June 21, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
by Dave Long

I realize only a handful of folks out there actually care about this, but next Thursday is a big day for your Boston Celtics. At least they used to be your Boston Celtics. Now Iím not so sure, since you are more likely to hear even real basketball people say something like ďI canít watch the NBA anymoreĒ than you are to hear them ask, ďDid you see the game last night?Ē

It didnít used to be that way. Once upon a time the Celtics were very big in these parts. From the days of Bill Russell through the end of the Larry Bird era, they were to the NBA what the Patriots are now to the NFL. The gold standard, tough, smart and they always won. They were so beloved they sold out 400 straight games from early in Birdís rookie year right through the end of his career. Thatís 100 more than the amazing streak the Red Sox are working on now and they have twice as many home dates per season.

Part of the problem is because of what David Stern and his micro-managing coaches have done to the product, but I think more of it has to do with fact that the Celtics just are not a factor. And if they ever start winning again, I believe people would return, which brings us back to next Thursday.

It is a big day, because unless I miss my guess, it is do-or-die time for general manager Danny Ainge. Itís been five years since he blew up a team that went to the playoffs two years in a row and itís been straight downhill from there. Ditto for Doc Rivers, because while they were decimated by injuries last year that played a big part in why they had the second-worst record in the league, the natives are restless.

Itís the same for me, who believes a nucleus of nice young players is in place to complement a star the caliber of what Greg Oden will be, if one ever arrives. The problem is, much to the chagrin of the fans who are left, Oden is headed to Portland and Boston has the number-five pick, which they HAVE to leverage into a player or mix of new players that can get them into the playoffs on an upward slope. Otherwise itís probably curtains for Danny and definitely Doc.

So given that situation, hereís a look at the options and what I might do if I were in charge of things starting today:

A Little History: For those who just want to trade everyone, an understanding of recent moves might be helpful in gaining a grip. Here are some recent players who left town because the Cs didnít know what they had, or because they didnít want to wait for them to develop: Chauncey Billups, Bruce Bowen, Ben Wallace, Joe Johnson, Antoine Walker. And they could have had Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Ron Artest (I know heís crazy) or Andre Kirilenko if Rick Pitino had a shred of patience instead of lurching to get Vitaly Potapenko with the eight pick in 2002. Thatís a pretty good nucleus, donít you think? The moral is, if youíre going to move somebody youíd better be careful what you give up. I say Delonte West and Gerald Green fall into this category.

What They Need Most: Someone who can help NOW. A banger who rebounds, plays physical defense, blocks shots and is a leader. Someone like, oh, Greg Oden ó so you can see how the lottery this year broke my heart. I wanted that guy. Be that as it may, they still need a guy who can do those types of things.

What They Donít Need: Another disastrous move like last year when Danny gave up the sixth pick overall that turned out to be Rookie Of The Year Brandon Roy when he stretched to get point guard Sebastian Telfair. All Danny can say for that one is thank god for the Bruins trading Joe Thornton in the MIDDLE of an MVP year or that would have been the worst local trade this century. And thatís saying something with all the diddling Theoís done at shortstop the last few year.

What They Have to Give Up: For the right deal I would trade anyone including Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson óbut, but, but it would have to be for something really good. But more likely, is the number-five pick, the expiring contract of Theo Ratliff, and Tony Allen, assuming his knee is OK. Then thereís also West and if you can find the right fit and Wally Szczberbiak although with a huge contract and two consecutive injury-filled seasons that wonít be easy.

The Nucleus: For my money the guys to build around are Pierce, Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, West and Green ó who Iím telling you is going to be a big-time scorer, possibly this year and definitely in two.

The Number-Five Pick: Here are some names of players who went in the fifth slot in recent years: Kevin Garnett, Dwayne Wade, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Jonathan Bender, Tony Battie, Mike Miller and Nikoloz Tskitishvili. As you can see in the right year you can be very healthy here or if itís the wrong one, maybe not.

Rumor Mill: The two most persistent names I hear are Shawn Marion and Seattleís Rashard Lewis ó who is a 6í10Ē athletic three man, who scored 22 a game last year. Each would cost the fifth pick, plus Ratliffís contract, with West going to Phoenix and Green going to Seattle. Swap Allen for West and Green and I do either deal today. The Seattle deal might also include seven-foot bust (to date) Robert Swift, who Ainge reportedly likes, but if they insist on Green forget it.

Names Iíd Like to See in the Mix: Along with Marion and Lewis are Jermaine OíNeal, Emeka Okafor and Antonio McDyess (though not for the fifth pick).

If They Use the Pick: Assuming Oden and Kevin Durrant donít slip, Iíd take Joakim Noah. Heís slipped from a year ago because heís not a polished offensive player, but he blocks shots, rebounds and I love his quickness as well as his ability to get up and down the floor.

Who Will Danny Take? Iím betting if this happens, he takes 20-year-old Chinese seven-footer Yi Jianlian.

The Bonner Factor: I know this makes me a homer, but one last thing. What about bringing in Matt Bonner? The big fella is a free agent, can shoot, is smart and has a great attitude. They could do worse.

We wonít know what will happen for about a week. But I do believe the fate of Ainge and Rivers lies in what happens this off-season ó which means if Danny takes another guy whoíll need time to develop like Jianlian on Thursday, heís got more guts than me.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).


6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations

6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat