Danny Ainge took over and blew up everything. He fired the coach who took the franchise to the 2002 eastern conference finals and embarked on a series of individually semi-defensible moves that had no correlation to one another.
Within four years, the franchise had the league’s youngest roster, fans were openly rooting for losses (for lottery purposes) and the team was shamefully tanking down the stretch. Looking back, it was pathetic. The franchise disgraced the game of basketball.
The Celtics went 2-22, from late December 2006 until early February 2007 after losing Paul Pierce to injury, the result of a stress reaction in his left foot.
At first, the Celtics received a much needed boost from guard Tony Allen but he tore his ACL and MCL on a needless dunk attempt after the whistle.
Doc Rivers, like always, was the last to realise the upside of his talented rookies. In the 2005 season, Rivers waited 40 games too long to start playing Delonte West. During the 2006 season, he waited 40 games too long to start playing Ryan Gomes. And during the 2007 season, he waited 40 games too long to start playing rookie Rajon Rondo.
It didn’t look likely that Rivers would be in the league past next season. I couldn’t accept that any coach could ever be extended after winning 45 games, 33 games and 23 games in the first three seasons of a four-year deal.
It couldn’t be that bad. The franchise were only 29th in field-goal percentage, 30th in two-point field-goal percentage, 28th worst in turnovers and 28th worst in fouls. There are only 30 teams in the league.
The Celtics compiled a record of 24-58, the second-worst in the NBA, including a franchise-record 18-game losing streak. Antoine Walker went on to win an NBA championship in Miami, while Celtics fans were begging the basketball gods for a high draft pick to select either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant to help rebuild the franchise.
Skip to the draft lottery, a day that every Celtics fan fell back on optimistically when their friend would laugh at the fact that anyone was so unlucky to be supporting this team. This was thought and rethought about every time the Celtics were being blown out before the end of the half. This was it: the entire season in the balance of an envelope. This was going to be the first time ever in Celtics history that the franchise got the first pick, and the Boston Celtics got the fifth pick in the draft.
A full year of rooting against their own team for nothing. Getting the fifth pick was literally the worst case scenario for Boston, who had a 19.9 per cent chance of getting the first pick.
That was it, the fans’ only hope. The franchise was sentenced to another decade of quick-fix plans, risky trades and dumb free-agent signings. Fans were looking at another decade of excuses, spin control and hyperbole. The ship had sunk, or at least that’s what fans thought.