Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In the 1990's Larry Bird's back gave up, Kevin McHale's legs couldn't take anymore, Reggie Lewis tragically passed away, and Robert Parish went to the Charlotte and Chicago... then after that it got even worse. The M.L. Carr and Rick Pitino years were a crapshoot at best, sure they got Paul Pierce but outside of that there was really just missed opportunity, management blunders, and flat out failure.
Here's a few events that we can hope the Boston Celtics front office is aware of and will look out for in the next couple years of rebuilding.
June 27th, 2001- The Celtics go into the draft with the 10th, 11th, and 21st picks in the first round. They end up with Joe Johnson (All-Star), Kedrick Brown (bust), and Joseph Forte (makes Kedrick look like a good pick). Boston had Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce and it had become extremely clear that despite Walker being the Captain... it was Pierce who was the future of the team. The 2001 draft is one of the weaker drafts of the decade. Could the Celtics have packaged Antoine and a couple picks to move up and find a legit big man to pair with The Truth for years to come? Boy that would have been nice... probably not right? Actually yes. Yes they could have.
The Atlanta Hawks had the 3rd overall pick and had picked Pau Gasol, spanish 7 footer with nice length, soft touch, and skilled passing, and they immediately hung him out to see what they could get. The Memphis Grizzlies, who already drafted Duke standout Shane Battier with the 6th overall pick, stepped up with an offer. Freshly drafted Jamal Tinsley (27th overall), and 6'9 forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
I can't hate on Boston for coming away with Joe Johnson... but I can hate on just about everything else. Let's break down a package they could have went to Atlanta with:
Grizzlies offer- Shareef Abdur-Rahim (6'9 Forward, '96 Draft Class, centerpiece for a miserable basketball team) Jamaal Tinsley (rookie point guard taken at 27 overall).
Atlanta gives- Pau Gasol (3rd overall pick, 7'0), Brevin Knight (4 year veteran, backup PG), and Lorenzen Wright (5 year veteran, starting big man with decent scoring). That's right, not only did Atlanta give Memphis Pau Gasol but they also gave them two serviceable players.
Potential Boston offer- Antoine Walker (6'9 forward, '96 Draft Class, better overall player than Shareef, centerpiece for a slightly less miserable team), Joseph Forte (the 21st overall pick, 6'4" guard).
20/20 tells us that Joseph Forte only played 25 games while Jamaal Tinsley is still playing, but on Draft Day in '01 Forte was a higher pick, and a better prospect. Antoine Walker also has his flaws as a player, but in 2001 he was still on the rise. His three point shooting was excessive but it had yet to become folklore. I'm quite confident that if Rick Pitino called up Pete Babcock and offered him 'Toine and Forte they could have grabbed Pau Gasol... hell they could have offered Kedrick Brown and it'd be a steal.
The Boston Celtics 2001 Opening day lineup could have been... (drum roll)
Kenny Anderson, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Pau Gasol, Tony Battie
Would that team have won 49 games and faced New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals? Probably not, but they also couldn't have been completely torn apart just 4 years later. 4 of those 5 players are still in the league, 3 became All-Stars, and those guys are all still major contributors in the NBA.