June 30, 2005
I can certainly understand the Celtics taking Green. The sexy upside always seems to prevail in these circumstances, and he could be a really good player in a few years. What's unfathomable is all the other teams passed on him and why. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was enthralled by the kid. No dice. The Raptors, who desperately need athleticism (see Rose, Jalen), passed on him twice. And they're not exactly on the cusp of a title.
But Green is a Celtic and, perhaps in 2009, he and Jefferson will be the Bird and McHale of theCeltics and Mayor Johnny Damon will be issuing yearly parade permits.
Until then, well, it's imperative that Ainge bring in veterans, even if that means dealing Paul Pierce. It has come to that.
Pierce was the non-story story on draft night. The Celtics even had an advertisement for season tickets ready without his picture in it should he have been traded.
It seems to be only a matter of time. The guy doesn't like the coach and the coach isn't going anywhere. The coach doesn't particularly enjoy coaching Pierce, especially when his system made Pierce a better player, and everyone in the league understood that. Everyone, that is, except Pierce.
Ideally, you'd like your best player and coach to have the kind of relationship that Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich enjoy in San Antonio. Either one would lie on the railroad tracks for the other. In Boston, either guy would push the other one onto the tracks right before the train.
Here's a pair of trade scenarios the Celtics could explore: We know the Hornets want to get rid of Jamaal Magloire and that he wants out of New Orleans (along with everyone else on the roster). Would the Hornets package Magloire, George Lynch, and a future No. 1 for Pierce? Or for Pierce and Kendrick Perkins? The Celtics could then keep Magloire or turn around and trade him to Toronto for Eric Williams, Lamond Murray, and maybe a No. 1.
This would do two things. It would give the Celtics two big veteran locker room guys in Lynch and Williams, whose presence is essential on such a young team. With Gary Payton gone and Antoine Walker on the precipice, there's no experience on this team (Mark Blount is the oldest and Pierce and Raef LaFrentz have been in the NBA the longest). Yes, Pierce would be gone. But scoring was never a problem for the Celtics and it shouldn't be with next season's team. And maybe Ainge could extract a couple of picks in the deals.
Every NBA executive I've talked to since the playoffs ended has said Pierce is available. The draft advertisement tends to support that. The problem is, his value has never been lower, thanks to his rift with coach Doc Rivers, his reputation as a selfish player, and his ludicrous behavior in Game 6 of the Indiana series.
But the Hornets could sell him as an All-Star (and they need something to bring people into their building) and Pierce would automatically be The Man in the Crescent City. (The night life issue might be a bit dicey in New Orleans.) And if the Celtics didn't see fit to send Magloire to Canada, they'd have one of the better Eastern Conference centers on their roster.
It's impossible to understate the need for grown-ups on this team. With the drafting of Green, theCeltics are, well, incredibly green. They have nine players on their roster with no more than two years' experience. (That includes both second-round picks from Tuesday's draft.) You can promise excitement with youth. You can promise entertainment with youth. You can promise direction and, well, promise with youth.
But in the NBA, you need more than that if you actually want to, you know, win. If that wasn't the case, the Clippers would have won about eight NBA titles by now. The Clippers (and the Hawks before them) were always the best NBA team in warm ups. But when the game started, it was clueless chaos.
The Celtics have a chance to be decent, but the arrival of Gerald Green isn't going to make any serious fan clear out vacation time next May and June for a deep run in the playoffs. They need to reconfigure and they need to do it before they all report to training camp in October.
They don't even need value for value for Pierce, because, at this point, they can't get it. I remember when the Timberwolves traded Christian Laettner because Laettner had become unbearable after three-plus seasons in Minnesota, even though he arguably was the best player on the team. They got Andrew Lang and Spud Webb, who, collectively, played 46 games for the franchise and were gone the next year. The Wolves still would make that deal.
My guess is that there won't be anything close to a fan rebellion if Ainge deals Pierce because the serious fan will understand why the deal had to be made. When Walker was traded, Ainge felt he had some explaining to do. With Pierce, whatever happens, the deal should be self-explanatory.