Danny Ainge has had just as much luck with basketball players over the past four years as Kim Kardashian. Since completing the blockbuster deals that landed 14-time NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett alongside sharpshooter Ray Allen, the Celtics general manager has shifted from the smartest man in Boston to nearly the most brainless operator this city has ever seen.
For the past decade, the city of Boston has set a precise standard when it comes to their sports. Winning is the only thing that matters and anything below a championship is always subpar.
To Ainge’s defense, he has helped morph Boston into title town. In the 2007 offseason, Ainge’s flurry of moves immediately shifted the Celtics from a lottery bound team to an NBA title contender. The “Big Three,” suddenly emerged and the Celtics were back to playing a brand of basketball reminiscent of those when Larry Bird scampered down the old parquet in the Garden.
The 21-year drought was over and the Celtics were able to hoist their 17th championship trophy. Since that feat, Ainge has executed a number of jaw-dropping, eye-opening and uncharacteristically ruthless transactions that have the “ageless” Celtics backs against the wall.
For starters, Ainge has completed a number of puzzling trades, most notably giving away the anchor of the 2007 championship winning defense Kendrick Perkins for virtually nothing in return. Perkins, whose contract was up at the end of the 2010-2011 season, was set to become an unrestricted free agent and was looking for an extension to stay in Boston.
Instead Ainge oddly shipped Perkins alongside fan-favorite Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for forward, Jeff Green and center, Nenad Krstic, who have started a meager 22 games for Boston since the trade.
The seven-foot Serbian, Krstic, now plays overseas in Russia while Green, who signed a one-year contract extension with Boston during the summer, has not been able to contribute at all this season after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, ending his hopes of playing basketball during the 2011-2012 year.
The Celtics, who were 41-14 prior to dealing Perkins, have since posted a repulsive 35-33 record, nearly getting swept by Miami in the playoffs and starting off this season just 15-17 heading out of the all-star break.
To make matters worse, over the past four years Ainge has passed on the likes of young stars such as DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Mario Chalmers and Landry Fields in the drafts for no-name players such as J.R. Giddens, Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Lester Hudson.
Signings such as Stephon Marbury, Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal have left Celtics fans confused and angered as to how a team can possibly go from being worst in the league to champions the next season and then back to the bottom of the pile a couple years later.
The Celtics are old. They have a nucleus of players that are each above 34 in Pierce, Garnett and Allen and a young, pure point guard with loads of talent who can not seem to get over his ego. In other words, they have commanding trade assets.
The re-building stage for Boston has yet to initiate. However with Garnett and Allen’s contracts coming off the books at the end of this season, Ainge could quite craftily erase any memories of his horrid moves the past few years, before the upcoming March 15th trade deadline.
The Celtics GM has made it public knowledge that if Boston does have a chance to split up the “Big Three,” in order to make the overall team better then he has no regrets letting either Pierce, Garnett or Allen walk away from Boston.
First off, Ainge should ship Garnett and his expiring contract to Dallas for Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Mavericks, should welcome a trade for Garnett with open arms, as KG would immediately improve Dallas’ interior defense, something they lost when Tyson Chandler left via free agency this past summer.
Ainge should then seek a Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal for Pau Gasol and Andrew Goudelock swap with Los Angeles. Although Rondo is already a two-time all-star and a top-ten point guard in the NBA, he has shown a lack of discipline while playing in Boston.
He most recently was suspended for two-games for throwing the ball at an official after a bad call and proceeded to publicly express his dissatisfaction after the front office shipped away Perkins last February.
Parting ways with Garnett and Rondo would immediately create a buzz in Boston but should strengthen the Celtics chances in the long run. Brandon Bass, who has been one of the lone bright spots for Doc Rivers and his staff this season, could quickly jump into a starting position alongside Gasol, who at 31, still has enough gas left in the tank to contribute at a high level for Boston.
The question then remains who would play point guard? With the acquisition of Odom, Boston would get a versatile player who can spread the floor from all five positions, including the point.
His connections with Gasol, tie back to when they won two titles together in Los Angeles and with Avery Bradley still on the Celtics roster and a young talent such as Goudelock coming off the bench, Rivers could mix and match and see what works best.
A starting five of Gasol, Bass, Pierce, Allen and Odom would immediately give the Celtics a better chance at making any noise in the playoffs then they currently have sitting at eighth in the Eastern Conference. Marion and Goudelock would also strengthen a lousy Celtics bench that sits at 27th in the league, contributing only 25.7 points per game according to NBA.com.
Ainge needs to break up this unit of players who obviously have not mixed and matched the right way in order to compete at a high level. Instead, the Celtics look like they’re taking steps in the wrong direction and banking on the hopes of signing an elite superstar over the off-season, which is a risky approach.
The last top-tier free agent signing the Celtics made in the off-season was Dominique Wilkins in 1993 after Red Auerbach scratched, clawed and eventually lured the swingman into playing for Boston.
If Ainge is hopeful on superstars such as Dwight Howard and Deron Williams teaming up in Beantown, then Celtics fans should take a deep breathe and prepare