Friday, July 20, 2012

Celtics Reloaded Pt.1: Ainge and Doc's Off Season Quest

Lets look back to June 9th, 2012. A night that could have changed the Boston Celtics franchise for the foreseeable future. The Celtics had just lost to the eventual World Champion Miami Heat squad in  game seven, capping off what was an epic playoff run.

Ainge and Doc have a lot to be happy about this off season
The story lines were endless. First off, Celtics players, fans, and ownership were trying to stomach a second straight playoff exit to the hated "Superfriends" that make up the Miami Heat roster. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and a surprisingly affective Chris Bosh took down the wily old veterans that Boston had fallen in love with over the past five years. The league seemingly has moved on from the Celtics aging core and it would have been an easy choice to defend if Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers decided to blow it all up and start from scratch.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were old. Pierce and Allen were showing their age with declining numbers, while Kevin Garnett seemed to be giving everything he had with a 'win one for the gipper' type post season. The immediate reaction after the loss from the Boston fan base was, "Thank You."

Thank you for saving the Celtics. Thank you for making basketball in Boston relevant again. Thank you for Banner 17. Thank you for the Big Three. Thank you for the memories. It was over. Year five of the three year plan seemed to come to a halt at the hands of a younger, more athletic, and so called 'hungrier' Heat team. It was the ceremonial torch passing to the new 'dynasty' in the Eastern Conference. 
However, people forgot one thing about the men running the Celtics. Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers were never elite in their playing days, but they did share one quality, relentlessness. 
Ainge and Rivers were not going to let this just die out. They were not going to let the Celtics fall into the dreaded "rebuilding period," which is a cardinal sin for any management group to even utter in Boston. (Just ask Theo Epstien about that bridge he wanted to build.)

No, for these two there is no quit. The Celtics showed something last year. They showed that the attitudes of the President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach were carrying on to the court. 
Rebuilding is not an option.  Reloading was the ONLY way to go.

Ray Who? The new BigThree.

So, Danny and Doc didn't waste any time resigning the team MVP of the 2012 postseason, Kevin Garnett, to a three year deal which when all is said and done will pay out 36 million to a man who made 21 million last season alone. Garnett, was the most important piece to this reloading process. If he decided to call it quits, which by all accounts he had plenty of reasons to do so, the Celtics' off season plans would have stalled from the get go.

Then there was Ray Allen, who respectfully, when ranking the big three, would be #3 on that list. Apparently, Ray had another agenda and didn't want to be a part of the reloading process. He  might have thought it was a wasted effort, a lot of people would agree. Building around a core of 35-37 year old's isn't the hottest trend going in the NBA right now. Instead, he joined the Miami Heat. A very interesting move by someone who fans, teammates (maybe other than Rondo), and coaches alike thought was all in on "UMBUTU" and all the things that made the Celtics such a likable bunch.  
This could have been a major setback for Doc and Ainge's plan to round the wagons and make another run, but Ainge basically said "Fine, we don't need you Ray, go for it well see you next June," when he didn't wait for a decision and signed a younger (barely) and more adaptable sharp shooter in Jason Terry.  With that signing, there were no ego's to deal with, no hard feelings, and no coddling needed. Terry has made a career coming off the bench and has proven that he can do it for a championship team.

So great, the Celtics were right were they left off last season an old bunch of vets, that wanted to prove that they could keep up with the young guns. But that wasn't going to cut it, as they learned the past two years. The NBA is developing into a young mans game and you need to run, or you will get left in the dust. Adapt or die, and that's just what the Celts brass did.

Ainge quickly resigned Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Brandon Bass. Not only to beef up the middle, but creating a scenario for Doc to put in a smaller, faster, but powerful line up that they could put on the floor any time the game is slowing down.  There was one more player on Danny's radar.

Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass at recent
Celtics Press Conference.
Courtney Lee would be perfect for this team. A 4 year veteran who has shown tough skin and a scoring touch. He's been able to 'get his' every time he's seen action and is not someone you need to worry about cowering in the spotlight. A successful sign and trade was put through yesterday, with the Celtics giving up those "rebuilding" pieces they wanted nothing to do with and sent them to Houston for a very valuable asset in Lee.

Enough credit cannot be give to Ainge and Rivers for working together and not giving up on the Celtics future Championship ambitions. They took a team that was looking at rebuilding, and if they went that route, in my mind; it would have been a ticking time bomb.  Pierce, most likely would have been traded at the deadline and could you imagine Rondo on a losing team? It's hard enough to control his emotions on a winning squad never mind him throwing picture perfect passes only for JuJuan Johnson to miss an open dunk.

So instead of thanking the Big Three for the  5 years of bliss they gave to Celtics fans, thank Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and Celtics ownership for giving us a chance to get back to the promise land.

twitter: @Seandutra

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