People around the world rejoiced when the Soviet Union finally toppled. However, some Soviets and frequent visitors to the communist nation, mainly academics, were a little saddened by the change. Ultimately they believed it was a positive development, but feared that a certain kinship or brotherhood that flourished in that repressive society would be lost. Their nostalgia was only strengthened by the disastrous effects of shock therapy and the painful transition to capitalism. I have no idea what that last sentence means. But I do know that despite the atrocious record, I enjoyed last year's Boston Celtics team. Granted they were too young and inherently flawed. Yet I would be remiss if I did not say something about the players that have since been shipped out of town.
Ryan Gomes - Classy guy who overcame Doc Rivers burying him on the bench over the first half of his rookie season. Has a knack for getting his hands on the ball and as a result is a more effective rebounder than his size would indicate. Knows how to get to the line and worked hard to improve his shot last summer. He essentially morphed into a jump shooter, which I still don't quite understand. Bonus points because Gomes was the catalyst of an epic Jim Calhoun rant.
Gerald Green - Forget about his leaping and dunking abilities. It was his jump shot that captivated me. And I'm still terrified of him waging a one man scoring assault on the league. But he needs time to get there, if he ever does. Minnesota has to be worried about his defense and basketball IQ. Yet there are worse guys to give a shot.
Al Jefferson - I am devastated to see him go and question the logic of people who think he might return some day. Let's review. Jefferson was drafted out of high school and had a promising rookie season. He entered his sophomore campaign with high expectations but struggled due to foul trouble, poor defense and injuries. The media, fans and even the organization questioned his conditioning and work ethic, despite the fact that he was not yet 21. He worked hard, learned what it takes to play in the NBA and overcame an appendectomy to make a splash in his third NBA season. Much of his success came after he was mentioned in Allen Iverson trade rumors. To his credit Jefferson threatened to handcuff himself to the team bus to prevent such a move. And to top it all off he was recently back in Boston preparing for the season. Then he was shipped off to Minnesota of all places as Celtics fans rejoiced the trade. He must be dying to get back. And financially it will definitely work. Apparently loyalty is a one way street. And fans complain when guys take the money. Okay I am getting off my high horse. That was fun. I will not rule out Jefferson returning some day because it he is so young. But it will not be for a while and will cost the C's.
Theo Ratliff - I caught a pre season game in Manchester, New Hampshire where Ratliff looked stiff. I never thought he'd last the season. And in the end he did not. By all accounts he is a good guy who protected the rim with a vengeance back in the day. But he seems to be one of the few people who expects him to play again.
Allan Ray - I loved his career at Villanova. But I never felt like he belonged last season. Good guy though.
Wally Szczerbiak - He was never healthy enough to make an impact with the C's and his salary enraged the fan base. For what it is worth I always felt he would make an awesome movie villain.
Sebastian Telfair - The warning signs came early in the season when Jameer Nelson, Chauncey Billups and other point guards absolutely dominated Telfair. Meanwhile, the Celtics never went out of their way to have him take it to the hoop, which he did quite well. I'm not convinced he will end up overseas, but think he needs the right spot more than most.
Delonte West - Hands down the funniest guy in the NBA. And I love the way he played the game. It is worth noting that the C's jerked him around to no end in regards to position, role and playing time.
In the end I hated to see Jefferson go, but I understand. I can't look at this without getting all fired up. So I'm all in and can't wait for the season. But I've considered getting NBA League Pass to follow the Timberwolves. If ever there was a team that needed an all access TV show, it is Minnesota. Jefferson's reunion with Ricky Davis and Mark Blount alone is worth it. I can never remember wanting traded guys to have so much success.