'The Departed': Sizing Up The Guys Who Left The Celtics This Season

Remember these guys? - Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Along the way to a 25-57 finish this past season, Danny Ainge cast away a few guys. Who were they, and how can we assess their performance?

At one of the last few games of the Celtics' regular season (it's hard to recall exactly which - all the losing just kinda blurs together), things were quiet at halftime on press row, and with a few minutes to kill, a group of us basketblogger types were poking around the interwebs and stumbled into something: the hardest Sporcle quiz ever created.

Here's the game. There were 28 players who, at some point, were on the roster of the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers. How many can you name?

I took the quiz and was quite pleased with myself to nab 14 of them. That might only be 50 percent, or an F, but that Sixers roster is pretty much as unmemorable as they come - it was a mix of guys who have only had 8 good minutes (Henry Sims), who you forgot were even on Philly's roster (Danny Granger), who you forgot were still in the league (Kwame Brown) or who are so obscure you have to suspect they may not even exist (seriously, who is Lorenzo Brown, is he related to Kwame?).

My point is: The Sixers were awful, and their roster was such a train wreck at the post-deadline end of this season that the on-court product was pretty much unwatchable.

I bring this up to point out a contrast. The Celtics, 57-game losers this season though they might have been, did not have a train wreck for a roster. They had a solid group of professional basketball players, very few of whom you'd call "too raw" or "over the hill." They had guys who can play. This year's team was a loser, but give Danny Ainge credit for at least putting talent out there that was worth watching.

Ainge had no shortage of decent players. In fact - thanks to a few draft picks, a few free agents that worked out and a certain four-for-five trade that shall remain nameless - he had too many guys. All in all, 19 people played for the Celtics this season, and along the way, a few had to be cast away.

What follows is a recap of the players Ainge unloaded during the 2013-14 season.

Courtney Lee: One of my favorite Celtics in recent memory - an underrated guy both on the court and off it. When assessing his play this season, you should probably start with his 3-point shooting - on a team that was absolutely horrendous from long range this season (33.3 percent, third-worst in the NBA), Lee was the only bright spot. He shot 23-of-52 from distance, a team-best 44.2 percent.

He did more than that, though. Lee was also a versatile wing defender and a great athlete who could run the floor in transition. He could do a lot of things to help the Celtics win, and relatively speaking, he did. The Celtics were 12-18 (.400) in the 30 games Lee played this season, and 13-39 (.250) in those he didn't.

Lee was also a stand-up guy in the Celtics' locker room - one of the best. He kept the team together when times were rough, he never complained about his role and maintained professionalism even at the very end, when trade rumors were swirling. When he finally did go, it was great to see him land on his feet, with a much-deserved starting role on a Memphis team that made the playoffs (and nearly stole a round from Oklahoma City). C-Lee is a guy you root for, and it's fantastic to see him succeeding beyond Boston.

Jordan Crawford: Read the opposite of everything said above about Courtney Lee, take the opposite, and that's a pretty good approximation of the report card Jordan Crawford deserves. All that shooting that Lee gave them? They needed it to counteract the stinkbombs dropped by Crawford, who shot a hideous 41.3 percent from the field with the Celtics, 31.8 percent from long range. And he didn't seem ashamed of it, either. No matter the circumstances, he kept his head down and kept shooting, completely unaware the four green-clad guys around him.

I can vividly recall multiple occasions during Crawford's 39 games when the journeyman guard shot the Celtics out of a game - forcing the team into iso-ball in the final seconds of crunch time, pounding the rock into oblivion, then heaving up an ugly desperation shot. On a young team that's rebuilding and learning from scratch how to close out games, that's exactly the approach you don't need. Sigh.

MarShon Brooks: Brooks played a total of 73 minutes in 10 games for the Celtics this season; he was traded along with Crawford in January. I think both sides were happy with Brooks' departure - the Celtics knew they had a couple of ball-dominant guards too many and were happy to unload Brooks, and Brooks was probably eager to explore a new situation. He needed a team that would give him more touches, more shots, more, more, more.

He found that team in Los Angeles, and it was kind of cool to see him in action against the Celtics a month later, getting revenge by scoring 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers beat them. I think Marshon has found his calling in the NBA - he's a bench guy who puts up big numbers for bad teams, and he appears to be OK with that. There are worse ways to go through life.

Keith Bogans: He didn't want to be in Boston anymore, warming the bench for a rebuilding young team. It's hard to blame him - he's 34, with no time to waste in his dwindling NBA life, and the Celtics were just the wrong situation for him. I know Bogans is infuriating for some C's fans and an easy punchline for others, but I'll stay out of that whole mess. Bogans is all right in my book, and I wish him the best.

Vander Blue: I don't remember much about Vander Blue, so rather than critique his play, I'll just point out that the Celtics really seem to like basketball players named after colors. They enlisted Blue for three games in January, they built their offense around Jeff Green this season, they signed D.J. White last year. I wonder what's next? Can they talk Michael Redd out of retirement? Can they find a dude in the draft this summer named Purple? No? OK. Just thought I'd ask.

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