Monday, April 24, 2006

It's been a while since I last posted. For that, I apologize. I also apologize for the rambling diatribe. If you couldn't guess from the hour or the incoherence, I was intoxicated when I wrote it. I can't promise that I won't do that again, but I'll try to make a bit more sense tonight.

At times, I intend to devote some space to a few other topics that bother me almost as much as the Red Sox. Tonight that topic is the current Celtics front office. For a long time, I considered myself a Celtics fan. I suffered through the Michael Smith era (the guy the Cs drafted from BYU, not Donovan McNabb's mouthpiece on ESPN). I wish I could forget Acie Earl and Dino Radja and a bunch of other stiffs that came into the Fleet Center and ruined professional basketball for a generation of New Englanders.

Just when I was getting ready to give up on the Celtics, they drafted Antoine Walker. For some reason, I really liked him. Maybe it was because the fans and the media didn't understand him. He was brash, it took him a few years to appreciate the value of an intense off-season workout program, he took too many wild shots, he complained to officials and he had the Walker Wiggle. He was criticized in the press and booed by the fans. But I liked him. I always have. I'm rooting for Miami now, because he's there and he's contributing.

I imagine that a lot of the reason I liked him had to do with the fact that the fans and the media didn't like him. I rarely see eye to eye with local fans (hence the title and stated purpose of this blog). Even less frequently do I find any thing of value in the local sports media. Sports writers strike me as lazy bullies. Just look at the CHB and his fixation on the curse, his inevitable and insufferable references to New England's Puritan past and the fact that every year he finds himself out of ideas and decides to attack some member of the local sports scene for no real reason. Two prime examples are Carl Everett (for his unusual religious views) and Manny (for not hustling enough).

Proof that the CHB is lazy could be found on Jim Rome is Burning, if you can watch the show with a straight face. I have a hard time forgetting that time the Rams QB dribbled ESPN's "hard edged" sports commentator, but that's just me. Recently, just prior to the Final Four, the CHB appeared on that show and took issue with those who called Glenn Davis "Baby Shaq." According to the CHB, Antoine Walker was a much more suitable analog because they're both 6-9, neither can jump and they both take 3s.

Outside of the fact that Big Baby's size and strength are much greater than Toine's, one should not lose sight of the fact that the 3 Davis hit in the Elite Eight was the 4th he'd hit all season. Then again I might be asking too much of a man who once devoted a column published in a major market newspaper to the fact that he runs a mile every day when I think he should know what he's talking about before he opens his mouth.

But I digress. I bring up Antoine Walker because he is the centerpiece of the case against Danny Ainge. When Ainge took over, he unloaded several of the players who were instrumental in the team's back to back playoff appearances (which included a trip to the conference finals). Fans were told that the team was at a crossroads. Management could keep the team intact and maybe add a piece or two to stay in playoff contention without seriously competing for a title. Or management could unload some of the players and try to build for the future. They chose the latter course.

Antoine Walker was sent to Dallas, along with Tony Delk, for what has amounted to very little in return. Jiri Welsch seems to have been a big part of Ainge's plans. I infer this from the fact that Jiri wore number 44 in his brief (but not brief enough) tenure with the Green. A more cynical mind than mine might speculate that Ainge brought in a swingman of middling skills and gave him the number which Danny wore in better days because it was as close as the new regime dared come to placing his own number up in the sanctum sanctorum, the Garden rafters. You must make that choice for yourself.

As far as Danny's stated purpose (to build an NBA champion) is concerned, I need only point to his results. Three seasons, no O'Brien Trophy. One playoff appearance. And that came last season when he reacquired Antoine Walker from the Atlanta Hawks at the trading deadline. This season, Antoine left for Miami. Miami is in the playoffs. The Celtics are not. They collapsed down the stretch, and left their fans wondering whether their young players will develop their potential or not.

To be fair, Danny Ainge did help build a champion, although I don't think he got credit for it. He involved the Celtics in a three team trade which sent Rasheed Wallace to Detroit in the 2003-2004 season. For compensation, the Cs got Chucky Atkins, Detroit's first round pick and the rights to Lindsey Hunter. The Cs did manage to get rid of Chris Mills (why they ever got him, I'll never know) and Mike James. When I think of Ainge's role in that trade, I'm left wondering whether Detroit gave him a ring for his trouble. I also wonder whether you could find a sap like Ainge without drilling a hole in a tree.

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