Remember a couple of years ago when there existed a loud and impatient faction of quasi-aware Celtics observers who would caterwaul about Danny Ainge hoarding his assets?
I can’t quite remember which star Ainge had failed to acquire – Dwight Howard? Kevin Love? – that first sent them screeching to their phones to call their sports radio show of choice.
But I know this: We sure as heck don’t hear from them anymore. The last loud and misguided lament was probably when Ainge didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler at the trading deadline two years ago.
I suspect they moved on to complaining that J.D. Martinez didn’t “move the needle’’ when the Red Sox signed him, or yowling that the Patriots didn’t persuade Jimmy Garoppolo to stick around as a backup while Tom Brady controlled both of their fates, or something just as numbly oblivious.
A couple of years and several beyond-savvy player acquisitions later via the draft, free agency and trades, and Ainge enters Thursday night’s NBA Draft with as many appealing “assets’’ as any wheeler-dealer in the league at the moment.
The Celtics’ first-round pick isn’t much to covet – they pick 27th due to the run to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals that left fans wanting more. Don’t hold it against me, but I kind of hope they end up with Duke trip-master Grayson Allen, who has some Ainge tendencies as a player. You like those guys when they’re on your team, you know.
But the Celtics have collected enough compelling young talent and future picks that could bring even more that Ainge can be in on pretty much anything he wants Thursday night.
The irony is that this is the year he should hang on to what he has, barring, I suppose, the Spurs deciding to swap Kawhi Leonard for 50 percent of what he is worth just to be rid of the drama.
There’s no need for a summer blockbuster this year, no need for a sequel to the Kyrie Irving heist last August, or the Gordon Hayward signing, or even the Al Horford pickup of two years ago that turned Boston into a place coveted players might consider as a destination.
This Celtics team sure looks like the one he’s been building toward, the one fans have been coveting, and the one capable of securing Banner 18 with good health and fortune. The loss to the Cavs in Game 7 lingered, because they could have had it and perhaps should have.
But it also felt like the prequel to a changing of the guard. Hayward will be back from injury next year. So will Irving. And with the ascending Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown collaborating with them, well, as a Celtics champion once said, anything is possible.
This is the Celtics team fans have waited for, the one they want to root for next season. Trader Danny has lived up to his moniker so well that there is no need to live up to it any further.
Oh, I’m here for all of the rumors. Give me the juicy rumors, the breathless insider chatter. Tell me that the Celtics are talking with Atlanta about trading up for the No. 3 pick, or that Ainge is feeling out Memphis about what it would take to move up to No. 4.
Keep telling me that they’re being aggressive about moving into the Top 10, that they like Mo Bamba, love Luka Doncic, covet Jaren Jackson Jr., and might just have their eyes on someone no one else is even discussing.
And definitely tell me that they’re talking about Leonard if they believe the Spurs are inclined to move him. His weird, injury-abbreviated and perhaps insubordinate season has led to some amnesia on how great he actually is.
If his quad is right – yeah, and his mind too – he’s a top 10 player in the league without question, and probably top five. He’s won two defensive player of the year awards, averaged 25.5/5.8/4.7 two years ago, and in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that year, he had 25 points in 24 minutes as the Spurs built a 20-point halftime lead over the mighty Warriors. Then he got Pachulia’d, missed the rest of the series as the Warriors swept, and nothing has been the same since.
Yeah, Danny, ask about that guy. Keep those rumors flowing all night. Make us believe there’s some fire behind the smoke.
It’s fun to talk about all of these intriguing players, to figure how they would fit in with this burgeoning green machine.
Just don’t feel the need to do anything of seismic significance, and that would include trading Brown in a Leonard deal. The draft is mostly for the downtrodden and desperate. Take advantage if the opportunity arises. But if it doesn’t, that’s OK. For the first time in a long time, the status quo is the way to go.
Celtics fans grew to love the team that played deep into May. Here’s to seeing them again in October, no major alterations necessary.
The team Boston wants is already here.