To me this will answer whether or not they agree with Danny's philosophy. Most of the questions could or should be answered by the time we enter training camp. As usual, there are more questions right now than answers, which seems to be the motive operendi for Mr. Ainge. The biggest question of all is are the owners willing to take a fan base hit to continue the rebuild or are they more concerned with making money? If you can do both at the same time, you are all set, but this is much more difficult to do.
It seemed that last season (03-04) We were going to go into a full rebuild mode. we traded almost all of our veteran leadership( Williams, Toine, Battie) for young, unproven ( Draft Picks, Chris Mihm)or disgruntled players ( Jumaine Jones, Ricky Davis) The Toine lovers were infuriated, as well as befuddled. The Toine questioners (Haters) threw a party for the ages. Most that understood how the cap worked understood why this had to be done. We were saddled with 3 max contracts, aging vets and no way to improve, we were stuck in the model of mediocrity. We were getting low first round picks and couldn't sign any good free agents because we had 2 guys (Toine and Paul) taking half of the shots and completely controlling the offense (This is no way to get free agents, they want to go somewhere, where they can contribute) This is no way to escape the mediocrity.
Enter the 02-03 Celtics, a veteran team that their coach got the most out of. Were they good ... yes! were the great..no. were they good enough to go all the way ... no. we were 44-38, yes, we beat the Pacers (more due to Isiah Thomas than anything we did) Then were completely overmatched by NJ. Most if not all saw the reasons why. Cap strapped, aging players with sub-par limbs and a 3 point offense that you could easily derail by playing the perimeter tight(because we had no low post offense) Sure, the D was good, but when you can't score 80 points a game most NBA teams are going to beat you, especially when you have to rely on 23+ footers. Between the bomber offense and a lack of rebounding, it was truely amazing we got as far as we did. We were left with an aging team and a decade of ownership making horrible decisions and draft picks.
Enter the 03-04 Celtics. Danny knew he had to make some changes. we needed to get younger and relieve some of the cap stress, until he did, there was no way we were going any further than we already had. Exit Toine, who in Danny's opinion (right or wrong) had a "stranglehold" on the franchise. Danny did try to communicate this to Toine and attempted to get him to change his style of play. Right from the start, Toine made it clear he was not about to do that.("The offense runs through me") Then came the contract demands, "If I dont get an extension this summer, I am going to walk". Again, whether we liked it or not, Danny was put in a pickle. He knew that if Toine walked, we were screwed. We were so far over the cap, that had Toine walked, we still only had the mid level exemption to work with. Danny immediately started shopping Toine and got from his perspective, the best deal he could. (let the draft pick stocking begin)
To some, our coach was a bigger part of the problem. He agreed to attempt Danny's philosophy and lay off the D a bit and implement some sort of running game, at this point he also signed an extension. Obie immediately did nothing to Danny's liking, he stayed the course with the vets, giving them all the minutes and leaving the rooks to rot on the bench, much to the chagrin of Danny. IMO, Obie set back the development of Banks by ruining his confidence and in a sense held back the growth of the team. Unwilling or unable to discipline Paul or Toine. he basically let the inmates run the asylum as long as they did what he asked on the defensive end. Danny saw what was going on and didn't like it at all. Obie forced his hand. Danny knew that unless he shipped out some of these guys, Obie was not going to change his ways. we all saw how it ended up.
We entered this season in all honesty, not looking that bad for the amount of youth we were carrying(3rd youngest in the NBA, feel free to correct me if I am wrong on this). We suffered early defeats due to nothing but immaturity and rookie mistakes (High TO's and unable to finish out games) this is called "growing pains" and normal in all but the elite youngsters in the league. This is also why IMO, they are calling for a age limit in the league right now. It used to be that when you had rookies, they were destined to sit on the bench for the first year and see very limited, if any playing time. They were left on the bench, so they would not hurt the team. They were nurtured into playing time as not to cause damage, but to also insure that they lost no confidence by making dumb mistakes. We looked really good at times and really bad at times. A new coach, new system and a youthful exuberance that was refreshing, but also dangerous on the court. The rebuild or "retool" as Danny so affectionally put it, was going slowly, but we had a couple of good rookies and Marcus seemed as though he was learning from GP. As the owners discovered, this retool was going to hurt attendance. So who was it that was not willing to stay the course of the retool? was it Danny or was the owners pushing the buttons, there are conflicting reports.
Entering this off season, the owners have a lot of decisions to make. Are they willing to finish the rebuilding process that we began or are we going to go into Pitino panic mode? Are they interested in trying to build a championship caliber team or are they more interested in putting fannies in the seats immediately? Are they more interested in the long term or the short term? Are they more interested in keeping the fans happy or winning a championship? It became obvious towards the end of the season that it was not the rookies that were hurting us, it was the vets. Big Al, Marcus and Delonte West showed more composure in a 7 game series than we saw at any point throughout the season from the vets. They were calm, cool and collected. Al showed great promise and the rooks as a whole presented a united front. They stayed the course and did what Doc asked of them. Did the vets do the same? Far from it, they came up with untimely T's, a stagnent offense and became easily rattled and unstrung. Emotion can be a good thing, but, like rookie mistakes, it can be a bad thing. Paul Pierce proved to us that he is not a leader, but wants to control everything like he is. He showed a lack of leadership capabilities and set a very poor example for what we are attempting to do. He pouted on the bench, while the rooks on the bench were waiving towels and offering encouragement to the players on the court. Is this the type of example we want our captain and max contract guy conveying to the youngsters?
I think maybe I need to clarify my position on PP. Do I want him gone..Yes. For a bag-o-chips ... No. I believe that PP is about as good as he is going to get(ie: his trade value is not going to get higher until the last year of his contract). The phrase "can't teach an old dog new tricks" is the first one that comes to mind. Don't get me wrong here, he is by far the best player on this team and puts up nice numbers, but, with all that, there seems to be a decent amount of baggage also. He likes to try to take over games when he shouldn't, he likes to ISO (definately not the direction we are heading) he likes to stagnate the offense, while at the same time play matador D. He likes to pout on the bench, the list is really more extensive than what I just mentioned. He is the captain of this team because he is the best player, not because he deserves it or acts it. We need our captain to be a leader and example for the younger guys and I am of the strong belief that we could do better in this catagory for less money. Can anyone honestly say that while watching the playoffs they didn't see Toine and Paul reverting to Obie form? This is not the principles that Danny and Doc are trying to build in this team and until they can, without interference from the vets on this team, we are looking at 40-45 win seasons and a lot of first round exits, 20 something draft picks and no cap room.
Walker, you either love him or hate him. There is no middle ground with this guy. He is as unpredictable as they come. While winning a game for you one night, he will come out the next night and kill you. He will play inside one night and revert to long bombs the next. His rebounds, PPS and shooting are all really bad for a four. Is he willing to cut his minutes and play back up to Al? Is he willing to take short money? These are all factors that will be weighed this summer. Personally I think Toine needs to go also. We are not in a position yet to be able to sign to a long term deal for him. He can be and probably will be signed and traded this summer. Is this guy really worth 6 mil a year for three years?
Payton, another love or hate guy with no inbetween. He has taught or young guys well in somethings and not at all in others. He made great strides with Marcus(this really became apparent late in the season) He is a guy that knows how to play the game, but also likes to call his own plays (we found this out recently) He was good for Delonte and Marcus, but it is time to say sayonara. Will likely just sign somewhere this summer with no compensation to us, but one can hope that a contender might be willing to pay him more than the mid-level so we can get something out of the deal.
Blount, one word describes him ... USELESS!! I would call him Jekyll or Hyde, but hide is more appropriate. As I watched him get shoved out of the way by Perkins early in the year going for a rebound, I knew it was going to be a problem. Even with the 15% kicker (maybe he will waive it to get out of town) he is tradable and there seems to to be a market for overpaid 7 foot stiffs. Danny will shop this guy hard and will probably end up with a bag-o-chips(2nd rounder) there are enough bad teams out there with cap space that will be willing to take a flyer on him.
Raef, say what you want about this guy, but he is one of the few vets that came in here and did what he was supposed to. He kept his cool and acted the consummate professional. He did what was asked of him and more. You can point to a game here and there that he was awful, but he was one of the more consistent forces on this team. The only real problem with Raef is his contract that makes him nearly immpossible to move. Raef is here whether we like it or not for at least one more year and probably 2.
So where do the owners stand? The answer is sure to come this summer.