For the third year running, I am going to channel my inner Carnac and try to prophesize the next twelve months for the Celtics, just like I did here and here with mixed results. OK, so I called Mark Blount becoming a three point monster and whiffed badly on everything else. This year, I am pretty confident I have cracked it, so here goes nothing…
Danny Ainge starts to feel the pressure as the groundswell of public disdain at his draft selection seems to grow with every passing day. Ainge's selection of Chinese big man, Yi Jianlian, with Texas forward Kevin Durant still on the board at #5 had Celtics fans the world over scratching their heads. Durant had been the subject of much controversy in the run-up to the draft after it emerged that he had tried to pull out in May after learning that he would most likely end up with a lousy West Coast team. After withdrawing this request when he learned that entering next year's draft could potentially land him on the Knicks, speculation rose that Durant was deliberately "tanking" his draft stock in an attempt to end up with a contender. After a half hearted performance at the NBA scouting combine, Durant openly admitted to recreational drug use, got into trouble with the law by attempting to take a gun onto a flight and started dating both Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan, but was still projected as the clear number two pick until he measured half an inch shorter than expected at a private workout on the eve of the draft and saw his stock go into freefall. Ainge was said to be happy about the selection of Yi, who was quoted as being "excited to be a lottery pick".
In other news, Isiah Thomas makes a shrewd trade as he sends Nate Robinson to the Cavs for a second round pick, saving the team $1.2m of salary cap money.
One Celtic who is working hard to improve in the 2007/2008 season is Delonte West who reveals he is much more settled in Boston now that he has got himself a pet dog. "He is very excitable, but a good and loyal companion and when we went to practice together, he seemed to get on well with Coach Rivers, although it was a bit embarrassing when he climbed onto his lap and started licking his face," said the dog.
In other news, Isiah Thomas signs Dikembe Mutumbo to a 5-year, $40m contract.
(more after the jump...)
With the Celtics willing to try anything to improve their fortunes, Ainge hires a genetic engineer to come in and splice the DNA of Rajon Rondo and Delonte West so that they can create a basketball player with West's shot and Rondo's point guards skills, that they intend to call "Rajlonte Wesdo". Unfortunately, the experiment fails as the player they create has Rondo's shot and West's point guard skills, so they decide to call him "Marcus Banks v2.0" instead.
In a surprise move, Jerry West turns up at summer workouts in Miami to apply for a job as a personnel consultant. However, the day doesn't go too well, as Antoine Walker keeps hitting him with the ball every time he attempts a three pointer.
The Celtics head to Europe to conduct their training camp in Italy and Danny Ainge is troubled by a disturbing trade negotiation call, where he is promised "an offer he can't refuse". He wakes up screaming when he wakes up with what appears to be a horse's head on the pillow next to him, but it turns out to just be an Eric Williams bobblehead. Meanwhile, Brian Scalabrine's Italian sounding name gets him in trouble as he is forced to go into National Service for the Italian Army. He immediately gets a job as a long-range sniper and insists that he will bring intangibles to the field of battle and a high military IQ. He returns to the Celtics within three days after his National Service period is mysteriously cut short.
Next up, the Celtics head to London for a preseason clash with the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, the game has to be abandoned after several hundred fans invade the court and start throwing chairs and beer bottles at each other. Despite these troubles, the Celtics do return from Europe considerably better at flopping, which is expected to stand them in good stead for the upcoming season.
The season starts in encouraging fashion with a boost for one of the Celtics' young players as Bill Walton calls Al Jefferson "one of the best big men in the HISTORY of the game". Unfortunately, he goes on to the same thing about Eddy Curry on the next possession and has to be sedated.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, after losing every preseason game and alienating himself from every player on the roster, Jim O'Brien is fired on the eve of the Pacers first game of the season. Larry Bird is later forced to admit that he "tanked" the offseason so that he could take over as head coach himself with the team's affairs at an all-time low. However, the damage done may be irreparable, as Orien Greene leads the league in three point attempts in November, despite shooting just 15%.
With the season well underway, the Celtics struggle. The fans clamour for Yi to get some minutes, but Doc Rivers has left him on the bench so far because he is supposedly not ready. Fans openly begin to wonder why no big names have been brought in (apart from Marcus Banks v2.0) and question the team's ambition. The plot thickens when Wyc Grousbeck sells the team to a brash, but feisty, former Las Vegas Showgirl who had inherited a large sum of money from her Father. She fails to tell the team that she has plans to relocate them to her hometown of Vegas and needs them to lose, (because if attendance falls far enough, she will be able to void the lease at the TD Banknorth Garden) and proceeds to build the team around "a bunch of has-beens and a couple of never-will-be's".
After some wheeling and dealing, the team's core consists of an athletic but erratic youngster, a cocky hothead who has had trouble with the law, an ancient veteran and a deeply religious, Voodoo obsessed, culturally maladjusted foreigner who can't hit a curveball, um…I mean, free throw. Whilst the fans are excited at Gerald Green's opportunity to start, the decision to bring back Sebastian Telfair and Michael Olowakandi is extremely confusing and trading for Mutumbo positively mind-blowing. The team also plans to bring in an out-of-his-depth retread coach, but then realise they don't need to.
In January, there's a much needed distraction from the disastrous first half of the season for the last place Celtics, as Gerald Green gets the chance to defend his slam dunk contest title at the All-Star Weekend. With many fans bemoaning the lack of a "signature" dunk in last year's contest, Dwight Howard comes up with exactly that, when he leaps up and dunks the ball left handed, while writing a letter "D" on the backboard with a Sharpie in his right hand. Unfortunately for Howard, Green is able to eliminate him by performing the same dunk and adding "…wight Howard sucks" and drawing a self portrait.
With the championship already clinched and one dunk still to go, Green opts to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of "Star Wars" by throwing down an allez-oop dunk with his right hand whilst holding a cheerleader against his body with his left hand, paying homage to the famous rope-swing scene with Luke and Leia. Unfortunately, he gets Sebastian Telfair to throw the lob pass, which is inevitably wayward and instead has to improvise in mid-air, ending up with him dunking the cheerleader through the hoop instead.
In other news, Orien Greene finishes last in the three point shootout.
News finally gets out about the relocation much to the disgust of the Celtics hardcore fanbase. The team's plight is highlighted when a bald, fat man goes on hunger strike outside the arena. Most Celtics fans agree, it is nice to know that Antoine Walker still cares.
Spurred on by this support, the team unexpectedly starts to win. The new owners are not happy.
With O J Mayo tearing up the collegiate ranks, and the attention that the teams at the bottom of the standings seem to be getting, it becomes apparent that everyone is tanking to the point that teams start trying to score at the wrong end and having to defend their opponents basket instead of their own. It is the most competitive the league has been for years. One of the Denver player's Dads causes controversy when he tears off his shirt and gets into a fight with one of the opposing team's Dads at each of the Nuggets road games.
Having not received any minutes at all in the first half of the season, despite many reports that he was "close" or "looked good in practice" or "looked set to crack the starting rotation", Yi finally makes his debut where he gets a couple of blocks and also manages to hit a three.
With something clearly needing to be done about the proliferation of tanking in the league, David Stern intervenes, ruling that the lottery is to be scrapped, in favor of a new system where the best team in the league ends up getting the top pick. The plan is an immediate success, as everyone starts trying to win, but every single team finishes up 41-41, due to an obvious dilution of talent within the league. The Celtics triumphantly make the playoffs based on alphabetical order.
In other news, one of Boston's top media figures, Bob Ryan, retires and is replaced by Ronald McDonald. Nobody notices the difference and ratings for "Around the Horn" actually go up by 25% when he appears on the show.
David Stern faces another crisis as the league's officiating crews go on strike halfway through the playoffs due to the level of criticism they are receiving from the National Media. Stern acts quickly to fill the void with some out-of-work former WWE referees, but there is controversy when the Cleveland Cavaliers get a last minute win over the Atlanta Hawks due to Mike Brown throwing salt in the referees eyes and then Lebron James knocking out Gilbert Arenas with a chair to enable him to score the winning basket. James also travelled on the play, but nobody mentioned that fact for some reason.
Meanwhile, Yi has become a key member of the Celtics roster and is said to be making a late run for rookie of the year, but the Celtics are ousted in the Eastern Conference Semi Final, by the surging New Jersey Nets, who immediately hang a banner to celebrate reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Spurs and Nets meet in the least-watched NBA finals ever. A re-run of the Sopranos finale coincides with game two and sets a new TV ratings record for the month of June.
After an inexplicably slack rookie season, Kevin Durant is forced to admit that he deliberately tanked the season in order to improve his chances of winning the Most Improved Player Award in 2008/2009.
Due to all the teams finishing tied, nobody had the best record and could therefore lay claim to the first pick in the draft. Stern simply decides to cut out the middle man and just award the Knicks the pick. Several people who publicly argued against this course of action mysteriously disappear, although conspiracy theorists insist that their bodies were hidden in the crowd at the Continental Airlines Arena during one of the Nets' playoff games.
Greg Oden retires to spend more time with his grandchildren. So does Yi.