If Only Ainge Had Made the Right Blockbuster...

A Daily Babble Production

Confession: I've long since grown tired of hearing about what a great job Danny Ainge did last season and the summer prior.

Sure, by the time the summer of 2007 came around, he did the best he could under the circumstances.  Acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett has worked out passably so far, with the team winning one title and perhaps contending for another few years with its current core.

But a one-championship KG era would ring hollow when one considers that it was Ainge's action (or perhaps inaction) in December 2006 that forced himself into the unenviable position of needing to acquire not one but two future Hall of Famers to save his team: Had he been able to pull the trigger on a deal for Allen Iverson, this team would not only be more fun to watch but might be looking at a run of several banners in the seasons to come.

Since there were rumblings of Ainge pursuing Iverson before he was eventually dealt to Denver, let's take a stroll down What Could Have Been Lane...

While there were varying rumors and of course no actual deal consummated, let's go ahead and presume that Ainge ultimately decided to acquire the game's fifth all-time average scorer with a package of Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff's enormous-but-eventually-expiring contract and some other to-be-named-later filler to make the salaries match up.  That Celtics team wins several more games than the 24 the actual 2006-07 squad did, ends up with a lower draft pick and no longer has the ammunition to make the Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett trades.

And everyone in green reaps enormous benefits.

Iverson starts in the backcourt of course, and he is accompanied by a small ball lineup that features Tony Allen and Gerald Green at the swing spots, Paul Pierce at the four and Kendrick Perkins in the pivot.  Since - contrary to Thibsian Theory - placing the ball in the basket is the primary object of the game, the Celtics put a team out there that will run and score all day. 

While they might not be quite as good defensively as the current Celtics are, this team wouldn't need to be.  With Iverson and Pierce, the C's would have perhaps the most dynamic scoring combo in the league.  And when all was said and done, those two might well be eclipsed by their own teammates.  Tony Allen and Gerald Green are fine athletes who simply need opportunities and chances to build their confidence.  In the Celtics' new run-and-gun offense, Allen attacks the rim fearlessly, and the newfound job security raises his confidence in his ball-handling skills to the point that he begins to dribble with his head up at all times.  Green averages around 20 per game by his third season and makes himself a candidate for both the dunk and three-point contests with his wise shot selection and explosiveness around the rim.

As for the defense, well, first of all, who cares?  Defensive basketball is boooooring.  Too much flying around and trapping and likely illegal contact for my tastes.  Free-flowing offensive basketball (you know, the type Allen Iverson plays) is not only poetic but successful.  After all, everyone knows the Suns would be looking at their third championship this decade if David Stern and friends hadn't underhandedly removed them from the running in 2007.

Further, for the few defense aficionados out there, Allen and Green have the speed, hustle (Allen) and length (Green) between them to become excellent defenders in this league.  Within two years, those two are routinely taking care of top opposing swing scorers.  With the beast that is Perkules in the middle, the Celtics aren't even as susceptible as most smallball teams to allowing points in the paint.

Using this plan, the Celtics never have to trade Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, two major blessings.  Just look at how effective Wally has been in Cleveland this season: seven points per game off the bench on 57.4 percent true shooting.  Though he doesn't have the speed to run up and down the floor with this Celtics team, he easily jogs three-point line to three-point line and drains treys in a reserve role.  Meanwhile, West gives this team some much-needed character.  The 2007-08 Celtics were too mundane anyway: That Garnett fellow seems to be more of a paper tiger than anything else, and all Ray Allen liked to do was play the role of quiet professional and score the basketball.  Not enough life in that team!  West's goofy demeanor keeps the Iversonian Celtics loose before big games.  In fact, the team credits his pregame humor for helping it stay relaxed enough to win early-round playoff games on the road - something the Garnett-Allen-Pierce Celtics have never done to date.

Winning games 140-130 proves exponentially more fun (to watch and to play) than winning them 100-90.  The Celtics avoid getting that silly reputation as defensive bullies, and none of our favorite players have to sacrifice their individual stats.  Touches galore for everyone!  With Iverson and Pierce having to put forth monumental efforts on a nightly basis, the Celts likely struggle to a title in 2008.  But after that, thanks to the near-cinch growth of Allen and Green, the Celtics possess a level of firepower unmatchable for any other team in the league, and the banners likely roll in.  Youth, super-athleticism and wins: These Celtics truly have it all.

The Celts sustain a longer period of greatness this way than the actual group of Celts could have ever hoped.  This is due in no small part to Allen Iverson's pioneering attitudes about health and practice.  While KG runs his body into the ground going at full speed in scrimmages, Iverson takes those days off to rest his body and "talk 'bout practice, man," and he convinces Pierce of the value of this as well.  The youngsters get more run of their own, and Iverson and Pierce also extend their peak productive years by half a decade.

Through all of this, Ainge also spares himself several headaches.  He never has to sign that overvalued and deified reserve known as James Posey, because this finesse-based Celtics team isn't interested in any more guys with mean streaks, the willingness to get after 50-50 balls or to play hard-nosed defense and generally selfless basketball.  Given the embarrassment of riches already stored on the offensive end, Posey's clutch outside shooting is assuredly not needed either.  So Ainge spares himself not only having to associate with such an unsavory individual in 2007-08 but also of being caught in the storm of the ensuing debate of whether to re-sign him the summer afterward.

Instead, this team uses the approach espoused by any running team worth its salt: Sprint all night while using a small bench to keep the games fair for the rest of the league.  Szcerbiak, West and Ryan Gomes play the key reserve roles.  Fortunately, we never have to see that headstrong point guard drafted in 2006 because there is no room on this club for non-bigs who can't shoot the ball from behind the arc on (you know, besides Iverson).  Ainge fills out the rest of the roster with D-League call-ups and projects, minimizing the salaries for players 10-15 and thus allowing himself all the flexibility to lock up his studs long term.  This plan also allows us fans not one, not two, but seven players on the roster to subject to rampant speculation without having ever witnessed them playing at the NBA level.

This is a team that wins.  This is a team that remains fiscally sound in a tough economy.  This is a team that has character.    And youth.  And most of all, fun.

This is a team we could have been rooting for.  If only, if only.

***

Happy April Fools' Day, CelticsBlog faithful. 

Here's to another win tonight for the team that has brought me hoops happiness beyond all belief over the past year and a half.  And continues to do so every day, no matter the medical reports.

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