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Sports

May 23, 2007

Tough-luck Celtics punished for past greatness

It's official. God is paying the Boston Celtics back.



God has to be behind this.



How else can you explain the fifth pick? Forget about Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, two guys I've gotten to know so well the last two months I felt I was related to them. I can't even name three college basketball players after them two.



How else can you explain the prearranged Tim Duncan-Rick Pitino marriage that was called off by NBA lottery officials a decade ago? Instead of three or four more titles, the Celtics fell deeper into this seemingly endless abyss.



There have been other disappointments - better yet, tragedies. Len Bias and Reggie Lewis quickly come to mind.



Why has it come to this?



For so many years, Red Auerbach's Celtics outthought, outtraded, outmaneuvered and eventually outplayed the competition.



Maybe God didn't like the Celtics' smugness. I hear that a lot from outsiders. The Celtics just thought they were better and carried themselves around that way.



People talk about luck when they talk about the Celtics. But has luck ever played a part of this? Wasn't it always Red finding a loop hole in the rules or an opposing knucklehead general manager?



Every great acquisition was Red finding a way to get around the system. Bill Russell was drafted after St. Louis traded for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagen. Dave Cowens was another draft surprise because everybody thought Red didn't like him. Wrong!



And most of the entire bunch that combined to win three titles - Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge - were thinking-outside-the-box acquisitions by Red.



The point is that luck has never really been the focal point of the Celtics' successes. They simply figured out how to land players that other teams couldn't.



We fast forward to Ainge, the man now sitting in Auerbach's seat.



Ainge has assembled a decent array of young talent, one that probably could make the playoffs with some "luck," and maybe win a series.



Paul Pierce is a star, maybe even a superstar. Al Jefferson is potentially a star. Gerald Green, Delonte West and Tony Allen could be very good. And two or three more players have chances to be decent NBA players.



The problem is that isn't enough. Not after two decades of playing the role of NBA also-rans.



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