Danny Ainge wants to get the Celtics back on the Championship Track. His task was impossible from the beginning because he inherited a team with poor talent and three maximum contracts (Pierce, Walker, and Vin Baker). The previous ownership wanted to trim payroll to the soft cap and this one is unwilling to pay a luxury tax. So being stuck in the middle of a mediocre conference, Ainge decided he must part ways with Walker immediately. And that started the endless pattern of trading for skilled veterans with bad contracts and injury problems.
His moves were designed to get more draft picks and maximize every one of them down to the very last pick in the second round. However his patterns have been most unorthodox. Ainge extended O'Brien only to have him quit when Williams and Battie were traded for Ricky Davis (a talented cancer) and Chris Mihm. Then Ainge extended Blount off his brilliant 1/2 season performance in a contract year. That blew up in his face. Then he traded Blount and RD along with Banks and Justin Reed for Olowakandi and Wally Sczerbiak. Wally spent more time on the IR than the basketball court. Meanwhile, Ainge pulled the Gaston bluelight special of trading Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and #7 for Ratliff (insurance money) and Sebastain Telfair. All I can say is that Grousebeck saved a lot of money losing the LaFrentz deal and the #7 rookie contract. THe Celtics got obviously weaker and the injury rash aggravated the situation where tanking for Oden and Durant became the logical strategy. May 22, 2007 is obviously a day of Celtic infamy and a disturbing repeat of 10 years ago. Between the Duncan lottery and the Oden lottery, the Celtics have had three winning seasons, four playoff appearences (2004 one was fraudulant) and three playoff series won (2002 and 2003).
After May 27, 2007, Danny had two choices:
1) Trade the #5 pick for an established star veteran to keep Pierce happy.
2) Trade Paul Pierce and commit to a complete overhaul.
Danny chose #1 to keep his job probably. He did the best he could do because Marion, Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal refused to play in Boston. That is the saddest statement of how things fell apart since the Big Three retired and Reggie Lewis died and the Celtics moved out of fabled Boston Garden. So now Danny is committing to building a team around Pierce and Ray Allen and has Al Jefferson as the third star. With good health and the improved play of Rondo and Perkins, our starting five is set. Our bench has Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Leon Powe and the two draft picks. Tony Allen could add a lot to the mix if he successfully recovers from his serious knee injury. Scalabrine is a future coach as far as I am concerned. Telfair may or may not be retained. We don't know if Ratliff will ever play again.
Finances - The Celtics will be firmly between the salary cap and the luxery tax threshold but have major decisions on which young players to extend. Jefferson's extension is a top priority and he will be expensive. Adding a midlevel veteran PG and using Ratliff and Telfair's plus sacrificing one or two younguns (Green, Powe, Gomes, Allan Ray and Tony Allen) to add a veteran big man appear to be on Ainge's shopping lists. Should we get a Brevin Knight and a Marcus Camby before training camp, I don't see why the Celtics can't become players in the watered down Eastern Conference in 2008 to 2010. They can keep reloading through the draft and put a quality product out on the basketball floor.
Window of opportunity - maximum potential - perennial 2nd or 3rd round playoff team - but never a serious threat to win the NBA Championship in the next three years.
What will it take? Danny will have to find a major FA player like Durant to get the Celtics back to the championship level or benefit from a blockbuster trade that almost happened.