Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Here Comes The Sun...

First, allow me to fully and unabashedly echo Tim's sentiment: what a trade. Take a long look at the photo to the left: when was the last time you saw Paul Pierce smile like that? 2002? My word.

What a trade, indeed. After the initial shock of hearing that the Celtics were trading nearly have their roster for one of the most exciting--and, I'll say it, downright best--players in NBA history, I felt honestly ecstatic. As of this morning, the Celtics are 5-1 odds to win the NBA title. The teams with shorter odds? Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio. That's it. Our closest rival in the East in the eyes of Vegas is Detroit, who's 11-1. Granted, using a sports book as a divining rod is foolish, but Jesus Christ: we're back.

There are so many things that make this trade great it's hard list them all, but it's worth examining a few. First of all, when you really think about it, we didn't give up that much. Granted, letting go of Big Al hurts, but as we've noted before in this space, Celtics fans might have jumped the gun a bit by deciding that half a season of 20-10s for arguably the worst team in basketball makes a guy Karl Malone Redux. Big Al is a very good player with the potential to become an excellent one, but we'll see how he fares against [insert dominant Western Conference big man] four times a year. It's almost certain that Big Al will never be Kevin Garnett, even Kevin Garnett at 31. Now, consider that aside from now, we didn't relinquish a single player who's even a legitimate NBA starter. Ryan Gomes is a capable backup. Gerald Green is still a frustrating project, and rumors abound that management had come to believe that his work ethic and attitude might stand in the way of his ever coming close to his full potential. Sebastian Telfair is an unqualified disaster who will most likely be out of the league sooner rather than later. Theo Ratliff is an accounting tool. It's been proven time and again that in the NBA (as opposed to MLB or the NFL), trading quality for quantity doesn't work, yet that's exactly what the Wolves just did: trade an all-time great who is still a dominant player, for one very good player and a bunch of who-knows-what-else. Before the draft the rumor was Big Al, the number 5 and some other stuff for KG, and now, a month later, Ainge has managed Big Al, the number 5 and some other stuff for KG and Ray Allen. Stunning.

Another aspect of the deal that warrants reflection--one which Simmons addresses in his predictably gleeful take on this swindle--is the apparent genius of putting these three together. The Ray Allen trade on its own was confusing; it certainly moved the Celtics out of the cellar but certainly didn't make them a force. Now the Allen trade makes perfect sense, as Ray Allen represents the perfect complement to Kevin Garnett that McHale & Co. were never able to acquire. Garnett with Pierce is enticing enough, but Garnett with Pierce and Allen is a frightening thought, particularly when one takes into account Garnett's thoroughly underrated skills as a passer. The Celtics now boast a first-rate inside scorer, a first-rate slasher/mid-range scorer, and a first-rate perimeter scorer: a nightmare scenario for any opponent. Moreover, all three are thoroughly stand-up characters with an unquestioned desire to win at all costs, and it's difficult to imagine any of these guys sulking over a lack of touches or a decrease in stats provided the C's are winning, which they almost certainly will be.

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about the Celtics. I can't wait till November.

Fuck it: I can't wait till May.