By: Andrew Oak
The scenario was inevitable. My gut feeling told me that this was ultimately going to happen. If you are in Danny Ainge's situation, you know as an organization that having Rondo on the roster, knowing that he isn't going to resign back with Boston after the season, is practically pointless. After seeing how his team started off this season, Ainge decided it was time to deal the 4-time All Star and the last member of the 2008 NBA Championship Roster to the Dallas Mavericks.
One thing has been clear. Danny Ainge is a very committed individual determined to be successful. In fact, this man is so committed, that he is trying to attempt to reform the Boston Celtics roster a SECOND time in the past eight years. It worked out last time back in 2007 and he is attempting to ride the wave again in 2015. The '07 Boston Celtics finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with a 24-58 record. Only the Memphis Grizzlies at the time had a worse record than Boston that year meaning the Celtics odds of obtaining a top 5 pick was a guarantee. The Celtics had the second worst record, so they could only fall to the fifth spot. Greg Oden was the surefire pick to be the number one overall pick yet we had to decide our faith on lottery balls to fall the right way like a degenerate Keno gambler. It felt pathetic in a way that this is the way to decide the futures of NBA franchises by some ping pong balls.
As most of you know, the Celtics got the fifth pick in the draft that year and our full year of dedication to 'tanking' ultimately failed. The fifth pick ended up being Jeff Green (of all people) and it ended up to be a blessing in disguise because of the trade acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen after the draft. Now the tides have turned again and Danny Ainge is taking another stab at it.
There are two ways to look at the current situation compared to the 2007 offseason for Boston.
1. High risk equals high reward. Obviously losing games is a bad habit, so you never want to go out and tell your players to 'go out and lose some games' cause as a competitor, you rarely find those guys who are brainwashed into losing games when you play at the highest level. On top of that, you are gambling to get that number one overall pick, if you dont acquire that, you need to have some serious backup plans to reshape your roster. No one is going to want ANOTHER rebuilding season if you don't hit it big with the draft.
2. Being realistic with 'tanking' expectations. As you look at the roster now, you can just see where the Celtics glaring needs are, a true center, a legitimate 20 PPG scorer, a superstar player, etc. The depth may be there, but the fact that the Celtics' roster is filled with a bunch of guys who can be legit rotation players for many teams in the league, may be a test to head coach Brad Stevens to see how he will use his rotation and keep everyone happy while developing the younger players.
I usually don't encourage using the terms 'tank' or 'tanking' because sometimes people, especially fans, they take it way to literally. Fans who tank want their team to suck so much that they are refusing to watch their team on TV because they won a game that they are supposed to lose. Its so ridiculous that not only fans want their teams to 'tank', now, so do their GM's! The NBA is at a point right now that there is such a wide discrepancy of upper tier teams and lower tier teams and not much of the middlemen. The phrase 'in order to become really good, you have to be really bad first' is almost laughable, but it obtains some realities in the flawed NBA balance of equality because we have seen what has happened to a franchise that has acquired the top overall pick in the draft.
Having been in this situation before, I feel more experienced the second time around as a diehard Boston Celtics fan. Last time I was really nervous, do we actually have a chance to change the franchise if we get the top overall pick? That would have been a godsend, but I established emotional mood swings when it came to assembling the future of the Boston Celtics. I can't be let down in these situations and the facts are that right now, the Celtics roster isn't complete to be a legitimate playoff contender. This is the more realistic approach "technically speaking" for this season. Its a tough pill to swallow as a fan, but you cant count me in on the rebuild process for this season as long as the big move comes THIS OFFSEASON.
Like in 2007, if the Celtics don't get a guaranteed top 5 pick that they truly like, I see them pulling out plan B (again) and making some moves to make them competitive for the 2015-2016 season. As a fan, I WILL NOT ACCEPT another rebuilding season after next. The whole point of rebuilding is to get a team to start making the playoffs and making a run in the postseason. Having been a part of such a prestigious organization, I highly doubt people will be satisfied for a third consecutive 'tanking' season.
To be honest, I really like a lot of players that are on the current Celtics roster. Sullinger and Bradley seem to be the best mainstays for Boston at the moment. Olynyk, Green and Bass, Zeller are all pretty good ballers all having a unique skillset. The thing is, most of these players dont play that well on the defensive end. With Rondo gone, the addition of Jameer Nelson could be good for this season and next. If Nelson provides a nice little insurance policy for Marcus Smart, that could be a blessing in disguise if he decides to pick up his PO for 2016. Brandan Wright was the 8th overall pick in that same 2007 draft, so his upside as a legitimate rotation players has been established and could be a decent addition. Jae Crowder is a wild card player, he hasn't been playing that many minutes this season and he is a little undersized yet can still drive and post up and a true hustler player.
After winning 24 games one season to winning 66 games and winning a NBA Championship, I'm more than willing to test the waters again of being really bad. So if you, as a fan, have decided not to 'tank' the season prior to the Rondo trade, I hope now you can change your state of mind and accept that this season is about to be a rough one to say the least. We can slowly watch the rest of this season to watch the young players develop and have our new additions and veteran players see some good ole 'DNP's' down the stretch of the regular season because Rondo was our last true valuable asset. Now that the pieces are in full motion, I think that its safe to say that being bad this year will be really good.