Everyone likes to make the comparison between the end of the Bird-McHale-Parish era (when Ainge famously advised Red to take a couple of deals that were presented to him for Bird and McHale) to the current Celtics team. Ainge has long maintained that this has been different. The KG and Pierce can still play and there have been no sweetheart deals on the table.
However, after reading Rich Levine's retrospective on Ainge's 10 years in charge of the team's basketball operations, I can't help but wonder if there's a similarity between today's team and the one that he took over way back in 2003. Back then we had a young Paul Pierce and a fatally flawed Antoine Walker who had a "stranglehold" on the team. That team was good enough to make the playoffs and perhaps even win an occasional series, but they were simply not good enough to compete for a title.
Listen to what Ainge said about the team - not in the offseason - but while they were still playing games in the playoffs:
"The reason I’m here is because it’s the Boston Celtics," he said before Game 3. "There are better rosters, better cap room, better circumstances around the league. But it's not the Boston Celtics."
Not exactly rah-rah stuff but brutally honest. Now compare that to his comments from just a few days ago.
Obviously there's no Antoine Walker to trade for an injured Raef LaFrentz and other assets. But there is Pierce and Garnett who do sort of have a stranglehold on the franchise - except it has been in a good way for years. That winning atmosphere has been wonderful for the younger players to grow up alongside.
Still, at some point it also becomes a glass ceiling of sorts. Perhaps Ainge believes that Green and Rondo and others will never reach their full potential as long as they are playing in the shadows of the legends. Maybe they need a fresh start of their own to sink or swim. Similar to the way that Pierce had to mature without his big brother Antoine around to share the spotlight with.
Or maybe I'm reading way, way too much into this and Ainge really doesn't believe we're one piece away from a title and that doesn't necessarily mean that we'll make any drastic changes, but it does mean we won't win a title next year. I guess we'll see.