Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Orlando Magic do not care for your recent basketball history

This might be the first "breaking news" post of this blog, but apparently the perpetually irrelevant Orlando Magic have signed Florida's Billy Donovan to a 5-year, $27.5 million contract. This is what one might call "long money." Now, I'm no historian, but could someone refresh my memory as to how many championships Mike Montgomery, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, Tim Floyd, and the gentleman directly to your left won in their respective storied NBA careers? What's that you say? None? None championships? Sounds about right. I'm too bored to look it up at the moment but I'm fairly certain that most if not all of those aforementioned fellows didn't even take a team to the playoffs. Now, this isn't to say Mr. Donovan won't buck this trend, just that it would be relatively surprising if he did. After all, remember the big to-do that was made when Larry Brown finally won an NBA title to go with his NCAA one? That's because nobody had fucking done it before, in sixty-some years of professional basketball and even more years of college ball. So let's just say the odds aren't too high on Billy D leading the Magic to the Promised Land. But hey, we reserve judgment.

That said, I could not help but think of the incredibly fabulous parallels between Billy D and his oft-linked mentor, Coach Rick "Success Is A Choice... Oh, fuck, wait..." Pitino. Now, you'd think this is one career move where Billy might want to steer clear of Rick's past trajectory, i.e. bolting for the NBA for sick money after winning an NCAA title and seeing a handful of your key players jump to the League. But no, Billy seems intent on following the Rickster all the way, precedent be damned.

One of Pitino's penchants while running the C's was bringing in dudes who played for him at Kentucky who weren't exactly burning up other team's scouting reports. On the plus side you had Walter McCarty, on the minus side you had Wayne Turner, flatly in between yet thoroughly undeserving of the sixth pick in the draft was Ron Mercer. So naturally, my mind started wandering about who we could fleece Donovan out of in exchange for the fifth pick, since he's naturally gonna be chomping at the bit to land Brewer, Noah or Horford and at least two if not all three of those guys should be available with this pick.

Unfortunately, I looked at Orlando's roster and guess what? It's fucking awful. The only two players they have who are remotely appealing are Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. How beautifully Pitino-esque would it be if Donavan took, say, the number 5 and Pierce for Howard, then drafted Noah to replace him? Unfortunately absolutely no one, not even a Pitino disciple, is that stupidly arrogant, and apparently the salary numbers wouldn't even work there so why am I even talking about it, except that the prospect of Jefferson and Howard playing together makes me all tingly. That brings us to Jameer Nelson, who is a solid player but hardly worth the fifth pick.

My point in all this is that the Orlando Magic have an absolutely terrible roster. Aside from Howard and Nelson they had exactly two other players who averaged in double figures: Grant Hill's Corpse and Hedo Turkoglu, who is pretty much a picture of mediocrity and probably averaged 13 points a game simply because Howard was being double-teamed and fuck it, someone's gotta be open. The Celtics, on the other hand, had seven players average double figures. Granted, three of them missed fairly extended time for injuries (Tony Allen, Wally, and Pierce), but who cares? The Magic won almost twice as many games as the C's and made the playoffs. Seriously though, Doc's a great coach.

The guy we should get instead of the tall, mysterious Chinese guy, Vol. II

Ahhh, I kid. As Tim points out below, I too doubt very much Kobe will be heading anywhere anytime soon; the various potential situations just don't seem right. I don't see a team like the Suns, the Mavs or even the Bulls blowing up their nucleus to acquire Kobe, and let's face it, there's just no way he'll go to a shitty team; that'd defeat the whole purpose. Come November I'm guessing he'll still be in LA; it's honestly pretty hard to imagine him anywhere else, save New York except for the fact that the Knicks are terrible (talk about your dysfunctional organizations) and have next to nothing in the way of tradeable assets. Philly might make some sense--Kobe's always been sensitive toward his hometown--except that they're atrocious and, besides Iguodala, have little in the way of attractive trade pieces.

Now that that's out of the way, I've been out of town for a while and clearly have a lot to catch up on. First and foremost, Tim's proposed Pierce and the #5 for Bynum and Odom scenario: very interesting. I checked this trade out on brilliant site that's been around for a while now and which ESPN has predictably ripped off completely, by the way--and it actually works, salary-wise. I've always loved Odom as a player, and he's being completely wasted in LA, as he has been most places he's played because most coaches haven't been creative enough to figure out how to use his unique skills (though that really doesn't bode well for a potential Doc-Odom pairing). I think Bynum will be a nice player and a potentially very very good one, and Lord knows moving to the East could speed up his development curve by a good two years. Shipping Pierce to LA also makes some sense since he's from there, and would give the Lakers the legit second option Kobe seems to crave. I'd be worried we're giving up a little too much here, though... I think Bynum for the number five in this draft is pretty much an even shake, and then the trade becomes Pierce for Odom which seems a little lopsided, much as I do enjoy Lamar. I dunno, it's an interesting thought.

As for the Zach Randolph thing, Tim's right that Randolph would absolutely destroy the Eastern Conference. Randolph in Boston could be a potentially crazy situation, though, and I'm not sure he and Jefferson can play together. Most of the time I feel like the "NBA players are gangsta thugs" discourse smacks of deep racism (white athletes simply don't get talked about this way), but Zachary actually strikes me as a legitimate sociopath. Which could be interesting, but I'm not sure he'll coexist with Big Al and given the choice I think I'll take Al who's both cheaper and by all accounts a stand-up dude.

Now, the draft... I'm gonna go ahead and disagree with Tim's Julian Wright crush, largely because my own Corey Brewer crush is growing frighteningly intense with each passing day that I convince myself both Brandan Wright and Horford will be gone by the time we pick. Both Brewer and JWright would make either Pierce or Gerald redundant (though "redundant" is at least a bit clearer than what Gerald is now), so as far as I'm concerned they're basically the same thing. And I'm really taken in by Brewer; gotta love those two titles, the fact that he played so well within a system when he was arguably the most talented guy on the court, that 90 foot wingspan or whatever... like I've noted numerous times, when all's said and done Corey Brewer might be the third-best player in the draft. As for JWright, I think he'll be a nice player but the knock I keep hearing is that people think he's sort of hit his ceiling; apparently that's one of the big reasons he came out this year. I do fully endorse Tim's argument that NBA people routinely talk themselves out of guys for mind-numbingly stupid reasons (see Howard, Josh), but I'm not sure Wright fits that bill. I'm also not convinced Conley's entirely overrated, either, though I also don't think he's the second coming of Chris Paul like some people apparently do. Conley is worth watching in terms of the C's: a number of people have suggested the Hawks could take him at #3, largely because they've spent the past several years drafting dudes who look an awful lot like Brandan Wright, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, etc., while passing on dudes like CP3 and Deron Williams (soooooo stupid). If the Hawks take Conley third that means either BWright or Horford will fall to us, both of whom I'd infinitely prefer over Yi. I'd still think hard before passing on Brewer though. I dunno, this will be discussed ad nauseum over the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maybe we need a lovable thug

The rumor of Zach Randolph coming to Boston for Theo, the #5 pick and maybe some other bits is intriguing to say the least. Jefferson, Randolph and Pierce would form the best frontcourt in the East. It'd be pretty sick. Zach has a nice criminal history, there's certainly been some highlights like the bereavement leave that ended up at a strip club, the pot arrest (that's his mugshot), and some other fun incidents. But basketball wise he is a tip-top player, and I don't just say that because of his girth.

Chemistry with Z-Bo could be a problem, but there supposedly are not that many bad apples to spoil on the C's young and spunky roster, so I personally don't think it is a huge concern. I have a feeling my sentiments will not be shared by many in that regard. Anyway, adding Zach and not really losing anything means the C's should be a playoff team in many people's eyes, so hopefully it will finally get Rivers fired when they start the season by going 9-17. With Z-Bo, Pierce, Jefferson, Rondo, West and Gomes this could be a real scary team (if they had a competent coach.)

I can't really fathom this trade going through though, Conley might be the most overrated guy in the draft, and Portland really is this desperate to get him and dump Randolph??? It just seems goofy. Randolph is too good. Also it is gonna put us in luxury tax land when we have to give Jefferson an extension next year, and Wyc might not like that. We'll see....

The guy we should draft instead of the tall, mysterious Chinese guy

The one thing Danny does well is draft. He's very very good, whether it be the brain doctoring or just his plain Mormon luck that does it we'll never know, but Danny has had his fine moments. I mean when Marcus Banks at #13 is your worse pick that's playing well with the cards you've been dealt. Of course last year Danny traded the #7 pick that could have been Brandon Roy, so I just hope he holds onto #5 this year and his draft intelligence continues.

Hopefully we keep the pick and the guy Danny should draft is the one making all those future Florida pros look helpless. Julian Wright is a fucking beast. For me he easily seems to be the third best player in the draft, and has All-Star written all over him. More people seemed to be feeling this vibe in early '07, Simmons had a column (scan down to the Kansas stuff) in February mentioning he'd take him third, but as of late it seems like draftniks have cooled on him. There was a mock draft I saw where he was going 14th. Jesus.

This guy is way too good to be going 14th. He's at least 6'8''. Athletically he is at the top of his class. He is very intelligent on and off the court, a good example is Monday's Draft Express interview. All these things are very nice, but why you love the guy is because he is a crazy passer.

Julian Wright sees the court. This a a skill most people don't have even in the NBA, and definitely not many guys with Wright's height and athleticism. The last point is why I'm enamored with him - people compare Wright to Diaw, but that is an unfair comparison because Wright's quickness and length are superior. This bra is fast, Diaw kind of looks like a tortoise out there.

Wright can be better likened to Lamar Odom, an athletic big man who can pass far better than any guard on the Lakers. But I think Wright is a better passer than Odom. At Kansas he was unselfish to a fault and would do some passes into the post that were major "WTF, how did he do that?" type stuff. That excites me, and if you don't think that skill translates into the NBA you're wrong. Great passing means easy baskets, good chemistry, and lots of wins - Phoenix the best current example and SacTown of a few years ago another prime recent example.

The naysayers claim Wright can't shoot. This is true to a point, but his shot ain't broke, his form is okay, and with guys his height and age practice is all it takes to make a dramatic improvement. I'm a lot more concerned as to whether Yi Jianlian can actually move as opposed to Wright's perimeter shooting. There is also concern as to whether he is a 3 or a 4 in the NBA, but this seems ridiculous to me because Wright is just a pure forward, capable of playing both positions defensively and offensively.

Wright can pass better than Mike Conley Jr., is eight inches taller, and might be just as athletic. But he is no longer a sexy pick like Conley is. That is the hilarity of the NBA draft, and why Wright should be there at five. With him and Rondo you could have two of the most sublime passers in the NBA. This guy is good, but he's not a mysterious Chinese seven footer, so who knows if we'll get him...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So this is what Hell looks like...

Tuesday's lottery massacre has left many of us completely stunned or just feeling totally defeated. Personally, I was expecting it, when you're a slight pessimist and the odds aren't in your favor you tend not to set your hopes high. So I beg to ask the question: why the fuck were so many of you giddy with hope leading up to this???

Here we are with less than a 40% chance of getting a top 2 pick, the worse coach in the league, an incompetent GM, clueless ownership -- and 40% odds has you thinking that everything will be gravy in the land of green? I think this is delusional, a great example of the false "hope" that Doc, Danny and Wyc love to spout - and something frankly an informed fan shouldn't fall under.

Landing Oden or Durant would have been phenomenal - because it would signify a light at the end of the tunnel. Oden (and to a lesser extent, Durant) meant that despite the puddle of shit we were in presently, undoubtedly there would be roses down the road, because an All-NBA center (or freakish 4 man) will outlast a bad coach, a bad GM, and maybe even a bad ownership. Sure, it would have been great, but we have to analyze the current situation.

Right now I have no confidence in Celtics management. And this a terrible feeling for a fan, because it is so hopeless. If I had any type of faith in Wyc or Danny it was shattered when Doc was given an extension. That day was much more immediately painful than losing the lottery. Basically it's like voting Bush into office again for another four years in 2008, or something comparably retarded. It is so utterly incomprehensible that after it is over anybody who is even tangentiality involved in granting the extension you lose all respect for from a basketball standpoint. If they could do this, they would be capabable of doing anything...

I see no way that anyone who has watched the Celtics regularly over the past three years could have any faith in Rivers. Here at The Shamrock Headband, we will continue to beat a dead horse, because there are few things in basketball that infuriate me more than Doc Rivers. He seems like a great guy but he is literally the worst fucking coach I have ever seen. The reasons for this are manifold, and have been thoroughly explained by Bill Simmons, Celtics Blog, several writers at Real GM, many national columnists - hell, most people outside the mainstream Boston media. The fact that Doc is going on Year 4 is an atrocity that I will never hesitate to talk about, for as far as I am concerned, that is the overriding story of these Celtics - how Doc Rivers continues to be their coach. It means that no matter how many brilliant moves Ainge makes the team will severely underachieve. Severely. I'm talking 12 to 20 wins less a season than normal. That is how bad a coach Doc is. His complete lack of of knowledge concerning rotations, substitutions, defensive schemes etcetra will kill you.

Oden or Durant would make year 4 of Doc bearable, because supposedly these two guys are too good a thing to screw up. But I don't know. The Celtics are very, very shaky. We are at the point where we start seeing talent attrition, 1990's Clippers style. You accrue a bunch of valuable commodities (Pierce, Jefferson, Rondo, West, Gomes, Green, the #5 pick) and then watch helplessly as mismanagement sees them slip away for virtually nothing. The only thing to do is to find hope in this hopelessness. I'm not looking forward to it.

The day after the day after

I'm going to keep this post relatively short, under the assumption that this space is probably going to be pretty heavy on draft-related obsessing over the next month or so. That having been said: this is truly awful. Not only is the fifth pick quite literally the worst case scenario, it also throws a massive wrench into trying to strategize a draft that's insanely deep but entirely up-in-the-air in terms of star potential. I'd like to see us get Brandan Wright but who knows if he'll be there at 5? And even if he is, does he contribute right away? Probably not. Guys like Horford and Brewer are probably ready to step in and make some sort of difference, but Horford's basically another Big Al and picking Brewer would mean either trading Pierce or giving up on Gerald, as noted before. Yi Jianlian? God I hope not... we hear Ainge has some hang-ups about foreign players that might keep him from making that pick. Though he has shown a tremendous affinity for guys who can't legally drink and are "several years away from contributing." I think you seriously lean toward making a trade... hope some crrrrrrazy GM falls in love with Yi and makes an irresponsible trade for the fifth pick. Someone get McHale on the horn and offer up Gerald, the number five and Theo's expiring deal for Garnett. Someone do this now.

Also, it's time for ownership to spend some money, or at least act like they're even thinking about it. A close associate and I were discussing this yesterday, and said associate made the observation that to the best of both of our recollection the Celtics have never made a truly meaningful free agent signing. At least since the late 1980s. Dominique? Xavier McDaniel?? Veal Scalabrine??? Jesus. Here's hoping Detroit plays it fast and loose with Billups like they did with Wallace and we just back a dumptruck full of cash up to his house and give him the keys to the castle. Chauncey Billups would be the greatest thing to happen to Rajon Rondo since Doc decided to play him 35 minutes a night while intentionally losing games. Something tells me Billups isn't exactly going to jump at the opportunity to come to Boston, though. If only there was some way we could have drafted him...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


That's about all I can muster at this point. Check Dime for the full story behind that image, by the way. The C's get many more years of torture and we get our fifteen minutes of fame... I don't really feel like it's an even trade.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Indeed, it's all come down to this. We begin this blog a few short hours from the moment we've waited months for, when the next fifteen years of basketball's greatest franchise will quite possibly unfold over a few short minutes of prime-time television. We speak, of course, of the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery, a matter to which we'll return shortly. But first, the obligatory introduction.

This blog is intended to represent Celtics fandom as it once was and still can be. The last twenty years of Celtics basketball have been defined by abject misfortune, poor management, increasingly shoddy media coverage and dwindling fan appreciation. This blog provides a voice in the wilderness toward righting at least three of those wrongs, possibly four if you're a superstitious type. Everyone whose voice will be heard in this space can remember the days when the Celtics owned this town, a situation which, tonight willing, might return, though it will take no small amount of effort. It is this effort to which we hereby fully commit ourselves.

This blog stands as a challenge to the three glaring problems of Boston professional basketball: the resoundingly inept Celtics management, the perniciously indifferent Boston media, and the startlingly lackadaisical Boston sports fan. It is time for us to make them care. The "new" Celtics ownership vacillates between the painfully incompetent and the criminally negligent. The recent extension of Doc Rivers either indicates that a you-scratch-our-back-we'll-scratch-yours tanking deal was in place, or that ownership is so bungling that they've given Ainge deity-like omnipotence coupled with zero accountability. At least the former possibility suggests forethought, which unfortunately makes me strongly suspect the latter. While Ainge has drafted well, his fantasy-basketball-style trading habits and idiotic loyalty to Doc have long made any such compliments hollow. It's time for things to change.

As for the media, the Boston Globe trots out the work(wo)manlike Shira Springer, competent but uninspired, and the walking journalistic atrocity known as Peter May, whose "reporting" frequently suggest he hasn't watched an NBA game in several years. Don't believe me? Check out one of his most recent works, an urgent blow-by-blow of the 1997 Lottery. Seeing as Peter May neither writes for a San Antonio newspaper nor inhabits a time warp where he lives ten years in the past, I think it's safe to say this jerkoff has been "scooped" on this one. All the while two of the greatest basketball writers of eras past--Jackie MacMullan and the legendarily-lazy-in-his-old-age Bob Ryan--appear resigned to picking up CHB's Sox-related table-scraps and occasionally churning out high school human-interest stories. Fire Peter May! Set MacMullan free! These are refrains you will hear often in this space. The Herald, before you even ask, sucks. The only writer currently penning passionate and insightful material on the C's is the redoubtable Bill Simmons, but even he is constrained by his auspices as a "national" journalist. It's time we held the Boston media's feet to the fire.

As for the fans: what has happened to Boston basketball? Is Boston truly only capable of caring about two sports teams? I refuse to believe this is the case. Are Boston fans, who pride themselves on their knowledge and loyalty, far more fairweather than they'd like to admit? A disturbing prospect. An even more disturbing prospect: Are the city's deep-seeded racial hang-ups standing in the way of an embracing a predominantly African-American team that plays in a predominantly African-American league? After all, Paul Pierce (this site's spiritual touchstone) is inarguably one of the most consistently brilliant Boston athletes of his generation, yet is snubbed in the hearts of Boston sports fans, who prefer the melanin-deficient "grit" of certain "dirt dogs." Or--and this would be perhaps the most obvious answer--does fan disinterest solely stem from the combined forces of management and media incompetence? This is the most appealing prospect, though all of the above questions must and will be considered time and again in this space.

This blog does not attempt to replace or supercede any of the fine existing Celtics blogs, such as celticsblog or iheartceltics, to which we may indeed link frequently. This blog instead hopes to fashion itself from such wonderfully passionate and intelligent influences as (the Ulysses of sports blogs), (the mediamatters of sports blogs), while incorporating some good ol' fashioned Simmons humor and cultural referents. In short, we wish to prove that the literate, positive, and thoroughly bleeding-heart Celtics fan still exists and has a voice, both in Boston and in the larger world. Now, let's get to the basketball.

As noted before, tonight is the NBA Lottery, which means that twenty-four hours from now this blog will either be filled with joyous hosannas to the basketball gods or elegies of shattered dreams and directionless scorn. There will be no in-between. Well, I suppose the in-between will be that we'll be too hungover from either celebrating or sorrow-drowning to post anything at all, though we'll try to avoid that (entirely possible) situation.

As most of the basketball-loving (or even vaguely-basketball-aware) world is aware, tonight will arguably have two winners and eleven losers. This might prove to be an overly-dramatic and even flatly inaccurate assessment down the line, but right now it sure as hell feels that way. The Celtics have a roughly 40% chance of landing one of the top-two picks (second best likelihood behind the Memphis Grizzlies), which would guarantee them the opportunity to choose one of the two "franchises" available: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.

If we pick first we'll pick Oden. End of story.

If we pick second, well... back during the college season there was some flapping going on about taking Durant number 1. Simmons himself even endorsed this for a period, claiming that while Oden had a chance to be one of history's top centers, Durant had the chance to be one of history's top players. Honestly though, as of late everyone's seemed to back off this. Chad Ford's recent write-up (subscription required) of Oden's workout gives the impression that any team would be insane not to draft him first. Even the Bucks have come out and said they'd take Oden (fuck you, Bogut). Since Oden almost certainly will be gone by number two, if we pick second we'll pick Durant.

If we pick third, well, I'll fucking shoot myself. Seriously though, this is a huge question. Do you take Brandan Wright, a terrific prospect who's probably a year or two away? Do you take Al Horford, who's slightly more NBA-ready than Wright but lacks his upside? You certainly can't take Corey Brewer--who may well be the third-best player in this draft--unless you're ready to just throw in the towel on Gerald. I'm not sold on Rondo as the future but three is too high to take Mike Conley. I think if you drop out of the top two you seriously start looking at trading the pick, maybe packaging it with anyone and anything but Pierce and Big Al and trying to land a Garnett or a Jermaine O'Neal for 70 cents on the dollar. Ainge claims he'll probably hold on to the pick (of course he does), so if push comes to shove you pick Wright and hope he develops quicker than expected.

The prospect of picking fourth or anywhere lower depresses me too deeply to write about, and I've already made myself so nervous that I can barely keep typing. Therefore I end this post. Till next time, when everything will be different, in one way or another. Welcome to the Shamrock Headband.