Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ever since the incompetent tools who named themselves Banner 17 took over the Boston Celtics and entrusted the most storied franchise in professional basketball to a man who dabbles in brain typing, I never thought I'd look forward to a Celtic win streak. But now that the team has followed its epic losing epidemic with a nice four game win streak, I am surprised that I am happy. It makes things so much more interesting for me.

With Greg Oden and Kevin Durant all but locks to go 1 and 2 in the draft this year, it seemed like even the immortal Danny Ainge could not find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this time out. But if the mishmash of spare parts that is this edition of the Boston Celtics wins enough games, the Celtics could lose for winning. Imagine what Ainge could do with the third pick after the two mortal locks are gone. I can't believe it, but since I am almost certain the ownership group won't pull their heads from their rear ends and terminate the contract of Mr. Ainge, I'm rooting for the Celtics to win enough to lose the lottery.

One more bad draft will cost Ainge his job. It has to. Or at least it would be a mortal lock, but then I'd have to assume the cretins who run the Celtics are not as incompetent than I think they are. Against all odds, Ainge has seemed positively bulletproof in his capacity as Celtics GM. Of course, I've been attacking him for the nearly 11 months that I've been writing this blog but since somewhere on the order of 20 people read this space on a very good day, I attract only so much attention.

But the tide has turned, it seems. First, about two weeks ago, Jackie MacMullan had an excellent piece in the Globe detailing the appalling state of the franchise's business plan. I might not know very much about running a business, but I know that when your business is winning basketball games and your team is losing much more than it wins, you're not running a good business. When you run a team in a salary cap system and you're $11 million over the cap, you're not doing the right thing. Unfortunately, when both things are true of your franchise, basketball isn't the business for you.

I have been attacking Ainge for the Walker-LaFrentz deal strictly from a basketball standpoint. He took away one of the core pieces of a team that had reached the conference finals for the first time in over 10 years and received an inconsistent center more comfortable on the perimeter than the block and a terrible defender to boot. Much worse than that, Antoine was due to make just over $28 million over the two years left on his contract at the time while Raef was signed for six years and due to earn almost $63 million.

It seems like a strange decision to make as a general manager of a basketball team. I don't understand why you'd trade a better player due to earn less money over a shorter time for a worse player due to earn more money over a longer time (yeah, other players were involved, but these two were the centerpieces). Maybe if Jiri Welsch panned out, it would have been different. But then, to paraphrase an old saying, if grasshoppers were armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, birds wouldn't make such a habit of eating them. Of course, we all know how the Jiri Welsch era in Celtics history worked. He wore number 44 (as Danny Ainge did in his time in Boston), and that's about it.

One would have to admire the tenacity with which the Celtics ownership group has stuck by Ainge if one did not want to see a winning team play in the TD Banknorth facility (I still won't call it a garden). I imagine I should clarify that last statement by adding the caveat that said winner should happen to be the home team. After all, a number of winning teams have helped the Celtics to the worst home record in the NBA.

I thoroughly enjoyed this quote from Steve Pagliuca from the MacMullan piece:

You can't make a judgement on Danny right now. It's only been four years. If Delonte becomes Bibby and Al Jefferson becomes Karl Malone, I'd say Danny Ainge has done pretty well.

Where should I begin with this gem? First, the Founding Fathers believed that four years was ample time to evaluate the President's job performance. General manager of a basketball team is a serious responsibility, much more difficult than running a nation. Second, it might have escaped Pagliuca's notice, but I did some serious research on Karl Malone and Mike Bibby. You might not know this, but neither one of them has won a championship in the NBA. Bibby has never even made it to an NBA Finals.

The problem with that statement is that taking a wait and see approach in the fourth year of an ongoing rebuilding process that seems to be stuck in reverse is about as effective as the ostrich who sticks its head into the sand to escape a predator (as far as I know, that is a myth, but still an enduring and appropriate image here. Also, there is no indication that Al Jefferson will become dominant. Finally, with the way Bibby fell off the face of the Earth these last two seasons, I wouldn't wish that on Delonte West. Actually, I would since I want the Cs to lose, but one of the owners shouldn't, unless he's using a losing franchise as a tax write off like the lady from Slap Shot.

In case you care, Theo Ratliff is the third highest paid Celtic, and the who earned a little bit over $1 million for every four minutes of basketball he played this season. His final total came to a whopping 44 minutes before he called it quits for the season. Four and five on the list of highest paid Celtics are Kendrick Perkins and Brian Scalabrine respectively. Between the three of them, they earn just over $19 million. For those of you who don't do much math, that's just south of 40% of the salary cap. For those of you who might be a bit slow on the uptake 40% of the Celtics salary cap is devoured by a carcase who can only charitably called a has-been, a damn good third center in Perkins (too bad they don't have a number 1 or 2 center) paid damn good starter money and Brain (not a typo, deliberate error) Scalabrine.

Bill Simmons was disappointed by the lack of trades at this season's trading deadline. I was unpleasantly surprised. As I'm sure you must have noticed because the media covered it thoroughly, there was no way a big deal was going to be made unless a third team stepped up to get hosed. Ainge did that to facilitate the Rasheed Wallace trade to Detroit in 2004. Maybe he learned his lesson.

I thought this passage from his the trade deadline piece was interesting:

I'm relieved they didn't do anything -- especially a Pau Gasol-Al Jefferson deal, which would have been an enormous mistake when you consider the age difference (five years), the salaries (Gasol makes six times as much), the stats (Jefferson's a better rebounder, and they're equally mediocre defenders, so they would have been picking up an extra 4-5 points a game and that's it) and the fact that Gasol could have inadvertently knocked them out of the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant Sweepstakes.

Still, I'm giving them a retroactive "F" for the hideous Sebastian Telfair trade, in which they passed on Brandon Roy or Randy Foye to acquire a shoot-first point guard who can't shoot. I know they saved $20-25 million in the deal (a big consolation for my dad, who's paying something like $360 a game for his seats) and acquired Theo Ratliff's eight-figure contract as a potential trade chip ... but Danny Ainge hasn't swung a deal in four-plus years that could be considered a home run, much less a triple or double (I'll give him a single on the first Ricky Davis trade), but he managed to hit into two triple plays (the Telfair deal and the Raef LaFrentz/Antoine Walker deal). Will Danny be able to parlay Ratliff's contract into something substantial? I'm dubious.

I give you the passage because it reminded me of something I wrote just after the draft. The date on my post was July 3, 2006. I questioned the wisdom of choosing Telfair over Roy/Foye. I don't mean to allege or imply that Simmons reads this space, I'm just saying that I knew this back in July. Why didn't he?

I do attack him a bit in the blog, so I guess I also must give credit where it is due. His retrospective on Dennis Johnson was excellent.

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