You have to hand it to Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge: afraid of being unpopular he is not.
For those of you whose memories have been temporarily rendered useless by your Memorial Day weekend binge drinking, I’ll remind you that Ainge wasn’t afraid to admit that he would have traded Celtics icon Larry Bird toward the backend of Bird’s career. The logic behind such a move is evident – Bird’s body was breaking down from years of his “hold nothing back” style of play – but so is the lack of loyalty (should I say, humanity?) – Bird was one of those players who Celtics fans probably would have rather seen signed to a one-year contract even if he was confined to a wheelchair, rather than traded.
Last year, Ainge proved he wasn’t bluffing when he discussed trading one of Boston’s most beloved athletes, as he pulled the trigger on the trade that sent Paul “The Truth” Pierce to Brooklyn despite the fact that most Celtics fans preferred to see Pierce retire as a member of the team that drafted him straight out of Kansas. Sure Pierce didn’t mean as much to Boston as Larry Legend did, and yes, it was the correct move to make from a business standpoint – but again, fans are not fans of the business side of the NBA; they are fans of the teams, and the players. Fortunately, Ainge is not enslaved by the same emotions that motivate most of the Celtics faithful, a necessary trait in a successful member of any front office.
So yeah: I’ll give Ainge credit where credit is deserved. He understands both the player side AND the business side of professional basketball, and has proven that as a member of the Celtics’ front office he is unafraid to ruffle some feathers if he is certain he is making decisions that are in the best interest of the organization.
However: Ainge is uncharted waters right now, as he is navigating the Celtics through his first real rebuild as PoBO. Sure, he “built” the Celtics into the 2008 NBA Champions, but he already had a proven superstar to build around in Paul Pierce, and while the two moves that resulted in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen being brought to Boston were certainly bold, Allen’s contract didn’t expire until 2010, and Garnett immediately signed a three-year extension on the day he signed with Boston.
Compare that scenario with the possibility Ainge shared the other day on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rick show:
Danny Ainge just told us that he would be open to trading for a high caliber player in their last year without an agreement to an extension.
— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) May 21, 2014
Say what – Ainge would roll the dice on Kevin Love – come one: that HAS to be the player to whom he was referring – WITHOUT requiring Love to agree to a contract extension?
This madness can mean only one of two things: either Ainge is certain he can win a championship with the roster Boston currently has + Love and a sleeper in the 2014 NBA Draft (highly unlikely), or Ainge is certain that, once Love comes to Boston, he will compelled to re-sign with the team upon becoming a free agent in 2015.
Either way, Ainge would appear to be certain of what I would label highly uncertain scenarios. I can’t argue against the fact that adding Kevin Love to the team would automatically improve the Celtics to the point of being good enough to fight for one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Still, the Celtics would have to give up the sixth pick in this year’s draft, and possibly the seventeenth pick as well, and at least a player along the likes of Jared Sullinger or Jeff Green. In other words, the Celtics would be better – but not championship-caliber better.
But that’s just my opinion, and I’m not Danny Ainge.
The eyes and ears of every Boston Celtics fans are now trained squarely on Trader Danny, so say this much for him: he certainly has made Boston’s offseason entertaining! My question is, will Ainge’s vision result in the sort of success that won him the NBA Executive of the Year Award for the 2007-2008 season? Or is he merely a mad scientist who is about to watch his next creation go terribly, horribly wrong?
Either way, I’m enthralled!