Playing Chips, Ainge Swings Deal for Allen
BOSTON - On Wednesday in Waltham, between phone calls, Danny Ainge told reporters he expected to keep the #5 pick in the NBA Draft. And as late as 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, he said he still expected to be making a selection. But after three weeks of negotiations with the Seattle Supersonics, Ainge turned around and swapped the pick to give Paul Pierce an All-Star tag-team partner in Ray Allen.
When #5 came up, Boston selected Georgetown's Jeff Green on Seattle's behalf before sending the pick to the Pacific Northwest along with shooters Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. For the Celtics, the deal netted Allen, a seven-time All-Star and one of the deadliest outside shooters in the NBA, and LSU forward Glen Davis, the Sonics' second-round pick and #35 selection overall.
While the deal was widely reported in the media after the Celtics picked Green at #5 around 8 p.m., by NBA rules, it was not officially complete until the Sonics selected Davis at #35. The technicality made the trade perhaps the worst-kept secret in recent draft memory until the teams could actually announce the transaction well after 11 p.m.
Despite the delay in making it official, the Celtics were pleased to finally announce the deal.
"We think Ray Allen is a great player and has a lot of basketball left in him. It's really hard to acquire All-Star caliber players, and we think it's an opportunity to make Al Jefferson better, make Paul Pierce better, and Rajon Rondo better," Ainge said to reporters at the Celtics Draft Party at the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday night. "He's going to be a fantastic addition to our team. It will give us a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference."
One of the premier shooters in the league, Allen scored a career-best 26.4 PPG last season, good for sixth best in the NBA. Shooting a shade under 44% from the field, Allen is one of the more efficient scorers in the league. And while his numbers are certainly impressive, Allen also brings many intangibles, namely experience, leadership, and savvy, to a young team that often lacked in these departments.
Head Coach Doc Rivers is excited to add another All-Star caliber player to the roster, and sees Allen as a guy who his young players can learn from just by being around him.
"I think they (the younger players) can benefit more from just watching Ray Allen, his actions," Rivers said. "One of the things that we struggled with [by] having all the young guys was that they didn't have a lot of guys in their locker room showing them the professional way, you know, besides Paul and Wally."
Rivers said he expects Allen to play the two-guard spot while Pierce will stay at small forward. And while both Szczerbiak and Allen each struggled with ankle injuries last year -- Allen played just 55 games for the Sonics -- Ainge emphasized that there's no structural damage in Allen's left ankle and that he'll be ready to go well before training camp.
Since Ainge took over the basketball operations in Boston, he's been acquiring trade chips and developing young players in the hopes of garnering a fellow veteran All-Star in return to join Pierce. Thursday's draft deal is a reflection of that strategy coming to fruition.
"This is something we've been talking about for a year, to try to take advantage of this window of opportunity with a player that we think is one of the best Celtics that's ever put on a uniform in Paul Pierce," Ainge said. "We want maximize his career. We want to surround him with more veterans and more talent. And that's what we've been trying to accomplish."