Tom E. Curran

Curran: Passing on Fultz means Celtics aren't settling

Curran: Passing on Fultz means Celtics aren't settling

Discussing whether Danny Ainge was right matters less than trying to figure out what Danny Ainge is doing next.

POTENTIAL CELTICS PICKS

Forget the “superstar” predictions about Fultz made by people who wouldn’t have known the kid if he walked into the room a month ago. We won’t know for a few years if passing on him will be a lifelong professional regret for Ainge.

What we do know is that Boston said, “No thanks” to a preternaturally smooth player who was 23-5-5 last year at Washington, shot 41 percent from the college 3 , showed himself to be a terrific pick-and-roll player with -- seemingly -- a high level of poise and maturity for a 19-year-old.

There’s no doubt he’s going to be a good NBA player but we’re not talking about a kid with high-level explosiveness and athleticism or some attribute that just jumps off the screen at you like it would with Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose. You had to watch a lot of Fultz to see that the strength in his game is actually the lack of weaknesses.

So what did the Celtics get in exchange for saying, “No thanks”? Either a 2-for-1  with draftees: Fultz in exchange for whoever the C’s take at No. 3 AND whoever they take next year between 2 and 5 with that protected Lakers pick. The 2018 draft is very solid for the first four players.  

Or the Celtics traded for mobility. If Ainge has no intention of using the third overall pick and instead wants to orchestrate a blockbuster, he’s added currency.

But if the Celtics are picking, an obvious questions arises.

“What if the Lakers take whoever the Celtics wanted at No. 2?”

It’s been presumed that, if not Fultz, then it was Kansas’ Josh Jackson that Ainge wanted. Now that the Lakers have been sniffing around Jackson as well, wouldn’t it mean the Celtics fell back too far if Jackson goes at No. 2? It would. But don’t you assume that would have dawned on Ainge? He knows the risk and if he did this deal with the intention of picking at No. 3 that means it’s not just Jackson he’s loves. It means he’s good with either Jackson or Duke’s Jayson Tatum or whoever else caught his eye.

We can debate all day whether any of the other prospects will measure up to Fultz but it’s wasted breath at this point. Is Fultz going to be better than both the player taken at 3 and who they take next year? That’s what matters. Who will be a better team as a result of this deal, Boston or Philly? It will take years to know.

In the same vein, if Ainge made the deal to stuff more picks in his pocket for a potential deal, we’ll have to see what it is before projecting its success.

But you hope that, if he’s dealing, Ainge knows he’s got trade partners.

It can’t be, “Hey maybe now that we traded down and have these picks, we can do something . . . ” if the intention is to move No. 3 for, say, Jimmy Butler, then one would pray that deal has been pre-constructed, vetted and parameters have been agreed upon.

Again, Ainge isn’t a moron. He will have checked whether teams are open for business or not if the intention is to swap again.

To be honest, the business of the NBA makes me glaze over. All that crap about finding matching contracts, expiring contracts, etc. Never mind keeping track of the guys who are already looking to hook up with buddies on other teams when their contracts expire.

The Celtics on-court product isn’t complicated, though. They’re a pretty good team with serious scoring limitations. They don’t have a 6-foot-5-plus knockdown shooter. The only guy who can truly create his own shot is 5-8. They are soft up front on the glass and defensively.

They have three very good backcourt defenders in Terry Rozier, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. They have a mature, explosive athlete in Jaylen Brown who is still raw when he has to put the ball on the floor more than once. They have a heady, stable, passing big man in Al Horford with a nuanced game. And Isaiah Thomas will be a high-level point producer for a few more years.

The Celtics need size, shooters and someone to take the scoring burden off Thomas while still allowing him the space to create as he did in 2016-17.

Fultz certainly wouldn’t have made the Celtics a worse team. But Danny Ainge has rolled the dice believing Boston can be even better without him than they would have been with him.

Curran: Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's extension with Patriots

Curran: Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's extension with Patriots

Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's contract extension . . .

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Growing up in Redwood City, California, the then-pocket-sized Edelman would say to friends who didn’t think he’d be able to accomplish something, “Bet against me . . . ” His self-belief from the time he was a 4-foot-11, 70-pound freshman at Woodside High School through now has never wavered. And this deal is a concrete example of Edelman cashing in because he bet on himself. After an injury-marred 2012 season, Edelman didn’t get much attention as a free agent. He came back to the Patriots on a one-year deal for 2013 and proceeded to explode. After that, he signed a fluff-free four-year, $19 million deal. And since signing that, he’s had iconic touchdowns in two Super Bowl wins. Edelman came into the NFL in 2009 after three years as a Kent State quarterback. He somewhat spun his wheels until getting his chance in 2012. That Edelman is closing his career with this kind of on-field production and off-field earnings means that anyone betting against him is making a bad wager.
 
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With a two-year extension, the (just-turned) 31-year-old wideout is now signed through 2019, as are Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Convenient. Even more convenient: the 2019 season will represent Bill Belichick’s 20th year as head coach of the Patriots and Brady’s 20th year in New England. As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, Belichick likes round numbers and what it would mean to coach 20 seasons from a historical perspective. If he gets to 20 consecutive with the Patriots, he’d join Tom Landry (29), Curly Lambeau (29), Don Shula (26) and Chuck Noll (23) as men who coached a team for a generation. And nobody’s matching that this century.
 
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Why’d Edelman get extended to play with the team past the age of 31 when Wes Welker wasn’t? Great question. And you have to go back to the Welker-Patriots relationship in 2011 and 2012 to understand. In 2011, Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine TDs. He was an All-Pro and the Patriots got to the Super Bowl, where Welker and Brady failed to connect on a would-be game-sealing completion in the fourth quarter. Welker’s agent, David Dunn, submitted a dossier explaining why Welker should be paid like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. The Patriots put the franchise tag on Welker. Pissed, Welker had a less-than-committed offseason heading into 2012. And then he got beaten out by Edelman in training camp. It wasn’t until Aaron Hernandez broke his ankle against Arizona in the season’s second game and Edelman broke his wrist that Welker re-emerged. At the end of that season, Welker was hell-bent on finding the money the Pats wouldn’t give him and hit free agency. The Patriots, snubbing Edelman – who was so injury-plagued at that point – signed Danny Amendola. Welker, realizing the interest wasn’t out there, wanted to rejoin the Patriots but New England had already filled Welker’s spot with Amendola. It was a money thing. With Edelman – who is represented by Don Yee, Steve Dubin and Carter Chow (Yee and Dubin also represent Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo) – it never turned into a financial tug-of-war.

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I mentioned the 2014 “fluff-free” deal? I called it that because there was no backloading involved and all the salaries and roster bonuses were evenly distributed. We’ll see when the numbers come out if the new deal provides a little less certainty for Edelman and is more performance-based. With Malcolm Mitchell perhaps emerging and Brandin Cooks now in the house as well, the ball is bound to find Edelman less often than it has in past seasons. Which isn’t a bad thing. He saw the fourth-highest number of regular-season targets (160) and was thrown to 195 times including the postseason. And he returns punts. Backing the workload off a touch is a wise move.
 
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What about Malcolm Butler? The Patriots have now collected a fleet of free agents (including Stephon Gilmore), gone back to the table early with Gronk (albeit with just a few new incentives to give him a performance boost) and are extending guys like Edelman (who was going to be equally as underpaid as Butler this year). Why doesn’t Malcolm eat? Because the Patriots kinda Welker’d him. He didn’t bite on their offer (which could have topped $10 million per if Butler hit his incentives, according to Mike Reiss) so they signed Gilmore. Now Butler has to suck it up and play for $3.91 million. He could have played it like Edelman did and re-signed for authentic money on a short-term deal at any time over the past couple seasons. He decided not to. I don’t blame him for that – Butler’s first three years were better than Edelman’s – but waiting for the giant windfall comes at a cost and a risk.

Curran: Coverage of Brady/Best Buddies 'controversy' speaks volumes

Curran: Coverage of Brady/Best Buddies 'controversy' speaks volumes

Could we be any less self-aware in the media?

Bloviating all weekend about the "bad optics" created by a security heavy who whisked a Globe photographer from Friday's Best Buddies flag football game.

Clucking about the "bad look" that Brady's arrangement with the charity allegedly creates.

And the truth is, it's a contrived controversy sprung from a contrived controversy, both aiming to vilify a guy as he raises money for the developmentally disabled.

BRADY AND BEST BUDDIES

I mean Friday -- at the exact same time Brady's playing football at Harvard Stadium to help raise millions to fund programs that help the developmentally disabled -- we are in our studios flailing our arms about needing answers.

Talk about bad optics.

For the hell of it, let’s just revisit the so-called controversy Brady supposedly needed to provide answers about during the Best Buddies event.

(An aside: The people weighing in with advice on how and when Brady should have spoken have likely never attended the Best Buddies Flag Football game. It’s staffed by absurdly overzealous security that puts media in a small, cordoned-off area so that we don’t get overly chummy with Verne Troyer or Guy Fieri. Brady talks for three minutes at halftime and that’s it. He scoots. That a photographer was told to screw doesn’t surprise me in the least. Every year, the event is a coverage poopshow mainly because the PR staff’s enthusiasm in soliciting coverage is replaced by flat hostility from security when you get there to cover it.)

Anyway, the Globe published a story in April revealing that Brady told Best Buddies he wanted to devote time to fundraising for his own foundation. The two sides worked out a deal by which Brady wouldn't have to trim back his time and appearances -- and there are more than just this past weekend -- and Best Buddies sent some of the money Brady was raising to Brady's foundation so he could allocate it to his own causes and concerns. Nothing illegal, nothing improper. The story itself stated that.

As part of a broader look at how charities reward the athletes or celebs who are affiliated with causes, it would have been illuminating. But it came off as a self-righteous smear piece designed to put the whiff of impropriety around Brady and -- in turn -- Best Buddies.

Why? Well, it's just big-game hunting. And it's supposed to say something about the hunter.

Why did the NFL spend $20 million and 20 months smearing Brady, creating evidence, lying, dissembling and preposterously hiding behind the word integrity over deflated footballs that weren’t really deflated? They wanted to show the arrogant Patriots who was boss and Roger Goodell wanted to show the rest of the league's owners he wasn't beholden to Robert Kraft.

Didn't work out so good for the NFL.

Why did the Globe go see fit to insinuate in the headline and lead paragraph of its initial story that Brady was treating Best Buddies as his personal piggy bank when the truth was waaaayyyyy less sinister?

Probably a stew of reasons which likely involve politics, Globe ownership interests and the Patriots refusal to genuflect to the media.

For a publication that won international acclaim for exposing the Catholic Church's coverup for pedophile priests, going after a guy while he's raising millions for developmentally disabled children seemed a bizarre step down the investigative journalism ladder.

I’ve heard Globe writers in the past mention the phrase that, “It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Somehow this weekend that got twisted into “Attempt to afflict the comfortable while they are in the process of comforting the afflicted.”