BOSTON — Somewhere in sunny Southern California, Danny Ainge and the Celtics' brain trust gathered Tuesday night and braced for the worst.
After all, when it comes to the Celtics and the NBA draft lottery . . . do they have much of a choice?
Disappointment more than devastation was the emotion of choice for the Celtics after Boston landed the No. 6 pick despite being tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
Sure, the No. 1 pick would have been awesome.
Who wouldn't want it?
But for this team, for this franchise, that would have been just too good to be true.
In the building of this team, Lottery Night disappointment is a must.
Fans bask in the success of Banner 17 and how Paul Pierce, longtime pal Kevin Garnett and one of the best third wheels the NBA has ever seen (Ray Allen) joined forces like superheroes to right the wrongs of the NBA basketball world -- at least in the eyes of Green Teamers -- by having the Celtics emerge as one of the game's powerhouses.
But that merger came about in part because of a previous Lottery Night that didn't go quite as planned.
In 2007, Boston was in the lottery and fell all the way back to the No. 5 spot despite having the second-worst record in the NBA.
Just as they were last night, the Celtics brain trust was disappointed but far from discouraged by the outcome.
"We were prepared for this," Ainge said at the time. "We knew [falling lower in the draft was] a strong possibility."
Setbacks forced the front-office group to rely on its strength, which is its intelligence at figuring out how to make the most out of a potential hot mess.
The Celtics’ brain trust had to work harder, recognize ways to maximize their salary cap options, and -- maybe most important -- find a team that was open to trading its best player.
Sounds familiar, huh?
As much as the Celtics will publicly downplay how the 2007 moves that brought home an NBA title in 2008 was like catching lightning in a bottle, guess what?
The Celtics are poised to catch lightning again, and they have a bigger -- much bigger -- bottle to capture it in this time.
There is no way to look at what's happening in Minnesota right now with Kevin Love and not see the obvious parallels with the blockbuster deal Boston pulled off to get Kevin Garnett from the Timberpuppies in 2007.
Both want out for the same reason: they got tired of losing in Minnesota.
It took Garnett 12 years to get fed up with it. Kevin Love wants a clean slate after six.
To get Garnett, Boston had to give up several players. They'll have to do some of that to land Love, but multiple future draft picks give them the kind of flexibility to sweeten the deal.
And while the bond between Ainge and the new czar in basketball ops (Flip Saunders) for Minnesota isn't nearly the same as it was in '07 between Ainge and the T-wolves’ then-basketball boss, ex-teammate Kevin McHale (now head coach of the Houston Rockets), there is one. Their rapport dates back to the Doc Rivers era in Boston when Saunders, kicked to the curb by the Washington Wizards as their head coach, would spend time with Rivers. At one point, Saunders served as a consultant to the Celtics.
By no means does this mean that the C’s are a lock to get a deal done. But they have a chance; a better chance now than they had of landing Garnett, truthfully.
Pulling off a deal for Love won't be easy at all, especially since Minnesota will likely be able to get more NBA-proven talent elsewhere.
But the Celtics recognize opportunities quicker than many and, because of that, setbacks aren't crippling.
They become markers on the team's road to success, making the disappointment from draft lottery failure a little easier to stomach with the knowledge that things will get better . . . sooner rather than later.