Mark Blount, the man we love to hate. The man with appendages of stone, a simpleton's visage and, as least last season, a poisonous attitude. A man that most would be happy to see traded for a six pack of Red Bull and a bag of Cheeto's (but probably not straight up for Rasho Nesterovic)
How did it come to this? How did a perennial underdog favorite, who's hard work and perseverance were an old-school inspiration, come to be so vilified by Boston sports fans? One reason is money.
When he earned a measly million a year, he was good to have around. Now that he's making the kind of money that Ben Wallace, Brendan Haywood, Dan Gadzuric, and Jeff Foster are making - more money than the likes of Nene and Melvin Ely, then we expect him to play like that. (We do conveniently ignore Adonal Foyle, Olowokandi, Mehmet Okur and Erick Dampier.)
The more pragmatic among us realize that 7 footers aren't cheap after their rookie contracts…Dalembert and Chandler got $8M raises. So though it is an issue, the money paid to Blount shouldn't be the difference between someone that is groused about and someone that is truly hated by some fans. Money isn't the only issue.
In the off-season last year, Ainge signed Blount to his current deal. It was obviously a "good-soldier" deal because, though he had other offers, none were as good as the one with Boston. So at that time Danny (and Doc) felt that Blount was a good fit for the current and, with a 6 year commitment, future, team. What did they see in Blount that the fans don't?
Most of us think that Blount pulled a Joe Johnson, and parlayed a single year's performance into an untradeable contract. And this will always be the case for those with uncluttered minds. The facts are, it wasn't a single season. Blount had a history of constant improvement and coachability. For his entire career he had been the consummate professional... why wouldn't you reward a player like that?
Something besides a lucrative contract - which he'd earned - impaired his game.
It has been proposed that he was unfit for anything but Dick Harter's defense and that that transition for him to something else was too difficult. But he played a good part of a season in Denver - and started - in a system nothing like Dick Harter's. Additionally, Mark signed a new contract knowing full well there would a new system in place in Boston.
It's been proposed that he and Doc didn't get along. And by the end of the season this may have been true, but not at the beginning. Doc at one time recruited him in Orlando. They certainly met during that time. Doc was interested in Mark as a player and Mark knew who he'd be playing for when he re-signed with Boston.
I think that Mark's issue with Doc and the team was one of, what Mark felt, were broken promises.
We've all heard Ainge and Doc espouse their desire to have a running team that plays tough defense. This is what they say to fans, this is what they thought Blount could contribute to, and this is what they promised Mark. We saw that it didn't really happen and so did Blount. Who could blame him for feeling betrayed?
At the beginning of the season last year, Blount was the first man up the court on offense on a plurailty of transitions. I can remember saying, "Get Blount the ball, he's wide open ahead of the pack". (Knowing full well that at least half the time he'd bobble the pass.) But as we all know, Payton insisted on bringing the ball into the forecourt himself. Payton, unlike Chucky Atkins, never made any attempt at all to include Blount in the offense. After a while Blount stopped running, he wasn't rewarded for his effort. So much for the promise of a running team.
Secondly, Doc seemed more than willing to give minutes to players that had no clue at all on defense - i.e. Jefferson. Is that consistent with espousing tough team defense? Not to me, and not to Mark Blount whose minutes were sacrificed.
So in light of these developments, it is easy to see how Blount might feel as though Rivers and Ainge duped him. How he might feel betrayed. Why give the effort if they weren't going to hold up their end of the bargain?
So what does the future hold for Blount and the Celtics. Obviously both sides have something to answer for. The Celtics let Blount down, and he in turn let them down. Ainge doesn't appear to be willing to just dump him, and therefore we can assume, thinks he can still make a contribution to the team. They both must make amends. Blount will need to accept his role and the point guards will need to reward him when he runs.
If Blount returns to his 2nd half of the 2003-2004 season form it will be a win-win situation. The Celtics will have a center who can make the shot in the pick and pop play and play good man-to-man and team defense and Blount will be a contributor to a running team that plays tough minded defense.
Note: If you got deja-vu reading this, it might be because this is the same poster from RealGM and the CelticsBlog boards. I asked him to be a our newest cheap seats author based on this article and many posts I've read by him in the past. - Jeff