Trader Dan: Strong Sense of Self
Isn't that just one of the nicknames Danny Ainge has acquired as the basketball boss of the Boston Celtics over the last 14 years?
Wasn't that always one of the traits he displayed in his 71/2-year playing career with the Celtics, the sense that he was not only fearless but that he always would follow his instincts?
So are we really supposed to be surprised that he traded the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft for the third pick, and a future No. 1?
We shouldn't be.
From the beginning of this great sports career of his, one that began in Eugene, Oregon, Ainge not only had a certain confidence about him, he had a very strong sense of self. No big surprise. It took a very strong sense of self to play on teams with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish, never mind the mercurial Dennis Johnson. Rest assured that on the talent train that was the Celtics in the 1980s, there were no shrinking violets.
Or as Bird said in his book "Drive: The Story of My Life," Ainge had a horrible first day of practice with the Celtics, "shooting 0 for 2547."
Then again, Bird was never known for his sensitivity.
But Ainge never had to take a backseat to anyone when it came to athletic prowess. Wikipedia says he's the only person in the country ever named a first-team Parade magazine high school All-American in football, basketball and baseball. He also played in the major leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays while still in college, to the point that he's still the youngest Blue Jays player to hit a home run, at just 77 days past his 20th birthday.
Is it any wonder that he's always seemed to have a very strong sense of who he is?
There shouldn't be.
This always has been one of Ainge's greatest strengths, this belief in his own instincts. We saw that when he traded Antoine Walker even though at the time Walker was one of the faces of the franchise. Fear of being wrong? Fear of being second-guessed?
Not Danny Ainge.
That lack of fear has been Ainge's greatest strength as the Celtics' poobah, as if, yes, he is a significant part of the storied past, and those banners that hang from the rafters, but he's not crippled by them either.
The past can rain down heavy in Boston, and a strong case can be made that the Celtics paid a steep price for hanging on to all of the Original Big Three for too long.
There's also the reality that the draft keeps getting younger and younger, full of more and more and more question marks. Certainly Markelle Fultz, just having finished his freshman year at Washington, is one. Great talent? No doubt. The best prospect in the draft? Ainge said not for the Celtics. We'll see.
Ainge was quoted Monday saying that the Celtics have been evaluating the players in upcoming draft for a couple of years now. No doubt. That's the job.
And this is the time when rumors fly around like missed shots in pregame warmups. The latest late Tuesday afternoon had Jaylen Brown and the third pick in the draft to the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis. Another had the third pick in the draft to Chicago for Jimmy Butler. The missing word in those last two sentences is "rumor."
NBA silly season?
But if games are played in the winter they often are won on draft night, and the deal-making that surrounds it. Certainly it promises to be a big night for Ainge, one way or another. Draft nights always are our little peek inside the NBA's kitchen, the night we get a little glimpse of how the sausage gets made.
The Celtics are in a delicate spot. They recently finished a very good season, but not a great one, not when the banners in the rafters can become like accusers, as if always asking, "We did it; why can't you?"
That's the question, and we all know it will be asked soon enough, for these are the times we live in, even if you're Danny Ainge, with an NBA championship on your resume as the basketball boss.
The banners staring down from the rafters tell us that.
- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)