Blakely: Celtics start on road back to relevance

Blakely: Celtics start on road back to relevance
July 6, 2013, 1:45 pm
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WINTER PARK, Fla. — When Wyc Grousbeck and the current ownership group purchased the Boston Celtics in December of 2002, he had no idea how long it would take to rebuild the C's into a title contender.

Five-plus years later, Banner 17 had arrived on Causeway Street.

Now that the C's once again find themselves rebuilding, the Celtics are taking some pretty clear and well-defined steps to get into the fast lane on the road back to relevance.

"We started from a worst position last time," Grousbeck told "This time we have our GM (Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations), we think we have our coach (Brad Stevens, hired earlier this week) to rebuild and we have far more assets and we start with a better roster and a bunch of picks. But we've got the patience. We stuck it out from 2003 to 2008 and we're prepared to do that again."

Once the trade with Brooklyn for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry is completed next week, the Celtics will have a total of eight first-round picks in the next four NBA drafts.  
Under contract for this upcoming season is four-time all-star Rajon Rondo along with some promising young talent in Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger.

And now the C's have a new head coach, 36-year-old Brad Stevens who won more games (166) in his first six seasons as the head coach of Butler than any NCAA Division I men's basketball coach ever.

The fact that the C's gave Stevens a six-year, $22 million contract - more years than any current NBA head coach - speaks volumes about how much they believe he will contribute to the team's success going forward.

"Brad's success will be determined a lot by what we do; what I do to support him," Ainge said. "What ownership does to support us. We've been through this, rebuilding-type process before and we're all better for it. We know what we're about to embark on."

And it is that experience that makes the C's confident that the five-plus years it took to win an NBA title, may come about sooner than that.
"We're impatient," Grousbeck admitted. "We want it to happen as soon as possible. But what we've done is, we've tried to speed everything up."

The C's could have easily brought back Garnett and Pierce for this season and fielded a team good enough to make the playoffs, possibly get out of the first round of the playoffs.

But when the Celtics' ownership group went about assembling a championship-caliber team in the past and thus pay luxury taxes to keep them together, it wasn't a major issue because the C's were among the league's better clubs.

However, paying luxury taxes for a team that would have been fortunate to get to the second round of the playoffs, just didn't make a lot of sense on so many levels.

Grousbeck isn't delusional about where this franchise would be had it decided to hold on to its two aging veterans.

"We stayed as long as we could with a championship team," Grousbeck said. "I don't think anyone thinks we would have had a chance if we held on to them for one more year. It's time; everybody sees that. Fans see that. We see that. Once you make that decision, you go full speed ahead."

Added Celtics president Rich Gotham: "Obviously we're in a period of change with the new coach and a departing coach and things to come with the roster."
That transition has been fueled by the C's flipping players as well as former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers (now with the Clippers), for future draft picks.

In addition, the C's are positioning themselves to have better salary cap flexibility down the road which can only help them avoid the many potential pot holes down the road to relevance.