NEW YORK – Somehow, the Boston Celtics have turned into the old Clippers and Kings, the destination of displeasure for the NBA's privileged players. When the prospect of a trade is delivered to players, they insist that they want no part of playing under those old, dusty 16 championship banners.
No, Larry Bird isn't walking through that door, nor Robert Parish, nor Kevin McHale. As it turns out, this is true of Kevin Garnett and Shawn Marion and Jermaine O'Neal. Among them, they have no championships, but they still found the Celtics an unacceptable destination.
Desperate for someone, anyone, to take back the fifth pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, Ainge settled for Seattle's Ray Allen. Almost 32, with surgery to both his ankles, Allen is a yesterday All-Star who'll forever shoot that sweet jumper and score, and never again defend.
"Let me ask you," an Eastern Conference veteran player said Thursday night, "who is going to make anyone better on that team? Doc Rivers will run a play for (Paul) Pierce, and then he'll run a play for Ray Allen. They won't make each other better, and who (over) there is going to make Al Jefferson any better?
"Delonte West was the one kid who could've done that, and they went and traded him away, too."
There's no vision, no plan – just so much thrown together out of desperation. Maybe the Celtics steal the eighth spot in the East, maybe they slip back to the lottery, but they're going nowhere. They did hold onto Theo Ratliff's expiring $11 million contract, and maybe, just maybe, they'll turn that into the maxed-out mess of Utah's Andrei Kirilenko.
Allen isn't washed up, but he's no longer one of the NBA's elite players. Perhaps this will be enough to appease Pierce and keep him from asking out of Boston, but he's no fool. This was just a move of survival out of Ainge, perhaps enough to get him and his coach, Doc Rivers, through one more season in Boston.
PRESTO! PRESTI REMAKES SONICS
As it turned out, an old guard out of little Emerson College in Boston – fresh-faced 30-year-old Seattle SuperSonics general manager Sam Presti – manufactured draft-night success at the Celtics' expense. He ended up with two of the top five picks in the draft, selecting, of course, Texas' Kevin Durant and complementing him with Georgetown's Jeff Green, a devastating pair of 6-foot-9 forwards who'll fit perfectly together.
Green is one of those rare players who don't need the ball to make his presence felt on the floor. He's a passer, a defender and a blender.
Presti has remade the Sonics on the fly, and now, he can turn his attention to re-signing free agent Rashard Lewis. What's more, Presti has to hire a coach, and with so much youth on this team, it's just right for Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who has refined his style and rehabbed his image under Gregg Popovich. Carlesimo would be ideal for developing Seattle's young franchise.
AROUND THE DRAFT
• Finally, the Charlotte Bobcats absorbed a serious contract, trading Brandan Wright to the Golden State Warriors for Jason Richardson and the $48 million left on his deal. Wright could turn out to be the third best talent in this draft, but Charlotte can no longer keep stockpiling cheap college kids. For the Warriors, it was a smart salary dump, especially because they didn't have to take back a contract from the way-under-the-cap Bobcats.
Now, the acid test for owner Robert Johnson: Will he spend the money to keep free agent Gerald Wallace?
• So Isiah Thomas isn't going to insult everyone with his declarations about bringing "character" guys to the New York Knicks anymore, right?
Zach Randolph has a long, distinguished knucklehead history, but he was a monster for the Portland Trail Blazers a year ago. At 24 points and 10 rebounds a game, he gives the Knicks a toughness inside that they haven't had in a long time. Eddy Curry doesn't defend and doesn't rebound nearly to his immense size. Randolph will be a big help there. What's more, Thomas had to dump another one of his disastrous pickups (Steve Francis) and he did that, too.
• Please stop with draft-night nonsense about how Florida's Taurean Green and Chris Richard are such "winners." They played with three lottery picks: Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah. That's the reason they were part of back-to-back national championships. They were nice, bit players, but the Gators' success had nothing to do with them.
• Detroit Pistons G.M. Joe Dumars had wanted Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey for months, finally taking Stuckey with the No. 15 selection Thursday. Once he's re-signed, Chauncey Billups will be a great teacher and role model for Stuckey, whom one scout said, "Would've been a top-10 pick if he played in the Pac-10."