With the Boston Celtics resembling nothing like we’ve come to know in recent years, the popular talk has been if they’ll sacrifice this season in hopes of landing a high lottery pick in 2014. If they are, President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, is putting on the world’s best poker face.
Ainge has never been one to bite his tongue, evident in his playing days and time as an executive. He sat down with Sports Illustrated’s NBA head Ian Thomsen for what resulted in a rather insightful interview. Ainge notes that “tanking” is much more than losing on purpose. Instead, it’s putting the entire culture through a process that may not even work out in their favor given the unpredictable nature of the lottery.
Yet, the money quote came when Thomsen asks Ainge whether or not he sees a franchise-altering player in next year’s draft. “If Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was out there to change your franchise forever, or Tim Duncan was going to change your franchise for 15 years? That might be a different story,” said Ainge. “I don’t see that player out there.”
On one hand, it’s easy to understand why anyone involved with the Celtics would be wary of tanking. The last two instances where the team openly attempted to resulted in them falling flat on their face. In 1997, Boston openly coveted Tim Duncan, only to land the #3 pick. Ten years later, Boston attempted to throw everything to the woodshed in hopes of landing either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant with the only saving grace that year being the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
On the other hand, however, (at least in October) the 2014 class is being hyped as the most stacked of its kind since 2003 when LeBron, Carmelo, Wade, Bosh and more all declared. Pending everything pans out how many hope and expect it to, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and more will all be available come next June. And, of course, Ainge’s comments were a subtle jab at Andrew Wiggins, who has been touted as the #1 overall pick going on two years now.
It’s difficult to say whether Ainge is foolish in his assumption at this moment because all that’s known about the majority of players are the news clippings about them. Regardless of whether someone like Wiggins lives up to the Herculean-like hype surrounding him this season – which I’m banking he will – the fact remains there will be a buffet of talent for teams to select from. Ainge is aware of this.
We’ll check back come April to see if he’s still singing the same tune. And how quickly Rajon Rondo is brought back into the fold.