Tonight the NBA will hold the annual draft lottery show. Currently the TWolves and Cavs have the 2 best shots at the top pick. They wait nervously for 4 ping pong balls to be pulled out of the hopper in a complex formula determining if their team has won the lottery or not. Remember when we last cared about such things? Remember way back before we got spoiled by year after year of entering the season as one of a few title contenders?
There was that one fateful night when our franchise was resurrected by those ping pong balls, just not in the way we imagined. We had the 2nd best shot at one of the top two spots and the two guys sitting there in the draft were supposed to be franchise saviors (one turned out to be exactly that, the other is still recovering from one of his numerous injuries). But the balls bounced away from us like a Jeff Green dribble drive off the foot (hey, remember when that was Tony Allen?) and thus started a chain reaction that brought us to where we are today.
I bring this up partly as a cautionary tale for the current lotto teams (who don't have anyone near as bonafied as Durant to hope for), but also as a reminder of how quickly things can turn for the better or for the worse regardless of how those fickle ping pong balls bounce.
Here is a look back at my dark thoughts the morning after the Lottery results were announced.
Waking up this morning, I don't feel any better. I feel a little sick in my stomach. I'm sure Celtics fans all across the world feel the same. The funny thing is that yesterday I was so very excited. It was like I was 10 again and it was Christmas morning. I was giddy. It hadn't even occurred to me that this could really go this wrong. I mean, logically, sure, I knew we could miss out on 1 or 2. But that's not what my heart said. My heart believed. I was completely sold. We weren't just going to get a top 2 pick, we were going to get Oden at number 1. It was going to happen. The first hint was the Bucks at 6. "That doesn't seem right." My head said. "Shut up, you're overthinking this" my heart said. Then he pulled out the Celtics logo and my heart stopped. Dumbstruck I couldn't even react. Out of nowhere, my dreams were shot, Christmas was canceled, and my team was doomed to another 10 years of failure.
Man, someone play that guy (me) a happy song and keep sharp objects away from him. That was a dark time for sure. But it was also a clarifying time. A few days later I had made up my mind. It was time to reel in the fish or cut bait.
Putting all your hope in players that are essentially being given up on by their former teams is always a risk, but a risk the team has to take. Danny has been building for this moment for years. He has methodically built up the chips to put him in a position to make a major move. He just needed the right time, the right trading partner, and the right deal. The time is now, there are plenty of teams willing to deal, all that is left is for Ainge to find the right deal.
Thankfully, a few months later Danny did just that and the rest is currently being written in new History books that will have a chapter devoted to the renewed Celtics-Lakers rivalry. And we got to live through that!
Speaking of history, I couldn't help but laugh at one more old article of mine back in December of 2006. Fans were chanting "Fire Doc" and I couldn't help but pile on. I didn't necessarily think Doc was to blame, but I was perfectly willing to use him as a scapegoat.
Rivers' defenders say the coach is not the whole or even the primary - problem with the Celtics. They're right, but they're also missing the big picture. The same flawed evaluation process that's produced, as the Globe's Peter May wrote, a poorly constructed team with a roster that, for the most part, consists of players who would be serviceable reserves on good teams, is also responsible for Rivers' hiring and tenure.
Later on I elaborated.
The enthusiasm and anticipation that accompanied the new season is rapidly waning. It's been 20 years since the last championship and four since Danny blew up a playoff team. Maybe ire directed at Rivers is misplaced, but it's a fact of life now and, more to the point, a fact of business. The team stinks and fans are turning away. Fair or not, the owners may soon have to heed the furious shouts of their paying customers and "fire Doc."
Here we are nearly five years later and Doc is signed up for another five years and I couldn't be happier. We can assume year one will have something to do with writing the final pages in this chapter of the book. But what is in store for the next few chapters? Is Doc really the man to take us into the next generation? (I'd argue that he is, if only for his relationship with Rondo) Should Doc get credit for developing Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, Delonte West, and others? Or did he hold those guys back as youngsters and delay their progress?
There's plenty of time to get into that, but for now the lesson I'm hoping to get across is this: Everything changes. Sometimes for good, sometimes not so much. And it can change in the blink of an eye at the moment you least expect. Which is why, as they always say, they play the games.
Side note: I am amused by looking back and reading myself from 4 - 5 years ago. Not that I'm on par with a Jackie MacMullan these days or anything, but I have to laugh at the run on sentences and dead end thoughts. Oh, and who am I trying to impress with a Boris Karloff reference? (Fire Doc article - first paragraph) I guarantee you I Googled "pitch fork mob" and came up with that name. Also, I must really like that Doors song. Thanks for putting up with my foibles over the years. You all are the best.