Re: What really set the Celtics back in the 1990's
posted at 2/15/2014 8:08 PM EST
Red making the right decisions in 1989 would lead to 4 years of 'who really knows what could have been' 1990-1993. Only we KNOW the C's are battling harder and making it farther than they did in those playoffs than had they kept McHale and drafted Smith. They still hire Gavitt and draft Brown andFox because those guys were savvy picks taken 5-10 spots ahead of where most saw them going at the time.
In 1993 Bird retires. He gives it one more year than he did b/c of the extra rest and a more competitive team. Maybe McHale is signed for the last 1-2 years of his career after doing little to help Dallas and retires with him? Ainge and Parish have a year left on their contract and if they want to keep playing are traded together for a late 1st rd pick in '93, say to the Jazz, a Mormon and an old man perfect for Salt Lake City. They still take bust big man Acie Earl with the Jazz pick b/c a C is such a need, but with an exta pick (their own) they listen to Bird (newly appointed GM or advisor to CEO Gavitt) and take Nick Van Exel, who Bird loved and slipped into the 2nd round.
Then the Lewis tragedy happens still. We can hope it does not and he and his family and the Celtics listen to the majority of Dr's and tell him to retire and never play again. But we have to assume it does.
Next up in the Gavitt, Bird and Chris Ford rebuild plan, Perkins (oldest), Schrempf and Hardaway (youngest) are sold to contenders for picks over the next 3 summers. First it is Schrempf paired with Dee Brown to say Seattle, for their 1st in 1994 (Eisley) and another in 1996. The C's draft in the 8-12 range of the lotto in '94 (Eddie Jones to replace Reggie Lewis).
They have a decent enough team in 1994-95 with Hardaway/Eisley, Jones/Van Exel, Fox, Radja, Perkins and Acie Earl. Just weak in the frontcourt. They are a borderline playoff team and know they need to get worse. Their own pick is Theo Ratliff instead of Eric Williams as they start to give up on Earl. They trade Sam Perkins and Rick Fox to the Bulls (anticipating an MJ return) at the deadline for their first round picks in '95 in '97. Michael Finley is our pick over Jason Caffey, who the Bulls took. The team trades Tim Hardaway to Kevin McHale's T'Wolves... he just took KG and they have Gugliotta and need a 'veteran' presence and leader at PG. Hardaway is only 28, who knows if he hurts his knee. Good guy McHale avoids the Starbury-KG rift and drama.
The 1995-1996 Celtics are pretty terrible even with some bright young players and a rotation of Eisely, Van Exel, Jones, Finley, Radja, Ratliff and Earl. They land the #1 pick in '96 and BEG Duncan to leave school (like Red did with Ralph Sampson in 1980) but if they cannot they instead draft Marcus Camby, not Iverson. The local boy reaches his potential when not going to Toronto. Steve Nash is added with the Minny pick from Hardaway, who helps the Wolves out of the top 5 of the lotto but not into the playoffs. They select Travis Knight with the Seattle pick. Chris Ford was on board to be a good solider for the rebuild and now takes his low key position in the front office helping Bird. Larry Brown, Bird's first choice to coach over Pitino, is hired to complete the rebuild.
In '97 Duncan is again the dream, but the C's are getting good with rim protector's Camby and Ratliff and Exel, Jones and Finley being 15-17ppg guys. So they 'settle' for Billups still. Choosing him over TMac because they see Finley being around awhile and Van Exel being the odd man out in the backcourt. The team adds some undrafted hustle players we know Larry Bird/Brown liked in Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace. In 1998 they target moving into the top 10 (if they end up being good enough to land out of it) and trade Van Exel and/or future picks if they need to get there. They draft Dirk and the rebuild is done:-)
The Camby-Ratliff-Ben Wallace-Dirk-Finley-Bowen-Eddie Jones-Billups-Nash-Eisley rotation in the late 90's early 00's win a bunch of titles between when MJ retires and when Red dies. He lasts a few more years than he did b/c of how much joy the new dynasty brings him. The Celtics battle the Lakers just like in the good old days and constantly frustrate the two superstar Shaq-Kobe system by going 7-8 deep with all-star talent that take less money in extensions to stay together. Almost like the 60's Celtics they win 5-7 titles, Shaq and Kobe get 1-2, like Wilt and West did. It would be cool if Engelewood boy Paul Pierce makes it to LA and into this revised story as a dangerous 3rd wheel that helps LA get those 1-2 titles and keep us to like 7 in the decade.
THAT is how you rebuild, starting with the decisions RED did NOT make in 1989.