Antoine Gone, But Ainge Got a Lot in Return

November 06, 2005

The release of Curtis Borchardt Oct. 27 did more than just finish off the Celtics' roster. It also pretty much closed the book on Antoine Walker's two stays in Boston. While Toine may still hold the city and the Celtics dear in his heart, he can now look back and know that whatever transpires in the next few years will be in large part thanks to him and to the assembled multitudes that Danny Ainge acquired in his three deals involving Employee No. 8.

The first Walker trade, in October 2003, was the one that shocked everyone. Walker and Tony Delk went to Dallas for Raef LaFrentz, Chris Mills, Jiri Welsch, and the Mavericks' No. 1 pick in 2004.

How did that work out? Well, LaFrentz starts and contributes for the Celtics. Welsch was traded to Cleveland for a No. 1 pick in 2007, an absolute steal given that the Cavs shipped Welsch to the Bucks a few months later for a second-rounder. (The 2007 pick is protected through the first 10 spots.) And the No. 1 pick from Dallas in 2004? That was used to draft Delonte West. So that deal now works out to Walker and Delk for LaFrentz, Mills, West, and a No. 1 pick in 2007.

Ainge subsequently packaged Mills in a three-team trade with Detroit and Atlanta in which he parted with the never-used swingman and Mike James and wound up with Chucky Atkins and the Pistons' No. 1 pick in 2004. That translated into Tony Allen on draft night.

While Allen was a nice addition, you still have to wonder what would have happened had Ainge not stepped in as the third party in that deal. For one thing, Rasheed Wallace, then with the Hawks, would not have been traded to the Pistons and Detroit would not have won the title in 2004. (Don't take my word for it. Joe Dumars and Larry Brown both have said so publicly.)

The next-to-last chapter in the Walker story came in February 2005, when, for reasons that had to come from ownership, Ainge brought Toine back, knowing full well it likely would be for only a few months. But Ainge gave up virtually nothing to get Walker back; Tom Gugliotta, Gary Payton, Michael Stewart, and a No. 1 pick went to the Hawks, a No. 1 pick the Celtics had acquired from the Lakers in the Payton deal. Payton, of course, quickly came back.

I always hoped that the Celtics would re-sign Walker. He was one player who loved being a Celtic. Yes, he has a game that, like scotch, is an acquired taste. And some never like it at all. (The New York Post's Fred Kerber feels Walker is one of the worst players in the league, having watched Kenyon Martin destroy Toine over the years.)

But there was no denying the impact he had here in his second go-round: increased interest, increased attendance, a terrific finish to the season, and a playoff berth. (We won't get into the division title nonsense.) The evidence strongly suggests that the Celtics would not have been a playoff participant without Walker.

But Walker wanted more money than the Celtics were willing to pay and the team felt it had to give Springfield-bound Al Jefferson some room to breathe. So Walker was signed and traded in a deal that brought the Celtics a likable lug in Borchardt; the rights to a 6-foot-11-inch Euro; the SPCA's favorite player, Qyntel Woods; a second-round pick, and a huge trade exception. Part of that exception was used to sign Dan Dickau. There still is some $2.7 million remaining.

So, the final score in all of this, listing the guys who actually played here (with the exception of Mills, who was moved twice):

Ainge traded Walker, Delk, Gugliotta, Stewart, Mills, Mike James, Welsch, and a No. 1 pick.

Ainge acquired LaFrentz, West, Allen, Atkins, Dickau, Borchardt, the rights to Albert Miralles, a No. 1 pick in 2007, and a trade exception worth $2.7 million that expires in August.

That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.


Phil Jackson wasn't the only one Red Auerbach had some fun with when he made it through Boston last week. Another was Shaquille O'Neal.

While making an appearance on WEEI, Auerbach was asked about O'Neal and while conceding that Shaq was a "giant among giants" and an excellent player, the Celtics' patriarch then posed the following questions (and answers): "Does he rebound? No. Does he block shots? Eh [as in, sort of]. Does he play good defense? Eh. Does he run the floor? Eh. Russell did all of those things."

Shaq won't be doing any of those things in the near future, as an ankle sprain will sideline him 2-4 weeks. And given that he looks a little, um, bigger this season, I'd go for the four weeks. He suffered the injury Thursday night while rebounding a missed 3-pointer by Antoine Walker.

Jackson, by the way, was apprised of Auerbach's quasi-derogatory comments Thursday night, prior to the Lakers' home opener against the Suns. His response? "Red and I, I think, have a mutual admiration. That's all I can say."

Auerbach has tweaked Jackson in the past for taking over tailor-made teams rather than building winners. The redhead said last week that Jackson has a "built-in excuse" this season if the Lakers don't win: "We're building." Jackson has always treated the matter with a degree of levity as well as his usual dose of sarcastic humor.


Now that the deadline has passed, there were only two players from the first round of the 2003 draft who were eligible to have their fourth-year options picked up and whose teams declined to do so.

One of those, we know, was the Celtics' Marcus Banks. The other was Reece Gaines of the Milwaukee Bucks. Both will become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.

Banks, taken 13th overall, is still with the Celtics, while Gaines, taken 15th by Orlando, is already with his third team, having been traded to Houston and then sent on to Milwaukee.

There were two others from the first round that year who were waived before the Oct. 31 deadline and thus not eligible for an extension: Troy Bell (16th) and Ndudi Ebi (26th). Bell was released by Memphis after his second year and then tried unsuccessfully to catch on with the Hornets. Ebi, taken by the T-Wolves out of high school, was cut last week, just before the Wolves had to make a decision on his fourth year. As it turns out, he didn't even get a third year -- and his first two years consisted of 19 games and 86 minutes.

A fifth draftee from that round, Carlos Delfino of the Pistons, did not join the NBA until the start of the 2004-05 season. Thus the Pistons have until Oct. 31, 2006, to make a decision on his fourth-year option.






The Hawks are one of only four teams that did not carry 15-man rosters out of training camp. Atlanta, San Antonio, and Sacramento all have only 13 players on the roster (and thus one player designated for the inactive list) while Golden State has 14. The new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that the average number of players per roster be set at 14; and with 26 teams having 15, that is not a problem. The agreement also mandates that every team carry at least one player on the inactive list. There is a provision, however, allowing a team to go two weeks with no players on the inactive list.

Developing stories

The NBA's Development League draft last week had some familiar names. Will Bynum , who was with the Celtics for much of training camp before being released, was the fifth overall pick, selected by the Roanoke Dazzle. Later in that round, a player by the name of Bernard King was taken. Yes, his father played basketball. But no, his dad is not the Bernard King . His dad is Victor King , who played well enough at Louisiana Tech to be taken by the Lakers in the second round (39th overall) of the 1979 draft. That was the same draft in which Magic Johnson was taken No. 1 overall. Additionally, former Holy Cross center Neil Fingleton was taken by the Austin Toros in the fifth round. Fingleton played in the ABA last season, and if he makes the team, he will be coached by former Celtic Dennis Johnson.

Goin' South

The Timberwolves became the first team to officially designate a pair of players to their affiliate in the D-League. Wolves hoops boss Kevin McHale on Friday said he was sending Bracey Wright and Dwayne Jones to the Florida Flame. That's the same D-League team where the Celtics would send their players.

No, no, Nene

What is it about the Nuggets and Opening Night injuries? Last year, guard Voshon Lenard went down for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. This year, it was Nene , who tore his ACL and also is out for the year. Prior to the injury, Denver coach George Karl said, "I've never seen Nene in a more positive frame of mind. This summer, he came back and he has a smile on his face, he has an energy to his body, he has an enthusiasm for the team that I didn't see last year." The toughest break for Nene is that he will be a restricted free agent next summer and was counting on a big season and a big payday as well. The Nuggets and Nene tried to reach an agreement on an extension before the season but were unable to do so.

Committed to change

Knicks coach Larry Brown , who coached the United States team at the 2004 Olympics, was a frequent critic of the shortened practice schedule leading up to the Games. The newly minted US coach, Mike Krzyzewski , and USA Basketball major domo Jerry Colangelo , have decided that the next US team (for the 2006 World Championships in Japan) will open camp in late July. Hmm. That sounds suspiciously close to the time frame that had Brown so frazzled. What about it, Larry? "We didn't have a long camp settled for the [Olympic team] because we already had a team from the summer before," Brown said. "Then, all of a sudden, we had a brand new team. And we were playing games in that period of time, and I think that worked against us. I don't think you can put together a team in two weeks. But these people are looking at a three-year commitment from a core group of players, so maybe that is different. But to me, the important thing is the commitment. You can't have guys committing and then changing their minds. In our case, the guys all had valid excuses and you couldn't blame them. They were the ones at risk. But if you have a group who commits and stays committed, I think that will make a big difference."

Ford in the driver's seat

The Bucks opened with road wins in Philadelphia and New Jersey, a rather significant statement given that the team won a total of seven road games all last season and four of those were against the Bobcats and Raptors. After watching the Bucks beat the Sixers on Opening Night, an NBA scout offered this assessment of T.J. Ford : "He looked unbelievably quick and it's clear that he makes that team go. He is a difference-maker."

Catch them while you can

The visit by the Pistons Friday night represented their only foray into Boston all season. Sad but true (but probably good news for the Celtics, who play the Pistons only three times instead of four). And last night's visit to Charlotte represented the Celtics' only appearance in the Queen City. The Celtics play four games against their "divisional" rivals: Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and Toronto. They play four games against six of the other 10 teams in the conference and three games against the other four teams. In addition to the Pistons and Bobcats, the Celtics have only three games with Atlanta and Milwaukee. Thus, if you're dying to see Joe Johnson or Marvin Williams in Atlanta red and gold, you have one chance to do so this season, Jan. 6.

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