Danny Ainge confirmed Wednesday night the notion that nobody’s roster spot is sacred, which should be nothing newsworthy because Ainge is the type of general manager who would submit himself to Chinese water torture for 15 straight days if he felt it would improve the Boston Celtics.
Still, the fact remains that it will be tough to find young value in return for any of Boston’s Big Three. (Boston Globe)
Ainge said he would consider trades if they would net younger talent. He has maintained he does not want the franchise to go through a 10-year span of insignificance as it did following the departures of the previous Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, who remained with the team past their primes.
“First of all it’s a different era,” Ainge told the Globe. “I sat with Red (Auerbach) during a Christmas party (in the 1990s). Red was talking to Larry, Kevin, and myself and there was a lot of trade discussion at the time and Red actually shared some of the trade discussions. And I told Red what are you doing? Why are you waiting?
“He had a chance to trade Larry (to Indiana) for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and (Steve) Stipanovich and he had a chance to trade Kevin (to Dallas) for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. I was like are you kidding? I mean I feel that way now. If I were presented with those kind of deals for our aging veterans, it’s a done deal to continue the success.”
Ainge said he does not want a repeat of the 1990s in Boston.
“After those guys retired, the Celtics had a long drought,” he said. “But those (types of fruitful trades) aren’t presenting themselves. In today’s day and age with 30 teams in the NBA, 15 teams know they have no chance of winning a championship. They are building with young players. It’s a different era that we live in. It’s easy to say conceptually but you have to always weigh what are real opportunities.”
Some would argue Ainge already has allowed the Big Three era to extend too far. He still has plenty of options to return the Celtics to prominence — perhaps by trading Garnett, Allen and/or Pierce prior to the deadline, perhaps by sitting still and using Boston’s considerable cap space to wheel and deal this summer — but the Celtics are 5-8, resting in NBA purgatory somewhere contention and rebuilding. The Celtics have cap space after this season, affording Ainge the ability to bide his time and continue to gaze over his options, but as Rich Levine writes, “from the second Ainge pulled off the deal for Kevin Garnett, and hitched the Celtics wagon to three superstars on the tail end of their super-stardom, we were assured that this is exactly what wouldn’t happen.”
Ainge is STILL trying to assure it won’t happen. Yet the Celtics are not contenders. They will improve — it would be difficult not to — but they are not contenders as presently constituted. Ainge has allowed the Big Three era to continue past its expiration date and the results have not been comely. He has done just what he always promised he would not.
The difference, he would argue? Seeing this year as little more than a bridge year to whatever next season brings, Ainge left the Celtics with maneuverability to approach the future from a number of possible angles. He managed to allow Garnett and Allen to play out their contracts while forging a path to follow in case the Celtics do not find a suitable trade to better their team now. The trouble is, how long will following that path take?
As we watch the Celtics plod along, struggling mightily so far, but with the ability to conjure better outcomes, we can take shots at Ainge for failing to blow up the roster earlier. We can pray he keeps the Big Three and preserves their final days in Boston. We can hope he makes a trade to secure young talent and begin the rebuilding process. We can prepare ourselves for the long rebuilding process that might be on the horizon. There are dozens of doors Ainge can open. None of those doors are likely to yield a quick fix.