This has been Danny Ainge's worst season by far. Rasheed Wallace was his worst move but none of them were really good. It is truly damning with faint praise to suggest that the signing of Shelden Williams was probably his best move of the past year. Yet Shelden has played solidly, with energy, and exceeded the low expectations that came with his "Bust" label upon arrival. He has worked hard in games and in practice regardless of his wildly fluctuating playing time. If only Danny's other additions had reached a level even slightly above expectations.
Marquis Daniels looked every bit as good as I had hoped--until he ravaged his thumb and underwent season-altering, if not season-ending, surgery. The experiment with him as a ball-handling swingman playing good defense to counterbalance the flaws in Eddie House's game looked good until House lost his jumper and 'Quis lost his hand. By the time Marquis returned, Eddie was mired in a prolonged slump and Daniels never regained his confidence. Another acquisition that lived up to his negative expectations (frequently injured and/or invisible) rather than blossoming under the limited demands of a role player on a contender.
The return of Big Baby Davis after the rest of the league had spurned him was Danny's other "big" move. Glen has played with energy after finally returning from his self-imposed exile caused by breaking his thumb on his homie after the long-time friend supposedly cast aspersions on Davis' new fiancee. He's shown a knack for corralling offensive rebounds and a similar knack for giving the ball back by forcing up the rebound into a crowd for a blocked shot. Less needed has been the midrange jumper from last season as Sheed and Garnett have become primarily outside players at this stage in their careers. He's not always effective but at least he is trying hard--not a guarantee on this year's team.
Third from the last pick in the draft is never a high recommendation, yet in spite of numerous picks for sale, Boston stayed pat and selected small college phenom Lester Hudson. Lester actually looked better than his predecessor Gabe Pruitt or incumbent backup Eddie House. With an all-in commitment to the aging warriors' closing window the club eschewed developing this rookie or the 2008 draft holdovers Giddens or Walker (although to be fair rotten luck in the form of a knee injury removed Bill Walker from the equation for the tell-tale half of the season leading up to the trade deadline).
The Celtics gave up Hudson for nothing but roster space and sent the other youngsters packing along with Eddie at the deadline to bring in Nate Robinson (and Marcus Landry for salary matching). Nate showed the same attributes that had made him so expendable in New York--streaky shooting, life on the edge of loss of control, and a remarkable lack of defense in someone so athletically gifted. Nate the Great (nix that, make it Nate the Flake) found the Green dog house with late reactions resulting in fouls swiping at his man as he was unable to change directions and a one-on-four three-point effort with 5 seconds gone of the 18 remaining in the quarter--providing plenty of time for the other team to make a final basket. Once again an acquisition lived up to the negative expectations and failed to emerge as a contributor for a contender.
Landry was released and it is hard to see Nate being kept around so the return for the 2008 and 2009 draft classes is a big zero. Well maybe Ainge has turned it around with free agent D-league escapees Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney who are playoff eligible but more likely on hand for a long look for next season as they have 2-year non-guaranteed contracts.
Now to return to the accumulation of excrement in the bag marked Prosecution Exhibit Number 1. I actually feel physically ill as I contemplate the long irksome list of ways Rasheed Wallace has disappointed. Unfortunately I must preface this with the disclaimer that almost all of it was on the warning label that came with the Sheed package. It is somewhat shocking to me that his abysmal 3-point shooting percentage and wildly irresponsible number of attempts fall well down on the list. This aspect at least, while showing decline, is somewhat a surprise as it is a career low by far. Just as damaging has been the slow or nonexistent defensive rotations that seems to be one part physical decline, one part disinterest, one part slow recognition, and one part lazy self-centeredness (and none of those parts are acceptable!) Even more damaging has been the attitude--a tone that might most kindly be described as lackadaisical. Two points in the Bill Simmons' article I found particularly telling, and repugnant. The remark by his friend (father?) that he had never seen a quick-twitch muscle action getting down court that would have caused him to spill his cup of coffee; and Bill's own free-throw-line count where Sheed never crossed either free-throw line (with nine as a high point). This makes me angry! Angry as a fan, angry as a basketball lover and player, angry as an observer, angry as a human being. As I feel my blood pressure rising as I type this, it occurs to me that I am just as angry with Doc. Which raises the question, if Doc had benched him every time he loafed up or down the court, would Rasheed have quit (except in CTC terms [Cut The Check, a phrase of Wallace's own coinage])--on Doc, on the team, on everything but the salary collection? Which brings me to the most harmful aspect of all (other than corrupting perhaps the last real season for the New Big Three): there are two more seasons and $12M on this sluggard's contract! I suppose the list would be incomplete without adding a lack of interest in rebounding, inconsistent individual defense, the continuing wait for his first draw of a charge, and the disarray of the team’s focus as it concentrates on Sheed’s pique rather than the task at hand.
The whole benching question brings up a flurry of issues. In spite of the age, there are a number of young players on this team (and probably should have been more). What kind of message is it that Sheed is allowed to loaf along? Is anything he brings to the team more valuable than the statement that benching him would make for the other 14? Double standards are always counterproductive and the effects of a season of biting his tongue rather than the prima donnas has to leave Doc near a coronary, the youngsters baffled and resentful, and purists among the fans fighting down the gorge. I think Danny and Doc thought that there would be a half a dozen games in which Rasheed might provide the winning edge. In hindsight I wonder if his presence didn't cost the whole team it's fighting edge? [Discuss on CG Forums!]
Very well written piece. Our op 7 from Game 1 (Starters +Baby +TA) are all guys from the championship season. Posey, PJ, House, Powe, and Cassell (the bench from that playoffs) are all gone and Ainge has not added one useful player in their absence. He didn't sign Birdman or Powe. Two guys to be had for cheap, he didn't buy any picks (Buddinger and Blair were 2nd rounders to be had) and he's failed at all three draft picks. Rasheed is a failure and he could of shipped him off to Charlotte for Dj Augustin and a pick, but decided to hold on to him and now we're stuck with the Lazy Chucker for two more yrs.
I'm just glad that the team formerly known as the Sonics turned down Al Jefferson and a 1st for Robert Swift and turned down Rondo (in the Ray deal) for Robert Swift (Sonics asked for Rondo instead of Delonte and Ainge said they'd do it if the Sonics added Swift).
I know the C's won a title during Ainge's years here, but the Bulls won 6 under Jerry Krause and the Pistons won one under Joe Dumars. Winning a title doesn't make you a great GM. Ainge is severely overrated.
Forgot to add that backup point guard is probably the easiest position to fill and Ainge has passed on adding a backup point guard to Rondo. My pick the past few years has been Jason Williams. While no all-star he's actually a point guard. Nate Robinson has no idea how to create a shot for anyone (well he can for himself). When he tries to create for others nothing good comes of it.