Nobody likes losing. Rebuilding is an easy concept to grasp but not always an easy reality to live through. It can be stomached for a season or two but beyond that it gets really hard for everyone involved. Ask the Cavs, Pistons, Kings, Wizards, and any number of teams that are well beyond the two year rebuilding plans. The worst thing that can happen to the Celtics is another prolonged run of losing seasons.
Danny Ainge has done what he can to set the team up for a relatively brief downturn in the standings. This year was over before it began (in terms of a title) but things could turn around as early as next season if everything falls just right. If things don't fall just right, the team has enough flexibility to make some good long term decisions and take another swing at the fences next season.
Either prospect seems to frighten and frustrate opposing team officials like this one:
"Off the record?" he said. "They scare the (expletive) out of me. If things go right for them in the draft and they’re able to use some of those other picks to make a deal or two, they could be right back in this thing. "And when you look at some of the teams in our league that have been stuck in the mud for years, it has to be hard for them to watch Boston set themselves up so fast."
They will have the flexibility and assets to make a big splash this summer (likely via trade) or wait a year and throw multiple max contracts at free agents in 2015. They are poised to build around Rondo, Sullinger, and whatever lottery pick they can get in the draft this June.
Could that nucleus be enough to convince a free agent to come to Boston? Say someone like Kevin Love? He answered a general question about free agents and Boston thusly:
"I’ve never really spent much time in Boston. I don’t know it too well," he said. "But I think as far as playing there, we love competing against those guys. I think they have a great coach and they have a ton of youngsters that are up-and-comers. "Boston is a great city. I’m sure free agents would love to go there, especially with [Brad] Stevens as a coach. He’s a guy that can win basketball games. He gets guys to play for him. They’ve been having good success there, even in his first year, and he has a lot of young players. The coach has a lot to do with it, but yeah, Boston is a great place."
Before you get too excited by reading between the lines, consider that a day earlier he was just complaining about his words being taken out of context.
"If I say that I like Charlotte or ‘Charlotte is a great city, I love spending time there,’ then all of a sudden I’m going to Charlotte," Love said. "Anything I say is going to be a misconception or be some sort of a headline. It’s silly. "Sure [free agency] is brought up. It crosses my mind. In a way, I just try to put that aside. It’s a question that’s always going to be brought up. Really, I would love not to talk about it and focus on winning now with the Timberwolves."
Regardless, I believe that free agents would be willing to come to Boston under the right circumstances. Just because they haven't had success luring free agents in the past doesn't mean they won't in the future. With cap space to offer, a talented coach, and good nucleus of players in place, there's always a chance that Boston could look a lot better even than some of the warmer climate destinations.
In short, if you give a star a shot at a ring, they'd trade in the sunblock for a snow shovel in a second.
But to be able to get to that position it is up to Danny Ainge to keep building the right pieces and making the right moves. Even though Ainge made his title building moves in the summer of 2007, it was the incremental building of assets over the years preceding that which put him in position to make those moves.
Will this be a short turnaround? Can the team make the leap back into the discussion of contenders without floundering around for a prolonged stretch? Let us hope so.