Whenever the Celtics play Portland, it’s easy to think, “Holy hell, the Celtics could have been stuck with Greg Oden!”
At the time, of course, it wasn’t considered being “stuck with Greg Oden.” It was considered drafting the player some analysts compared to Bill Russell. It was considered drafting the league’s next great center, a franchise cornerstone who would affect games on both ends and win championships for his team. In fact, if my memory is not mistaken, Oden once proclaim his desire to win 15 NBA titles. Umm, yeah, about that.
I think we can all agree it was for the best the Celtics didn’t end up with Oden. 782 surgeries later (just an estimate), Oden has played 82 games in four seasons. He still has time to resurrect his career, but with every injury it makes more sense that Oden’s body will never allow him to be an elite player. It’s sad, when you think about it.
Greg Oden was considered a better professional prospect than any other college or high school player in 2006 (yes, even Kevin Durant). He was destined for greatness, destined for a career filled with nothing but Defensive Player of the Year Awards and championships. Who knows, maybe an MVP trophy or two (or three, or four). And now? Now he rehabs, and probably wonders what could have been. He probably also wonders why. Why so many injuries? Why not someone else? Why me?
Yet Oden isn’t the only Blazer who could have been a Celtic. If Danny Ainge had been smart, Brandon Roy probably should have played in Boston. In 2006, Ainge traded the Celtics’ first-round draft pick (the 7th pick) to Portland for Sebastian Telfair. That pick, which turned out to be Randy Foye, was later swapped for the 6th pick (Brandon Roy). So the pick Ainge traded for Sebastian Telfair turned into Brandon Roy. Ainge effectively traded Roy for a 5’11″, over-hyped point guard whose most significant basketball achievement remains making the documentary, “Through the Fire.”
At the time, Ainge’s blunder looked severe. What kind of moron can pass up an opportunity to scoop up Brandon Roy, just to acquire Sebastian [Bleeping] Telfair? But now I look back on the 2006 and 2007 Drafts with hindsight. The Celtics sure had the basketball gods on their side for two straight years, didn’t they?
In those two drafts, if the Celtics had been what we once considered “lucky”, the Celtics could be the team saddled by a star with bad knees that have no hope of improvement. They could be the team with a franchise center that misses every game with injury. They could be the young team that is more bothered by injuries than any other in the NBA.
Think about it. If the Celtics ended up with Roy, they might have built the future around him. Paul Pierce didn’t want to stay for a rebuilding project, so he might have demanded a trade. If Pierce wasn’t in Boston, there’s no way Kevin Garnett would have agreed to join the Celtics, and there’s no way Danny Ainge would have traded for an old shooting guard named Ray Allen. The Celtics very easily could have been built around Roy, and his injury problems would have been devastating to the entire franchise.
Same with Oden. If the lottery balls had bounced differently, Grandpa Greg would have been drafted by Boston — at least according to Doc Rivers. Paul Pierce, again, might have requested a trade and the Big Three never would have been formed. The Celtics would have built a future around their dominant center, only to find out that dominance is impossible to achieve while constantly in rehab.
Had things gone differently in those two drafts, I don’t know what the Celtics would look like today. But I know the present wouldn’t be so pretty, and that’s enough for me. So thank you, basketball gods, or luck of the Irish, or whatever string of good fortune contributed to the Big Three’s formation.
Things could have worked out far differently, and for the Boston Celtics that would not have been good.