There are a million reasons, a million mistakes that put the Celts in this situation, every last one of their green eggs in the lottery basket, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant or bust for the once-proudest franchise in sports.
But Roy was the most recent reason, the reigning rookie of the year, the good guy, cornerstone player that the Blazers stole last June in a deal that began when they acquired Boston's first-round pick in exchange for Sebastian Telfair, Sebastian Telfair's gun collection, Theo Ratliff and a second-round selection.
That was a fleecing, the kind Red Auerbach used to pull off. Only now it keeps happening to Boston, where Danny Ainge's deals are so often dumber than those David Blaine commercials.
With no Roy (but with Telfair), the Celtics stunk from the start of the season, which led them to tank games to get a shot at Oden or Durant, which forced them to keep overmatched Doc Rivers (you can't fire a guy for losing when you asked him to lose, can you?), which stunted their players' development, which left their loss-weary fans holding their breath for a franchise-saving ping-pong ball to bounce the right way.
Instead, it bounced to Brandon Roy.
Boston is doomed. It all broke bad Tuesday in Secaucus, and across Celtics Nation this was a sucker punch to the stomach.
Oden isn't walking through that door, to paraphrase a past franchise disaster. Durant isn't walking through that door.
Somehow, Boston wound up fifth, the worst possible outcome. It was three times as likely to get in the top two, but that meant nothing to that shocked Celtics fan on ESPN, mouth agape in horror.
Of course, around the rest of the league, it was a moment of schadenfreude.
You either loved this or hated it. You either wondered how the Celtics could be so cursed or wondered why it took so long.
Boston won 16 NBA championships, mostly because of Auerbach routinely ripping off other teams with trades. He picked up Bill Russell in part by promising another owner he'd get the Ice Capades to visit his building. He got Bob Cousy when another team folded. He drafted Larry Bird a year ahead of time in a loophole that was quickly closed. He landed Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for Joe Barry Carroll.
It was unreal, the luck of the Irish.
Which is why so many opposing fans are rejoicing in its continued disappearance, so many enjoying that a team with a 5.3-percent chance wound up where Boston should have been, smiling at the thought that the Celtics now have to hope Yi Jianlian falls to them.
Boston getting screwed in the lottery was some kind of poetic justice for many. In terms of karma, the Celtics – not to mention fellow tankers Memphis and Milwaukee – have only themselves to blame – the basketball gods, if not Red himself, disgusted with their blatant non-efforts.
But this is what the present reality is for Boston, a franchise that just two months after winning its 16th title in 1986 had draft pick Len Bias die of a drug overdose. Things haven't been the same ever since. Just seven years later, another young star, Reggie Lewis, died during a practice session.
Then there's been a series of horrible trades and bizarre signings. The Boston Garden got demolished. The coaches have been mostly terrible, the players often worse. Outside of a brief sign of life in the early part of this decade, there's been little to cheer. The Celtics have fallen into irrelevance both locally and nationally.
And we haven't even mentioned the last lottery loss in 1997, when Tim Duncan turned into Ron Mercer and Rick Pitino.
And now this.
At this stage, for Celts fans, what's left? Oden or Durant were the saviors, the super talents that could eventually lift the franchise through the mediocrity of Ainge and Rivers.
Now Boston is stuck with the hand it has – a bad team, a wasted prime of Paul Pierce, a coach who needs to go, a boss in Ainge still living off his rep as a player and, what, once snagging Al Jefferson in the middle of the first round?
"There's other ways to get lucky," Ainge tried to reassure fans Tuesday. "There's other ways to get guys in the draft. Nobody thought Paul Pierce was going to be as good as he is when we got him at 10."
It was all shell-shocked spin at that point, not that Ainge isn't correct. You can get great players later in the top 10. Just a year ago, after all, he could have even gotten Brandon Roy.
- Kevin Durant
- Greg Oden
- Danny Ainge
- Sebastian Telfair