BOSTON — It was 12:20 this morning and Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge had collapsed in a leather chair as if he had completed a marathon.
Figuratively, he just had. And from this vantage point, he won.
Ten days ago his team won its first championship in 22 years, which was a story out of Red Auerbach's legacy. In five seasons, Ainge retooled the entire roster, keeping only Paul Pierce, and he won a championship.
But last night, draft night, was the real end.
While nothing beats winning a ring, time will tell if Ainge pulled off another coup last night.
"Why is everyone so excited?" joked Ainge to the assembled media.
We weren't excited because, well, we were tired, just like Ainge was.
While New England was awash in Celtics basketball the last two months, Ainge had another thing to deal with — the future.
"We were in Los Angeles (for the NBA finals), in the locker room, and Danny was talking about all of these college players," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I had to get up and leave. I couldn't deal with the college talk. I had to figure out a way to stop Kobe."
Bill Belichick would have been proud of the Celtics leading up to this draft.
Ainge led us to believe that the Celtics were going to be cheapskates, per ownership's orders, and select a guy or two who would play in Europe on somebody else's dime. And that any money saved would go to current key Celtics up for free agency (see James Posey).
Instead Ainge pulled off another Belichick-like move, drafting from strength.
With a team loaded with talented, eye-on-the-prize veterans, it was worth taking a risk or two.
The first was with their first-round pick, 30th overall, selecting former University of New Mexico star J.R. Giddens, a 6-foot-5 guard. While Giddens' numbers were impressive (16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds), they were trumped by his troubles, which included suspensions, locker room brawls and a knifing (he was stabbed in the calf).
But, according to Ainge, those problems were B.S.A. — before Steve Alford, his coach last season.
"This was a big year for J.R.," explained Ainge. "When he had structure and organization in his life ... he took his game to another level."
Basically, Giddens, who started his career at Kansas, was a lottery pick with baggage, hence the Celtics entered the drawing.
Ainge wasn't done with his risk-taking. The Celtics then scooped up Kansas State sophomore forward Billy Walker (16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds) from the Washington Wizards, who selected him 47th overall. All the C's had to give up was cash.
Walker had a brutal knee injury — torn ACL — only six games into his freshman season.
"We had considered Billy at the 30th pick," said Ainge. "This is as close to Leon Powe (who had a knee injury in college, thus dropping to 49th in 2006) as there is."
With the last pick, Ainge got his European, Semih Erden, a 21-year-old center from Turkey, who is under contract for one more season.
Ainge does not have immediate plans for a long vacation.
He has some free agents, including a few of his own, to consider as free agency begins on Monday. And there no doubt will be some stress over Posey.
But last night a few years of scouting was completed and Ainge appears to have taken risks that were worth taking.
Ainge has earned a break, even if it's for a few days.
"Danny is the hardest working guy in the NBA," said Rivers. "He is unbelievable. He really is."
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.