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BOB RYAN

Green around the gills

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- You want to talk curses? Start here.

Who did what to whom? Was it decided that 16 championships in 30 years was somehow unfair and obscene, and that enough was enough and the Celtics are never going to get another break again and that's that?

Because that's what it looks like. Nothing else can explain how the Celtics continue to suffer the wrath of powerful unseen forces determined to make their lives miserable.

Fifth!

"I paid off the leprechaun this morning," sighed Tom Heinsohn, who was the Celtics' representative, "and he lied to me. Leprechauns will do that."

Bye-bye, Greg Oden, the next great franchise center. Bye-bye, Kevin Durant, an explosive 6-foot-10-inch forward who may not guarantee you a championship but who will at least keep folks highly entertained for the next 10 years. Fifth! The horror!

Now, there will be some very enticing players available when the Celtics pick fifth five weeks hence. Brandan Wright, Al Thornton, Jeff Green, Julian Wright, Mike Conley, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Roy Hibbert (if he stays in the draft) all will help somebody. Some, if not all, will play in All-Star Games.

But executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have a very difficult time selling one of them to a public that put up with the ignominy of an 18-game losing streak because there was the possibility of a reward when this dreadful season was completed.

And who didn't believe that the bad fortune, which began with the death of Len Bias, proceeded with the death of Reggie Lewis, and continued 10 years ago with the faulty drop of the Ping-Pong balls when Tim Duncan was available (and the Celtics had the best chance at him), would finally be reversed?

Nope. Sorry. Somebody up there loathes them.

Feeling equally gobsmacked are the Grizzlies and Bucks, who fell to fourth and sixth, respectively. "For the sixth, fifth, and fourth teams to wind up 1, 2, 3," said Heinsohn, "that's a little unbelievable."

The first pick will go to Portland, followed by Seattle and Atlanta.

Like you care.

No, this is a time for what's left of the Boston basketball community to wallow in morbid self-pity.

You wanted Oden or Durant, it's just that simple.

Or maybe you just wanted Oden.

"People talk about this draft being all about 1 or 2," said ESPN analyst Greg Anthony. "Really, it's about 1.

"Durant is nice, but Oden is special. There's a reason why the court has that paint, why there is a three-second rule. Check out the championships. Teams with the great big men rule."

Regional vice president of the Greg Oden Fan Club is one Larry Bird, who was here representing his Indiana Pacers. Bird has been following Oden closely since Oden's days at Lawrence North High School.

"People make me laugh when they say they doubt his offense," Bird said with a smirk. "They badly underestimate him."

"Oden," reminded Anthony, "hasn't lost a home game since junior high school."

Sick enough yet?

Kevin Pritchard is the general manager of the Trail Blazers, and he was playing it cool. No, he said, we haven't made up our minds.

"It's best to go through the process," he said. "This thing is not a slam dunk. We had a meeting before I left and one of the things we said was, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have the debate?' "

Someone asked him if he'd consider trading the pick.

"I would be very, very, very, very surprised," he replied.

"That's four 'verys,' " he was told.

"Then make it five," he said. "Five verys. But I'm open to anything."

Sooner or later, Boston fans are going to have to pull themselves together and accept the fact that neither Oden nor Durant will be walking through that door, and that there really are some nice players out there. I realize that day is not today, but in a week or so, people should take a deep breath and start studying up on the very deep talent pool available.

"To me," said ESPN's college guru, Jay Bilas, "Brandan Wright [North Carolina] is No. 3. He will be very good. Al Thornton [Florida State] is a beast. Julian Wright [Kansas] would be the second-fastest player in transition on the Phoenix Suns right now, after [Leandro] Barbosa. Mike Conley is the best point guard in the draft. Down there around 12 or 13, somebody's going to get Acie Law [Texas A&M], a very nice point guard, although Conley is the best point guard."

I don't know if any of this is remotely comforting. I'm just trying to help get you through these difficult times.

Bilas is an NBA neutral, but he admits to being fascinated by the ongoing plight of a franchise that seemed to have everything go its way back when he was a kid growing up in Southern California.

"I feel bad for Boston," he said. "My senior year [at Duke] was the year Len Bias came out. I watched Bias die, and then Reggie Lewis did, and then the whole thing 10 years ago with Tim Duncan. It's all very hard to believe."

That would be a correct observation.

Some things never change. Jerry West was here in his final act as chief honcho of the Grizzlies. For the past half-century, he has been on any list of the World's Top 10 Most Pessimistic People.

"I feel bad for our fans, but I didn't come here expecting to go 1 or 2," he declared. "This is not sour grapes. I have never liked this system. No other league in sports does it this way. It's not right when the two worst teams in the league do not get a shot at 1 or 2. It's a terrible system."

Terrible or not, it's the system in place and it has brought no reward to your Celtics. The Curse of Fill-In-The-Blank continues.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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