Grampa Celtic Wishes He could get Excited over Paul Pierce

Grampa Celtic Wishes He could get Excited over Paul Pierce

June 25, 1998

I wish I could get excited.

Paul Pierce? Hey, I like Paul Pierce. Why did he slip to 10? 'Cause it's still a judgment, that's why. Teams ahead of the Boston Celtics all wanted somebody else. There is no so-called right answer. There are wrong answers, as we all know, but there is no right answer. Paul Pierce was there when the Celtics picked, and Rick Pitino was up there beaming. "Last year we got a little unlucky," he told the FleetCenter crowd last night.

"This year we got lucky."

On paper, it sounds great. Paul Pierce is a pure small forward who averaged 20 points a game for one of the premier college basketball programs of them all. He was a great high school player and he was a great player at

Kansas, and if Rick Pitino is as lucky as thinks he is, he could become a very good NBA player. If he's what he appears to be, the Celtics have three brilliant young mid-sized talents under the age of 23 in Antoine

Walker, Ron Mercer, and Paul Pierce.

(This is where I could get into the whole Walker business, but let's table that for at least 24 hours, OK?)

Great. I hope it all works out. But it's gotten to the point where the NBA draft has become one of the most depressing nights of the year on my sporting calendar.

What we had last evening was another example of the beast devouring its young. We have seen the steady deterioration of play in this league, and the decline will continue with the addition of more immature, incomplete, and almost certainly misguided players to the mix. Listening to the comments of Hubie Brown, John Thompson, and Rick Majerus on TNT last night, you'd think that every one of the first 10 players selected was on his way to sure stardom.


Isn't gonna happen.

Eight of the first 10 players selected in the 1998 draft were underclassmen. The only four-year player chosen was Raef LaFrentz, who went at No. 3 to Denver. First pick Michael Olokowandi, a departure from the new normsince he is a mature 23 years old, came to these shores from England three years ago. He played three years of American college basketball, but he is a legitimate academic senior.

Everyone else came out early, or, in the case of German Dirk Nowitzki, didn't play here at all. We already know what to expect when he decides to play here (he might choose to wait for a year or two, although Pitino said he would have been "available to the Boston Celtics" had that situation materialized). Doc Rivers explained Nowitzki on TV last night. He is a European, which means he would have been utterly clueless on defense.

These kids are really amazing sometimes. TNT's Craig Sager asked Robert "Tractor" Traylor why he was in the best shape of his life now after spending three years at 300-plus pounds at Michigan. The kid said something about there being only 30 games a year in college. Huh? It's OK to be fat for your college coach, but you'd better get in shape for your pro career just because they play 82 games? I don't think that's the answer Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, John Havlicek, or Joe Dumars would have given, do you?

Sacramento made Pierce possible for Boston by taking a 6-1 point guard from Florida named Jason Williams. Sacramento needed a point guard badly. How badly? The Kings needed one badly enough to take a kid who was originally signed by Providence, then went to Marshall for one year before transferring to Florida, where he was kicked off the team after 20 games during his one and only season as a Gator for violating "team and athletic policy." Sounds like a very coachable kid. What he needs is for some coach to give him an hourly spanking. What he'll now receive as the seventh pick in the draft is a guaranteed contract for approximately $ 1.5 million annually over the next three years.

What a country.

Larry Hughes was the eighth pick. He spent one year at St. Louis, where he averaged 20 points while shooting 41 percent from the floor. He is a nice talent, but is he ready in any way for the NBA? Probably not. But he's the eighth pick. And what, by the way, does it say about the quality of the big men available that the No. 1 pick in the entire draft is a young man from Nigeria who wasn't even playing basketball four years ago? Perhaps Michael Olokowandi is the next Hakeem Olajuwon. Perhaps he's the next Dikembe Mutombo. But there is no guarantee he won't be the next Yinka Dare.

Rick Pitino loves the idea of Paul Pierce, and that's fine. But he also loved the idea of Chauncey Billups last year. Maybe there was a reason Paul Pierce dropped. I just know I'd feel better about Paul Pierce, Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, and Robert Traylor if they had gone through four years of college so they could enter the NBA as better men. The battle has been lost. With each passing year, the NBA draft disgorges more and more incomplete players. You see the results. No NBA person can look me in the eye and say it's as entertaining and satisfying a league as it was 10 or 15 years ago.

I'm sorry. I used to love the draft. Now I hate it.

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