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A lesson before signing

I kind of wish the Celtics had drafted a player named "Patience."

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, the draft was a letdown. After a flurry of trade rumors raised expectations that the Celtics could actually trade up in the lottery, the night ended with Danny Ainge using all four picks and not getting a clear cut, impact player.  Alas, rebuild summer #3 started out with a whimper and free agency probably won't be any better.  After the team posted a 40-42 record and muscled their way into the playoffs, we all hoped that they'd be able to ride that wave and take that momentum into 2015-2016.  So far, it hasn't happened.

But I'm not worried or discouraged.  Jeff put together a devil's advocate critique at Danny's performance so far, and while I agree with some of his points, we need to pump the breaks a little.

From the start of the rebuild, Ainge and Brad Stevens have stressed the importance of character with their incoming personnel.  I think that's why Rondo is gone, why Brandon Bass stuck around for so long, why Smart was their lottery pick in 2014, and why they reached to grab Terry Rozier at #16.

There are times when I get a little frustrated and wished that they'd gamble on an unproven talent or even a knucklehead with tons of upside, but ultimately, team chemistry is important and so far, Stevens' teams have played hard and overachieved.  For the most part, Ainge has targeted ultra-competitive, defense first players.  The learning curve has been steep for some on the offensive end, but eventually, guys like Avery Bradley and (in spurts) Marcus Smart have come around.

Let's also remember that right now, this isn't a roster that is transformed overnight with the addition of one big free agent.  LeBron James doesn't make the Celtics a contender; Boston doesn't have enough perimeter shooting.  Kevin Love can't help hang Banner #18 next season; most of the team plays role player minutes and haven't blossomed into stars.  Landing a Paul Millsap or Danny Green would be nice, but it doesn't drastically change the outlook of this team.  This all takes time and we're not there yet.

This is a full on youth movement with nearly every player on a rookie contract and under the age of 25.  As Danny stated at today's rookie introduction press conference, free agents will come, but just not the free agents you're thinking of or hoping for.  Tobias Harris has been labeled a second- or third-tier FA, but he's only 22 and shown dramatic improvement in his first four years in the league.  If Danny can get him, he needs to get him.  Maybe he's not first-tier caliber, but he's young and shown a work ethic that fits into the team's mold.  Ideally, all these investments peak at the same time, not unlike what happened with the world champion Warriors this year.  And further down the road still, look at what the Spurs are already doing in free agency.  Sure, they're pursuing LaMarcus Aldridge, but they've also locked up future San Antonio lifers Kwahi Leonard and Danny Green to ensure team continuity.  That's how you do it.

As an aside, news broke last night as free agency opened that the team has shown interest in players like Corey Brewer and Gerald Green along with Robin Lopez and Amir Johnson, players who might be a little longer in the tooth, but could be had at a bargain price.  Let's not forget that this is also a game of asset management.  If Ainge can sign them and Stevens can increase their value over the next few seasons, they could become valuable trade chips down the line.

There's also the matter of timing.  Fans don't want to hear that patience is a virtue, but frankly, this just wasn't going to be Boston's best year of tradeable assets.  Next summer, the Celtics could have as many as four first rounders in the draft, Gerald Wallace's $10M contract expired, and another year under the belt of their young talent pool.  It will surely be a feeding frenzy as the new TV money exponentially raises the salary cap.  More teams will be in the market for a franchise player and Ainge could again be on the outside looking in as GM's in flashier cities and bigger markets wine and dine marquee names at the stroke of midnight.

That could all come to pass, but you have to give credit where credit is due.  In two years, Ainge has not made a mistake.  He's taken advantage of GM's making rash decisions, hired a great coach, planned ahead for a rising salary cap, and most importantly, rebuilt a winning culture in two years.  That's been worth the wait.  Cynics will question last year's playoff run--especially now--but to me, it's vindication that it's all working.  Slowly, but surely.

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