By Marc D'Amico
June 22, 2011
WALTHAM, Mass. - Doc Rivers proclaimed on Wednesday that Boston is the “city of champions.” Now that all four major teams have reeled in a championship trophy within the past seven years, let’s just say that he didn’t exactly go out on a limb by making that statement.
The Bruins are fresh off of a Stanley Cup victory, but the Celtics’ most recent championship came in 2008. That victory over the Los Angeles Lakers continues to move farther into the past with each given day. Now, with more than three years separating the Celtics’ most recent championship parade, the team is yet again gearing up to chase down Banner 18 during the upcoming season.
Rivers and Danny Ainge addressed the media Wednesday afternoon one day prior to the NBA Draft, which will mark the beginning of that pursuit. Thursday’s event in Newark, N.J., will change the lives of many players, and the future of some teams. It’s the first opportunity for organizations to reshape their roster as the 2011-12 season approaches.
Boston, which holds the rights to picks No. 25 and No. 55 of the Draft, doesn’t expect to land a player that will change the course of the organization. Ainge and his colleagues have tapered expectations, at least judging by his statements Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m not trying to put any negative spin on this, I’m trying to be realistic – the 25th pick in the draft probably is not going to help us immediately,” Ainge candidly said. “But there are some players that we think can fit in with our roster, can fit in with the personality of our team, that have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice, that can add depth to our roster.”
Making the Celtics’ roster deeper is never a bad first step. That’s actually a motive many teams will enter this Draft with, seeing as the overwhelming belief is that this Draft does not offer many superstar players, but does offer many players who will make an impact in the league.
While the Celtics enter the Draft with realistic expectations regarding landing one of those impact players, they are exploring all options to make the team better.
“We have a busy offseason this year,” said Ainge. “We have a lot of free agents and a lot of roster spots to fill, and as soon as the Draft is over, we’ll be focusing on that. Although we’ve been focused on free agency and preparing for that, and we’ve been talking to teams about trade possibilities, and all the deals that come in the offseason.”
The two leading faces of Boston’s Basketball Operations staff agreed on the fact that, through those venues, they must add two the two big S’s to their roster: size and shooting. Those two characteristics are undoubtedly at the top of every team’s list, as they can change the landscape of a game.
When asked if the Celtics might choose to address their size dilemma with their first-round pick, Rivers indicated – with a patented chuckle – that seeing a player with great size available at No. 25 might not be the most attractive thing in the world. Usually if that type of player has a decent upside, he’ll have already been taken off the board. Rivers did, however, acknowledge that you can get lucky from time to time.
The Celtics have gotten lucky time and time again when it comes to the Draft in recent years. That luck can be attributed to great scouting and decision-making, but it’s luck nonetheless. In fact, at this very same slot, No. 25, the C’s landed Tony Allen in 2004. One pick prior to Allen, Boston also selected Delonte West. Allen and West have gone on to develop established careers ever since.
So yes, it can happen, but it’s not exactly expected. Ainge will pull the trigger on Thursday night and select the names of players he believes will fit into his team’s future plans. He’s done a great job of that in the past, and Rivers is confident that such a trend will continue.
Said Rivers, “Danny watches these guys all year. He goes to practices. He watches them on film… I give my opinion, but I trust his guidance.”
Rivers and the rest of the organization trust Ainge’s decision making, but that doesn’t mean Boston’s head coach can’t be a little greedy.
As he said Wednesday, “Coaches never stop wanting.”
He was referring to players, but it’s safe to say that the one thing he wants most is for his team to return to the helm in the city of champions. The 2011-12 Celtics will take their first step toward that goal on Thursday night.