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Why Thursday wasn’t so great for the Celtics, and other thoughts

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made his moves after he "sensed some discouragement" around the team.Josh Reynolds/FR25426 AP via AP

Picked-up pieces while trying to fit into my clothes as I return to games at the Garden and Fenway …

▪ The Celtics probably got a little better Thursday, but their playoff chances probably got worse.

Danny Ainge’s not-so-big deadline moves involved acquiring guard Evan Fournier (19.7 ppg) and big man Moe Wagner, while saying goodbye to Daniel Theis, Jeff Teague, and Javonte Green. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat made a bigger splash, picking up former All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. Which means Thursday wasn’t a great day in Green Team Nation.

The Celtics are not going to catch the Bucks, Nets, or 76ers. The goal should be securing the fourth seed in the conference. The Celtics are neck-and-neck with Miami but just fell further behind.


Fournier helps Boston, but Oladipo probably helps Miami more. Miami can come at you now with Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Oladipo. The Heat may still land LaMarcus Aldridge. They are better than the Celtics now. And we know they are tougher.

Which means that after months of speculation about triggering the coveted and confusing trade exception in the wake of losing Gordon Hayward, Ainge came up short. Danny acknowledged that he was unable to make “other, more significant” deals (like one for Orlando’s Aaron Gordon). Here’s hoping Ainge is not through yet and can come up with backboard-inhaling Andre Drummond now that his buyout is finalized.

Speaking for all Boston basketball fans, Ainge also said, “I want our players to feel hope, I want our coaches to feel hope, and I sensed some discouragement.”

There is discouragement because this feels like a lost season. After making it to the conference finals in three of the last four seasons, the Celtics will be lucky to get out of the first round this year. They are 14-20 since their 8-3 start. At the end of close games, they are softer than Dairy Queen on a brick patio in mid-July.


In this spirit, Maine sports radio personality Joe Palmieri suggests the needy Red Sox’ 2021 marketing campaign should be, “Hey, at least we’re not the Celtics.”

▪ Is it my imagination or has our appreciation for sports been hijacked by expectation over reality? In this COVID-19 summer/autumn/winter/spring, fans seem to be responding to offseason activities more than to the actual games.

The big buildup to and letdown after the Celtics’ small deals Thursday is a classic case. NFL free agency is even worse (or better, if this is what you love about sports). Without playing a single down of football, the Patriots have been the talk of our town for the last two weeks. Thinking about the future has become more fun than watching someone catch a pass or make a tackle. It’s better than real football games.

Anticipation has replaced reality. Thinking about what might happen seems to be better than watching it play out. Talking about all the great new players on the Patriots is more fun than watching them try to beat the Buffalo Bills in September.

This is the mind-set that has made the NFL and NBA drafts bigger than NFL or NBA games. It’s why fans covet draft picks more than real players. I’m ever-amazed when I hear a fan say he wouldn’t trade a fourth-round pick for J.J. Watt. Seriously. Why is the unknown always better than the known?


▪ The great Satch Sanders, who lives in Charlton with his wife and his eight championship rings, penned a terrific essay for the Sunday Globe on his Laker rival Elgin Baylor, who died this past week.

“I was talking to my wife about Elgin after he died and she said, ‘Write down how you feel,’ so I did,” says Sanders, now 82. “People today talk about Michael Jordan and Dr. J. None of those guys could hold a candle to Elgin. If you look at Jordan, it took him five years to figure out he needed other players to win. He was a slow learner.

“Other great players like Wilt [Chamberlain] and Oscar [Robertson] could have attitude issues with teammates. Not Elgin. People should be talking about this man forever.”

We thank Satch for sharing his thoughts on Elgin with Globe readers.

▪ Quiz 1: To what new charity did the Red Sox donate with proceeds from 1964′s Opening Day at Fenway? Quiz 2: Who was the only member of the 2004 Red Sox born in Boston? (Answers below.)

▪ And so it begins with the 2021 Red Sox …

After a pumped-and-jacked upbeat camp, the first bucket of cold water splashed over our heads Friday morning when Alex Cora announced that Eduardo Rodriguez has “dead arm” and won’t be the Opening Day starter.

E-Rod, who won 19 games in 2019, did not pitch last season because of COVID-19 and myocarditis. Now he has dead arm before the end of spring training.


And let’s not forget that pitching coach Dave Bush made it clear that there’s no guarantee we’ll see Chris Sale on the mound this year. The club “hopes” Sale returns in 2021, but there have been multiple complications since Sale’s Tommy John surgery last March.

Sneaky good, those Sox.

▪ Fox announced Thursday that veteran sportscaster Dick Stockton is retiring after 55 years and more than 1,500 network broadcasts in all four major sports. Stockton preceded Bob Lobel at Channel 4 and was the voice of the Red Sox on WSBK from 1975-78. He called Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 homer for NBC and was CBS’s trusty voice of the NBA in the golden years of the Bird-Magic rivalry. Stockton goes down as one of the broadcasting greats.

▪ Baseball fans: Do you love triples as much as I love triples? If so, you’ll be interested to learn that Yankee lifer Brett Gardner needs only four more triples to pass Mickey Mantle for ninth place on the Yanks’ all-time list. Lou Gehrig is No. 1 with 163. Joe DiMaggio is third with 131, and Babe Ruth comes in sixth with 106 triples for the Bombers.

Like the Yankees’, the Red Sox’ career list is peppered with guys who played in the old days. Jim Rice (79) ranks sixth in club history, Dwight Evans (72) eighth, and Ted Williams (71) ninth. I’m not expecting Franchy Cordero to crack the top 10 in his Fenway future.


▪ How can there be only one attorney in a big city like Houston? I am exaggerating, of course, but have you noticed that any time there’s a big sports legal case in Houston, we hear from Rusty Hardin?

Rusty was Roger Clemens’s guy on several high-profile cases, and he’s also defending Deshaun Watson in the wake of 16 civil suits women have filed against Watson.

Hardin also has represented Wade Boggs, Warren Moon, Rudy Tomjanovich, Scottie Pippen, Calvin Murphy, and Adrian Peterson.

▪ Love the jab from Dodger Nation, plastering a Brookline Ave. billboard with “Dear Boston, thank you for Mookie Betts.”

Wonder if Tom Werner still thinks the Dodgers were dopes for giving Mookie all that money. The early returns show LA with one World Series championship and the Red Sox with their worst team since 1965.

A message from LA to Boston popped up next to Fenway Park.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Oh, and can we stop the Sox company line about how “Mookie was going to leave anyway, so we had to trade him”? Betts smashes that in GQ, telling the magazine he would have gladly stayed here, but “you should just get paid what you’re worth.’’

▪ Matt Harvey, an All-Star starter and World Series stud for the Mets, will be with the Orioles when they come to Fenway Thursday. Injuries derailed the Dark Knight’s career, and he’s on the comeback trail after bottoming out with an 0-3 record and an 11.57 ERA in seven games with the Royals last summer.

▪ Sorry to see Utah State lose its first-round NCAA tourney game to Texas Tech, only because Utah State’s Marco Anthony said he wore jersey No. 44 as an homage to Wendy’s “4 for $4” promotion.

▪ If you are into local sports pain, pick up Erik Sherman’s “Two Sides of Glory: The 1986 Boston Red Sox in Their Own Words.” I was there for every day of the most star-crossed Red Sox season of all time, and this book puts a voice to it from the men who played and ultimately suffered.

▪ It’ll be heartbreaking to walk by a closed Four’s Boston on Canal Street en route to Celtics-Pelicans at the Garden Monday.

A sad sign of the times on Canal Street.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

▪ Quiz answers: 1. John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Foundation; 2. Mark Bellhorn.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.