Just admit it: a small part of you, perhaps even a sliver deep inside your subconscious, held out hope that Danny Ainge could somehow convince Dwight Howard to join the Boston Celtics this summer. Perhaps you even envisioned a starting lineup of Howard and the current core four, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce rejuvenated alongside the game’s best center and Rajon Rondo finally benefiting from a (non-Chris Wilcox division) target who thrives on the receiving end of alley oops.
Not going to happen. Not even a “Dumb And Dumber, one-in-a-million, so you’re telling me there’s a chance” chance, if reports that Howard is opting in for the 2012-2013 season are true.
Barring a trade deadline move of their own, the Celtics can now look forward to having tons of cap space in a free agency class that officially sucks. Entering the trade deadline, Deron Williams is now the only stud free agent (if you want to get a bitter beer face, read the entire list of 2012 free agents) — and he happens to play the same position as Rondo, Boston’s franchise cornerstone, who Danny Ainge promises isn’t going to get moved (which means there’s still a 10 percent chance he gets dealt by tomorrow at 4 p.m.). Basically, the Celtics are looking at a rebuilding process, or perhaps another year or two of NBA purgatory (making the playoffs without a legitimate chance to contend) with Allen and Garnett retained on smaller contracts.
The Celtics may not be headed for another 24-58 season any time soon. They may not be returning to the Gerald Green era. They may not need to start Brett Szabo or Marty Conlon next season. But there are no quick fixes available unless Ainge pulls a superstar rabbit out of his hat. And sadly, I don’t see any rabbits on the horizon.