/speak no" over the fact that this is the same theory which brought us Gary Payton, Dan Dickau and the disastrous re-acquisition of Antoine Walker. With that in mind, here are the two big myths of the Celtics as we enter the draft, and why they are wrongheaded.
Myth # 1 - "We don't need more youth." This is the great kool-aid koan that sums up the semi-articulated threads of "hope for the future" which basically entail this: a healthy Wally Szczerbiak + a rejuvenated Al Jefferson + Delonte the Emergent + Pierce in his prime + Gerald Green as 6th man + a key offseason veteran acquisition = Celtics as playoff team. It sounds nice, but it yet again ignores reality in favor of a punch-drunk "wait till next year" vibe that has infected a fanbase battered by years of abused expectation. Let's take a look at these same factors without the rosy optimism.
- Healthy Wally Szczerbiak – okay, assuming he comes back from a knee injury more effectively than our last injured Ainge trade acquistion (Raef), where does that leave us? The offense may run more smoothly, but we have the worst defensive 2/3 combo in the league with Wally and Pierce, one that will be exploited by quicker backcourts.
- Rejuvenated Al Jefferson – Even at his best, what will this mean? He's still young and he's still raw, and he has trouble staying on the court because of fouls and injury. Best case scenario is we have an immature 12/6 guy coming off the bench who can't play defense, is an adequate-at-best rebounder, and doesn't fit in well with a Pierce dominated offense.
- Delonte the Emergent – as much as I like Delonte, he's destined for the bench. Next season will most likely be one of "how well does Delonte deal with not starting anymore" when we acquire some shithead over-the-hill PG to get Pierce the ball "in his spots."
- Pierce in his Prime – We all liked what we saw with PP this year, but really, what are the chances he even comes close to duplicating this season? If his shot is falling, he's great, if not, he's a ball hog who tries to play 1-on-5. And he's a year older.
- Gerald Green as 6th man – Gerald is a terrific talent, but next year will not be the year he contributes meaningfully to a winning team. He should be given loads of minutes so he can learn-by-doing, but he will necessarily fail and fuck up in this process. Perhaps, more importantly, what are the chances Doc even plays him regular minutes next year?
- Key veteran acquisition – this deserves its own section.
Myth #2 - In the offseason we will make a "Key Veteran Acquisition"
Tell me who this player is. Name me any player we can acquire via trade of the 7th round pick in the draft and spare parts that is going to make any difference. There really isn't any, because problem is that impact PG's and big men ARE NOT AVAILABLE.
Taking a quick look at top 25 NBA assist leaders, who among those are likely to be on the block. Baron Davis? Steve Francis? Okay, fine, but do we really want these guys? Or what about this "veteran PG" who will "mentor Delonte"? Is it worth trading our pick for Speedy Claxton or Anthony Johnson?
Any trade we make for a veteran player of any import is going to be similar to the Wally trade – marginal talent exchanged for some degree of cap relief and improved chemistry. There just is not going to be any kind of epic fleecing, because outside of the Vince Carter trade, they just don't happen anymore.
As for the FA market, unless people truly believe re-acquiring Mike James for many, many millions of dollars is a bold improvement, there really is nothing out there for the taking. In fact, our most likely course of action will probably be to acquire a really shitty/old veteran PG along the lines of a Kevin Ollie or Kenny Anderson, and then have the Celtics PR staff pepper the Globe all year with story pitches about how this guy is "teaching Delonte the ropes" and make grand claims about DW's learning curve and ever prominent role on the team. Remember, Dan Dickau was brought in for exactly the same reason, to be a "proven PG" who could start or come off the bench, depending on the performance of the younger players, and we know how well that worked out.
The point is, there really is no simple, clean move to make with the 7th pick that's worth trading it for mediocre veteran talent. It is simply not worth the risk, and I am hard pressed to understand what the problem is with the 7th worst team in the league stockpiling a young lottery pick type player, even if he can't help you right away. Remember, in the most recent where the Celtics traded away their lottery #1 (1999), they missed the opportunity to draft, among others, Shaun Marion, Andre Miller, Artest, Andre Kirilenko and Corey Maggette. What "veteran acquisition" did the Celtics get in return for passing up on all that talent? Vitaly Potapenko.
For the love of God, keep the fucking pick.