Celtics plan for future without help
WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Garden will be quiet for the NBA draft.
No party for the season ticketholders and sponsors. No network live shot from the war room. No congratulatory phone call to the next Boston Celtics star on Thursday night, when the top college and international players are distributed around the league.
Having traded their first-round pick to Minnesota in the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston, the Celtics do not pick until No. 58 -- out of 60 -- in the NBA draft. It's the lowest they've ever made their first pick.
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"It can be pretty boring compared to what we've been doing the past few years," general manager Danny Ainge said Tuesday. "We've been good. I guess that's a good position to be in."
Ainge has no regrets about giving up the No. 1 pick, which was part of a 7-for-1 deal to acquire Garnett from the Timberwolves two summers ago. With Garnett, fellow newcomer Ray Allen and Celtics mainstay Paul Pierce, Boston won its 17th championship in 2008 and seemed poised for a repeat in '09.
But Garnett went down with a knee injury, and the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Orlando Magic. Now that Garnett's on track for recovery -- "100 percent by the time we start training camp," Ainge said Tuesday -- the GM sees no reason why the Celtics can't compete for the title again.
"We're a championship contender the past few years and we feel like this year we're going to be better," Ainge said.
And they're not guaranteed much help at No. 58. Among the players working out at the team's training facility on Tuesday were Jeff Adrien of Connecticut, Robert Dozier of Memphis, Slava Kravstov from Ukraine, Aaron Jackson of Duquesne, Bryan Mullins of Southern Illinois and Geoff McDermott of Providence.
"From an overall talent standpoint, I think it ranks as one of the worst. We're not too anxious to do too much to move up in this draft," Ainge said. "The best players have been picked out of the college ranks."
The Celtics have had to wait out 50 or more picks before, and it's not encouraging. With the 55th overall pick in the 1999 draft, they took Kris Clack, who never played an NBA game; with the 50th overall pick in 2002, they selected Darius Songaila, who has started 78 games in six seasons with three other teams.
In 1986, Boston used the second overall pick on Len Bias, who died less than two days after the draft, and didn't pick again until taking Tony Benford last in the fourth round of a seven-round draft, 93rd overall. In 1979, a year after they took Larry Bird even though he had a year of eligibility left, their first pick was Wayne Kreklow, in the third round and 53rd overall.
Ainge has had some luck with second-round picks, grabbing Ryan Gomes with the 50th pick in 2005 and then flipping him to the Timberwolves as part of the Garnett deal.
But in this draft, Ainge said the team would even consider selling the pick -- "not because we want the money, but because we don't think there's a chance of drafting someone that would make our roster," Ainge said.
One trade the Celtics won't make is one that costs them point guard Rajon Rondo. While saying that no one is untradeable, Ainge insisted that he wouldn't do anything that would make the team worse this season.
"That talk is so false," Ainge said. "We love the kid and we think he's got a very bright future. I don't anticipate any trades happening this offseason regarding any of our core players. ... We're certainly not doing anything this year to get a draft pick that's a developmental project, that's going to make it harder to win a championship this year."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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