Video: Bucks on brink of celebrating 50 year NBA championship anniversary by winning another one
The Phoenix Suns had a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 series lead, but (insert Johnny Most voice here) Jrue Holiday stole the ball. The Suns didn't attempt to foul Holiday, but 100% wanted to Giannis Antetokounmpo on the line. The problem for the Suns as they saw at the end of Game 4, there is a reason he was nicknamed the Greek Freak. The man simply does things others can't do and at a quicker speed.
Before you could say "two shots for Giannis at the line," he had hammered home the alley-oop pass from Holiday. The Bucks now head back to Milwaukee hoping to secure their 2nd championship in Game 6 fifty years after their lone title.
A few more quick observations. No one needs to write the Suns obituary just yet. Celtics fans of the the past dozen years know very well that a 3-2 lead doesn't clinch anything. If the Bucks were to lose Game 6 in Milwaukee, once again the Suns become the favorites to win the series. The Bucks have the momentum, sure. But this series isn't over.
Also we can now see why Danny Ainge last offseason was so persistent trying to acquire Jrue Holiday. The series differentials when he's guarded Chris Paul compared to any other defender this series (or this playoff for that matter) are rather drastic. Ainge was correct to try and part ways with Kemba Walker after just one season and instead shift to Holiday. Too bad that didn't happen.
There's a world where instead of having to give up a first rounder to dump Kemba's contract for a lesser bad contract this offseason, Ainge was able to find a taker for Walker last offseason, which would have led to Jrue in Boston. Reports were Ainge was trying to trade Kemba for 1sts and then to flip those firsts for Jrue.
If I recall correctly Ainge wanted a high lottery pick for Kemba, which was quite ambitious. But let's say instead he settles for a couple later firsts. Add in Boston's 2021 first rounder that was used in the aforementioned dump and that would have been a net positive of three first rounders that Ainge could of used to try and acquire Jrue or another player of his caliber. Could have been a much different 2020-21 season if that happened.
So while Ainge has been criticized as callous for trading Isaiah Thomas and trying to trade Kemba, he made the correct original calls in both decisions. The years since Thomas' trade have proven he's not the same player and the Celtics would have been fools to sign him to any lucrative long term deal. Now hindsight being 20/20, the mistake in the Thomas for Kyrie trade was giving up the last Nets pick. That was the centerpiece of the deal for the Cavs by far.
I always wanted Ainge to keep all three Nets picks. That next draft had players like Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Trae Young. The last two Nets picks had hit top 3. Considering Brooklyn wasn't getting those players to improve, why not see if the last Nets pick landed top 3, so you could add a point guard like Doncic or Trae? Or a big like Jackson Jr. or Ayton?
Turns out the pick didn't hit top 3, but Ainge still would have had his choice of point guards Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Or if he wanted to take a chance on the high lotto talent who fell due to injury, Michael Porter Jr, that was an option as well.
But trading that Nets pick made sense if you were adding the piece that could combine with the recently signed Gordon Hayward and Al Horford to win you a title. Damian Lillard four years back would have been a great player to add. He was just 27 back then, so you'd be getting his prime years. Problem was most teams don't make available their star players who could lead teams to championships while they are still in their primes.
Kevin Garnett didn't become available until he was 31, when his athleticism was starting to slip some and when you're more prone to injury setbacks. KG gave Boston one and a half years of his prime until a knee injury sidelined him. So the fact that Kyrie Irving was available in his prime was already a huge red flag. Only All-Star player who ever wanted to be traded away from a LeBron James' team. Kyrie hadn't talked to LeBron or his teammates that whole last Cavs Finals making season. That's not the type of player who leads anyone anywhere.
Ainge would have been better served trading Thomas for fifty cents on the dollar and keeping the pick. And with regards to Kemba, Ainge was right to see if he could dump Walker last year. He had a season to see how the small guard did on a good team when he was no longer the #1 option and the results were that that player wasn't worth a max contract. Getting just one first rounder for Kemba last offseason in hindsight would have been a solid deal.
Where I can't defend Ainge is on the accusations that he was less than honest in trying to deal damaged goods. I mean it was obvious that both Thomas (in 2017) and Walker (in 2020) finished their seasons injured, it's never a good look if you have the reputation of trying to hide the severity of injuries with trade partners. Now sure, after a deal they will perform physicals, but its not as simple as just calling a deal off then. You've already told players and families they will be moving. Time has already expired and subsequent moves may have been made.
Cleveland received an additional 2nd round pick due to the Isaiah situation. The reason why the compensation wasn't higher or they didn't walk away from the deal entirely was because they were very excited to get a Nets pick for Kyrie. If Thomas was the main piece in the deal, they likely walk away from the deal.
And if a team had traded multiple first rounders for Kemba last offseason and they didn't like what they saw with his physical, they would have likely nixed that deal. But what if there was a player or two headed to Boston. Now you have to deal with welcoming back players who were traded. And considering last offseason was a condensed one, you never get back the time you lost at the beginning of free agency when most deals were done.
The reputation Ainge had earned, fair or not, of trying to deal damaged goods was one of the reasons the Celtics needed a new voice in charge. I had predicted that if either Ainge or Stevens left their positions it wouldn't be because of anyone firing them, it would be because either man made the decision on their own. I didn't see the plot twist of both of stepping down from their positions. Thought it would be just one. Also didn't see the Brad taking Ainge's job scenario.
So while I knew the only way we'd get a new voice running the front office is if Ainge stepped down, in the end we have that new voice. Who's to say if Brad will do better or worse than Danny, but at least the "trying to trade damaged goods" rep has been retired. And if you wanted proof, you saw it with Brad kicking in pick #16 in the Walker for Horford deal. Both players make more than their production. This past winter it cost Philly a first rounder to unload Horford's contract. The contract everyone said Philly would regret in years 3 and 4 when he was 35 and 36 years old. This offseason Oklahoma City traded that 3rd and 4th years of Horford's deal and not only didn't have to kick in a 1st, but acquired one just outside the lottery.
There are only two reasons why the Celtics would trade a first rounder with Kemba a year after being an All-Star for a 35 year old Al Horford still owed $44 million (prior to incentives). One would be that Sam Presti took advantage of a rookie GM and fleeced him. The other would be that the Celtics fear Kemba's injury will continue to sideline him or could get worse and Boston was extremely open and transparent with all potential trade partners about this.
Now if Presti is able to flip Walker without giving up a first or taking back an overpaid player? Well then, that's not a great look for grading Brad's first deal. In the end, even though it pissed off Kemba, it would have been best for all parties involved if he had been traded last offseason. Jrue Holiday on the Celtics would have been the cherry on top.