Future Of The Celtics: Can Ainge Do it Again?
The low point of the Celtics franchise: 2006-07.
Just as the season kicked off, the matriarch of the organization, Red Auerbach passed away at the age of 89. On the heels of his death, the Celtics had one of their worst seasons in franchise history as they finished with the leagues second worst record at 24-58. This horrific record included a Celtics worst 0-18 stretch.
To add injury to insult, Paul Pierce missed a chunk of the season with a foot injury, and replacement third year guard Tony Allen tore his ACL on an after-the-whistle showoff dunk. The Celtics ran youngsters Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, and Gerald Green out there as they attempted to build toward their future.
Danny Ainge had his hands full, but with the second best chance in the draft lottery, the Celtics were primed for building blocks Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Both were considered can’t miss prospects, and Celtics fans believed luck was on their side this time after the misfortune of missing out on Tim Duncan nearly a decade earlier.
The ping pong balls did not fall the Celtics way and despite nearly a 40% chance of getting a top two selection, the Celtics fell all the way to fifth selection. Another sign of bad luck for the Celtics, who had aspirations of Greg Oden as a centerpiece of the franchise.
Looking back, we can comfortably say that losing the draft lottery as badly as the Celtics did directly lead to the team’s 2008 championship.
On Thursday, June 28th, 2007, the night of the NBA Draft, GM Danny Ainge made the first of a number of key moves.
Ainge dealt the rights to the #5 pick – Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak (and the two years $25 million remaining on his contract), and Delonte West for sharp shooter Ray Allen (and the three years remaining on a five year $80 million) and the rights to the 34th pick – Glen Davis.
The Celtics looked as if they were going to have a contending starting line up in the Eastern Conference. Adding a legitimate guard like Ray Allen next to Pierce after failures such as Ricky Davis and Wally was key. Boasting a projected starting five of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Jefferson, and Perkins, the team appeared to be much improved.
Ainge was not done though.
On July 31st, baseball’s trade deadline, the Celtics made another huge splash that shook the infrastructure of the NBA. Ainge collaborated with former teammate Kevin McHale in a blockbuster of epic proportions.
The Timberwolves had been looking to deal disgruntled power forward Kevin Garnett. The Celtics shipped emerging power forward and fan favorite Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and two first round draft choices for the services of the The Big Ticket. The T-Wolves and McHale held out for Rajon Rondo, but Danny Ainge utterly refused to include the raw, but promising point guard.
With a championship-caliber starting line up, Ainge began to add role players to the mix. On August 1st, the C’s inked guard Eddie House to the mix to serve as a combo back up guard. Days later on August 27th the C’s added defensive specialist 6’8″ James Posey.
The most underrated part of that off-season was the addition of assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to Doc Rivers’ coaching staff. Thibs immediately changed the culture of the team’s defensive approach and they became the best defensive squad in the 2007-08 season.
Just like that the nucleus of the team’s championship squad was assembled.
Times, they are a changing right now. With so much uncertainty, it’s conceivable and likely that the creative Danny Ainge will have to think outside the box yet again. Coming off of an NBA Finals loss, the metaphorical window may have closed on The Big Three.
With contracts and age it was a three year window and the C’s got one championship out of it.
Time to build for the next one.