The building of a championship team [ a.k.a. the genius of Danny Ainge, with a hearty thank you to Kevin McHale ]
While much of this has already been written about before, there are some insights that I felt could be added, which adds to D.Ainge's growing legend as a behind the scenes mastermind.
The last few years have truly been exciting ones for Boston Celtics fans, as we developed from a team going nowhere, in 2006-7, to a team that has won a championship one year, got k'od in the playoffs the following year due to a key injury, and barely lost in the final the following season, owing to another key injury.
Championship teams don't just spring up overnight [ although some may claim that this is what happened with the Cs ]. They're built, like a building, brick by brick, block by block.
It was interesting to me as a long time, long suffering Cs fan, to delve into the myriad transactions that brought us to the level we are at today, and to provide some insight as to why, how and what transpired, and to what eventually happened to those Ainge traded away, or shipped out, in order to get where we are today..
When Ainge took over as director of basketball operations, the team was a Pitino mess, going nowhere except downhill, at an ever increasing speed, like a runaway train out of control.
The 2003 draft brought us Kendrick Perkins, [ building block no.2 - we already had Paul Pierce, as the no. 1 building block ] as the 27th pick, via Memphis, along with Marcus Banks, in exchange for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones.
The 2006 draft saw the acquisition of Rajon Rondo [ building block no.3 ] who was picked by Phoenix and traded to Boston along with Brian Grant, in exchange for Boston's 1st rd. pick - they took Rudy Fernandez, who is now toiling away as a bench player for Portland. More than that, the rights to Rondo were originally traded away by- guess who? The L.A. Lakers [ could they have used him these past years, I ask you? How sweet it is.]
Leon Powe came to us via a trade for another 2nd rd. pick that year.
What started out as a disappointing 2007 draft [ we lost the first three picks-the ping pong ball fate ] and wound up with no.5 - Jeff Green [ today , a key player for Oklahoma City ] but managed to trade him, along with Wally Szczerbiak, [ no longer playing ] and Delonte West [ who is back with the Cs ] for Ray Allen [ building block no.4 ] and a bonus, who has proven to be an up and coming key player, Glen B.B. Davis, who today, has become a force off the bench [ could easily considered to be building block no.6, as in sixth man ].
Enter Kevin Garnett [ building block no.5 ] who had initially refused to depart the shores of Lake Minnekaka [ a.k.a. Minnesota T' Wolves ] and the blockbuster trade by Ainge that brought the final piece of the upcoming championship team to Boston. McHale received, in exchange for Garnett; Al Jefferson, who now plies his double-double with the Jazz; Ryan Gomes, a bench player today with the hapless L.A. Clippers; Gerald Green, who is leaping tall buildings somewhere, but not in the NBA; Theo Ratliff, today an end of bench player with the Lakers, no less; Sebastian Telfair, who has managed to hang with Minnesota as a reserve, after being traded back and forth a few times since; and two so far, forgettable 2009 1st rd. draft choices,
The starting five was now complete, but Ainge hadn't quite finished, as the bench had serious shortcomings, which he began to redress. He signed Eddie House and James Posey that summer, and during the winter months, snagged P.J. Brown, after another summer signing, Scot Pollard, was lost with an injury.
To reiterate, we've had the great and good fortune in the past three seasons to a] win one championship ; b] led the Eastern conference in wins the following year, only to fall in the playoffs, owing to the loss of Garnett, and Leon Powe [ a bench player who provided key minutes ] to injuries; and c] a horrendous loss in the last finals [ after defying all the odds just to get there ] owing to the loss of K. Perkins.
This brings us to the current season, and our quest for banner no. 18.
Another key pickup that Ainge made late last season, that has been proving itself so far this season, was the signing of Nate Robinson, in exchange for Eddie House, [ at the end of his career with Miami ] Bill Walker, [ toiling away off the bench in N.Y.] and J.R. Giddens [ who has disappeared from the NBA ].
With Perkins out until at least after the All Star break, Ainge went back to work this summer, and with extremely limited funds, managed to keep Doc Rivers at the helm, re-signed Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and then managed to lure the O'Neals and D.West to join the team, while signing Semih Erden, a 60th 2008 draft pick, who played the last couple of seasons in Turkey.
We are now well on our way to banner no.18, with an excellent 19-4 record to start the season.
While there have been a few turkeys that have been signed and subsequently released, or traded during Ainge's tenure, the majority of the moves that he has made show him to be one of the elite general managers of the NBA.
Lionel Gaffen / Fotomix