Summer Sacrifice Leads to Impressive Offseason
Everyone looks forward to the warm breeze of summertime and the relaxing tone that often accompanies it. After all, summer is supposed to be the most laid-back and stress-free time of the year, right?
Well... at least for some people.
For others, it's time to get to work. While many were out sunbathing, taking vacations and enjoying time off from school or work, people like Danny Ainge were scouring the basketball universe for ways to upgrade their basketball teams.
Two summers ago, Ainge was the mastermind that constructed two blockbuster deals that resulted in the current version of the Big Three in Boston. That task was far from simple, eating up much of that summer, but he got it done. In June of 2008, he tasted the fruits of that labor when the Celtics brought home their 17th NBA championship trophy.
Following a quiet summer in 2008, at least in a roster sense, the 2008-09 season wasn't all smiles and celebrations. After losing Kevin Garnett to a season-ending knee injury in March, the C's came up short in their title defense and were knocked out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was a bitter disappointment for a team that was set on placing themselves into the select category of back-to-back NBA champions.
In the short term, it hurts. It always hurts to miss out on achieving realistic goals. But in the long run, it may wind up being a good thing. The hunger for championships never left the minds of anyone such as Paul Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen or Ainge, but coming up short can only make that hunger grow stronger.
So how was Ainge going to put his team back in prime position for a 2010 title run? The answer is simple in concept: another busy summer.
Rasheed Wallace gives the Celtics the frontcourt depth they lacked last season.
He went to work immediately following the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign and targeted key acquisitions that he thought would put Boston back on the NBA's throne.
Target No. 1: four-time All-Star and former NBA champion Rasheed Wallace.
From Day 1 of the free agency period, the Celtics were drooling at the thought of attaining the former Piston. When Garnett suffered his injury last season, the lack of frontcourt depth on the Celtics' roster was apparent, and Ainge didn't want that vulnerability to show again.
When he flew to Detroit for a face-to-face meeting with Wallace, he had a certain Big Three accompany him in the conference room. Pierce, Garnett and Allen all flew in to Detroit to let Wallace know how important his addition would be and how much they wanted him to be a part of their next title run.
At the end of the day, that meeting seemed to be what swayed Wallace to join the C's over other opportunities around the league. Target No. 1 acquired.
Target No. 2: Marquis Daniels.
With a perimeter trio that boasts two future Hall of Famers and an emerging star at point guard, the Celtics didn't need to add any starters at the guard or small forward positions. To Ainge, that didn't matter. He managed to add a starter anyway.
Daniels started in 43 of his 54 games for the Pacers last season and averaged a career-high 13.6 PPG to go along with 4.6 RPG and 2.1 APG. After putting up those numbers in a contract year, Daniels could have chosen to make his new home in plenty of other cities, probably landing him a starting spot. Instead, he put his personal goal of winning a championship ahead of warm weather, being labeled a "starter" and more green in his bank account.
He had agreed to join the Celtics early in the summer, but Ainge tried to give him a better deal by completing a sign-and-trade. When it was apparent that all sign-and-trade options were exhausted to no avail, Daniels finally joined the team by signing a free agent contract.
In acquiring Daniels, Ainge added depth to three separate positions -- he can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward. He also has the length and athleticism to defend all three positions, which will give Doc Rivers the opportunity to comfortably rest his starters throughout the season.
Marquis Daniels is coming off of a career-year in which he averaged 13.6 PPG for the Indiana Pacers.
It's not often that a GM can go into an offseason with hopes of adding starter-quality players if his team's starting five is already set in stone. Somehow, Ainge did that twice by nabbing Wallace and Daniels.
Target No 3: re-sign Glen Davis.
Davis had a breakout year thanks to Garnett's injury and proved that he can be extremely effective at the power forward position despite his 6-foot-9 stature. He put up nearly 16 PPG in the playoffs and drilled a game-winner at the buzzer in Orlando during the Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
His breakout season seemed to have arrived at just the right time, as he was slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. Luckily for the Celtics, the word "restricted" accompanied that free agent title.
Numerous offer sheets to restricted free agents were matched by players' 2008-09 teams (think Marcin Gortat of the Magic and Paul Millsap of the Jazz), which certainly helped the Celtics' cause. On top of that, teams were also leery of dishing out big bucks during an economic crisis. So, in the end, the C's were able to bring back Big Baby for a very reasonable price while also giving him a well-deserved raise.
Target No 4: improve the overall roster in any way possible.
By signing two solid free agents and re-signing Davis, Ainge had exhausted most of his money available to add to his roster. To round out his roster, he had to get creative. These are the moments when GMs look for diamonds in the rough, and Ainge may have found one of those this summer.
Shelden Williams was an available free agent forward/center who had come into the league as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. He's a great defender, solid rebounder and is capable of scoring around the basket. After being traded for the second consecutive year last season and never averaging more than 19 minutes per game, he could come at a discount. Ainge capitalized on that opportunity and announced his signing on the same day of the Davis re-signing, effectively giving the Celtics what may be the deepest frontline in the NBA.
The least-publicized addition to the Celtics roster actually came first this summer. The Celtics owned the 58th pick in this year's NBA Draft and couldn't have done any better at that slot. They nabbed the second-leading scorer in Division I basketball last year (behind only Setphen Curry), Lester Hudson. Hudson is a dynamic combo guard who can score from anywhere on the floor and affect games in plenty of ways. He is the only player in Divison I history to record a quadruple-double in a game, showing his ability to excel in all facets of the game.
With the Celtics opting not to pursue a free agent point guard, Hudson could see some time backing up Rajon Rondo and Eddie House at point guard this year. He may also be able to provide quick scoring off the bench if Rivers calls for it.
All in all, it's tough to argue that any team had a better offseason than the Celtics. Other teams around the league made big moves by adding new starters to their roster, but Boston took a different approach. Ainge chose to add other teams' starters (Wallace and Daniels) to be his top bench players.
By retaining Davis, adding Williams and having Hudson fall to the No. 58 pick, Ainge was able to put the cherry on top of his summer pie.
He skipped the palm trees and relaxing days of summer and opted for long days in the office to put his team back in position to win a second NBA championship in a three-year span.
The goal in nearly every facet of life is to always to hit your targets. Suffice to say, mission accomplished for Ainge.
The next target up is Banner 18. If that mission is accomplished, maybe he'll be enjoying that summer breeze with a gold trophy sitting next to him in 2010.