Seasons change, GMs dont: Danny Ainge says he's staying in Boston

Me, leave? Good one.
Danny Ainge has been the general manager of the Boston Celtics since some of our readers were in diapers, and according to his recent comments, he wouldn't mind sticking around until we’re all old enough to have to slap 'em on again. Via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

I don’t see a finish line . . . at all,” Ainge said. “I guess there’s a finish line for everybody, but I don’t see it.

If we are going to be honest, Ainge probably has his job until he no longer feels like picking up the phone to fleece the other 29 GMs who have become so wary of him that they wont even take his Godfather style offers.

But here on the eve of what promises to be perhaps the most successful season of Celtics basketball since the departures of old friends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, I say we take a moment to appreciate what Ainge has done -- and what he has failed to do -- over the course of his storied career at the helm.

The discussion of Danny Ainge the GM begins and ends with the championship he won in 2007. That team represents an accomplishment that would never have happened without Ainge giving up a lottery pick the team had spent a year tanking for to nab Ray Allen and perpetrating the largest two-team swap in NBA history (at least in terms of bodies moving from one team to another) to acquire Kevin Garnett. 

While the deals that created that team look like steals in hindsight (prime Ray Allen for Jeff Green? A pu pu platter of mid-round, low-ceiling players for Kevin Garnett?), they were mired in controversy at the time. In particular, concerns about how the Big Three would mesh after nearly an entire career of being the only superstars on their respective teams were rampant. Ainge deserves all the credit in the world for trusting the culture of the organization and the steady hand of Doc Rivers to navigate those concerns en route to a title.

But -- and there is a but -- Ainge didn't do much to supplement that core beyond that first championship year. Letting James Posey leave for New Orleans deprived Rivers of a small-ball cog that was instrumental to the team’s success. The bet Ainge took on Rasheed Wallace was a complete bust minus some flashes of brilliance in the Eastern Conference finals in 2009.

And sure, it took a lot of bad breaks for the Big Three Celtics to win only one championship. Injuries to Garnett and Kendrick Perkins derailed consecutive championship seasons, leaving plenty of what-ifs in their wake. And even with those injuries, it took a disheartening collapse in the fourth quarter of game 7 to keep them from winning two titles in three years. 

But a few key moves could have mitigated those concerns and extended the lifetime of the most successful run of Celtics basketball in the last 20 years.

There was picking J.R. Giddens over Deandre Jordan in the 2008 draft. There was the botched pursuit of Chris Paul, a move Ainge could have pulled off had he dealt Ray Allen for assets as had been rumored for a few years before his defection to the Heat. And there was the combined picks of Jared Sullinger -- who was unable to contribute much in his rookie year due to injury -- and Fab Melo, made in lieu of a packaging of those picks for more immediate help. 

The logic behind the moves Ainge has made, and not made, are generally solid. But if just one of them had broken a different way, we may be reminiscing about a modern Celtics dynasty rather than lamenting what could have been.

if there is a championship team in the Celtics near future, it will be one that coalesces under Danny Ainge’s ring-laden hands. He has proven to be up to the task, and, though he may not have been perfect in that pursuit, he delivered the goods after the Celitcs had wandered in the desert for decades. He may not be perfect, but he is damn good: in Danny we trust.

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