Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't play poker with Danny Ainge

Right now, as in this very moment, I'm watching Kevin Garnett's news conference on ESPN News. I just finished reading the Sports Guy's column on Page 2 about Danny Ainge "going all-in with a jack-nine of spades after a flop yielded two more spades" in first acquiring Ray Allen on draft day and then getting that 5th spade on the river by having Garnett fall into his lap courtesy of old Celtic buddy Kevin McHale. Boston just went from being the second-worst team in the league last season to the favorite in their division (which isn't saying much) and a definite contender for the Eastern Conference crown (which is saying quite a bit more). Let's look at the team that Boston had at the end of the season and the team they have as of right now (knowing that more players will need to be signed).

2006/07 team: Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Sebastian Telfair, Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen, Allan Ray, Michael Olowokandi, Theo Ratliff, Leon Powe, Kevin Pinkney

2007/08 team: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Brandon Wallace, Gabe Pruitt

Here's what you should deduce from the differences in those two rosters: a lot more talent.....and no depth whatsoever at any position. The Celtics now have the talent to go deep in the playoffs, but there are still a lot of question marks facing them. Who is capable of running the point other than Rajon Rondo? Is Doc Rivers the right coach for this team? Can Kendrick Perkins do enough to keep KG from killing him prior to the All-Star break? Will Tony Allen be available to play this season after his injury history and legal issues? Will Pierce or Allen be the primary "go-to" guy in late game situations? Lots of questions and quite a few roster holes to fill over the next few months.

Danny Ainge came away the big winner in this situation, having saved his job and his reputation in New England, but I believe that Minnesota got a decent return for the face of their franchise for the past decade. They weren't in a position to build around Garnett any longer so, much like Philly did last year in trading away Allen Iverson (and vastly improving afterwards, it is worth noting), the Timberwolves decided to rebuild with youth that will center around promising young big man Al Jefferson. Combine the talents of Jefferson with players like Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants and they could follow the pattern of success that the Chicago Bulls have had over the past few seasons. They will need to ship out players like Marko Jaric, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to achieve the desired result, though.

I realize that I just stated that Minnesota was not a "loser" in this trade, but Danny Ainge just said something that forces me to reiterate that you should not, under any circumstances, play poker with this man. He was talking about how much time they had invested in Jefferson, Gomes, Green and Telfair and made mention of the "blood, sweat and tears" they had shared together over the past few seasons. He said it all with a straight face and showed nothing that even hinted of guile. That means that he either truly believes all the B.S. that just exited his mouth or he's even crazier than I had him pegged to be. Either way, he's not a man to be trifled with.

As a somewhat unrelated side note that will serve to close this post, don't you have to imagine that Isiah Thomas is hiding under his desk right now?