It hasn’t been a Summer of (Kevin) Love or much else for the Celtics.
The best-laid plans for a transformational offseason have failed to come to fruition. The team was rebuffed when it tried to parlay its raft of draft picks into a move up in the NBA Draft. Its most high profile free agent addition is big man Amir Johnson. Its most marketable young player, Marcus Smart, suffered a cringe-inducing injury, dislocating two fingers, during NBA Summer League action.
A team whose mascot is named Lucky should expect better fortune. Maybe the Celtics used up all their luck making the playoffs, or maybe it’s not that the Celtics’ summer has fallen short, just the patience of the Parishioners of the Parquet.
There is nothing wrong with the Celtics’ current course. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has the Celtics right where they should be entering the third season following the final dissolution of the New Big Three via shipping Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets for all those draft picks.
When Ainge finally hit the demolition button on the New Big Three-centric Celtics there was an unspoken agreement between the team and its fans that it was going to take five or six seasons to restore the luster to the NBA’s most storied franchise. The Celtics were starting over. Patience wasn’t a virtue, but a necessity.
The indefatigable Ainge will pursue every option and entertain any idea to hit fast-forward on that timeline. But short of getting three No. 1 picks in four years and the guilt-laden best player on the planet landing back in your lap like the Cleveland Cavaliers it’s hard to shortcut the circle of life in the NBA. And recycling the summer of 2007 plan that brought together Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen is not an option.
Celtics fans, your team will be contenders before Widett Circle undergoes a metamorphosis to Midtown Boston and the Parade of Nations comes marching into the nouveau neighborhood’s disposable Olympic Stadium. But some patience is required.
In fairness to Green Teamers, a few developments raised their hopes of raising a banner — owner Wyc Grousbeck hinting at fireworks in 2014, Love’s open flirtation with the city last summer, and coach Brad Stevens’s magic act getting the Celtics into the playoffs.
Plus, a generation of fans here in the Hub of Hardware are hard-wired to expect perennial championship contention for all of their teams. Rebuilding is for other, lesser sports locales. What qualifies as patience here is waiting on a street corner to see your favorite player when the championship parade rolls by.
Some diehard Celtics fans — and members of ownership — will point out that the Celtics made the franchise-altering trade for Garnett on July 31, 2007. This is true, but no player of KG’s status is likely to land in green between now and opening night.
The pre-New Big Three Celtics already had a perennial All-Star and franchise cornerstone in Pierce. They had swung a draft deal for Allen. They weren’t sifting through their roster like a miner panning for gold, praying for something of value to slip out of the soil.
(With the signing of second-round pick and Summer League sensation Jordan Mickey on Monday the Celtics have 16 players on their roster, one more than the league limit.)
The primary reason the Garnett trade came later in the summer was the fiercely loyal Garnett’s hesitation about leaving Minnesota and his trepidation about playing in Boston.
These Celtics have to bide their time and hope to get a franchise player using their hope chest of draft picks and roster redundancy or see him sprout from their roster.
Warning: Don’t put any stock into Summer League performances when assessing the Celtics’ championship outlook.
Yes, Smart resembled a mini-Magic Johnson, averaging a league-high 24 points and 7.5 assists in the Utah Summer League. But he shot only 26.5 percent in three games in the Las Vegas Summer League.
It’s more telling if Smart doesn’t dominate Summer League, which in terms of level of play is somewhere between NBA garbage time on loop and an NBA Developmental League All-Star game.
You’re not going to learn whether Smart is a franchise point guard, whether first-round pick Terry Rozier was a reach or Rondo 2.0, whether fellow 2015 first-rounder R.J. Hunter can get his shots at the NBA level or whether Mickey is a steal in Summer League action.
There is a yawning reality gap between the Vegas Summer League, where Seth Curry, he of four NBA games and one career field goal, averages 24.3 points per game, and the NBA, where his older brother, Steph Curry, is the MVP.
There is an NBA maxim, “It’s only Summer League.” It exists because Summer League is an infamous hoops mirage. Just Google the name Marco Belinelli, who was a 2007 Summer League second coming.
Belinelli has enjoyed a solid role-player career, winning a title with the San Antonio Spurs. But he signed with his sixth team, the Sacramento Kings, this summer.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything with the Celtics to be excited about this summer.
Flipping the expiring contract of spare part Gerald Wallace to the Golden State Warriors for David Lee was a shrewd move. A two-time All-Star, Lee is the type of rebounder the Celtics crave. With only a year left on his contract, Lee is a low-risk, high-reward addition for the Celtics, assuming he emerges from their front-court glut.
But the Celtics are still very much under construction, and it’s going to take more than a couple of seasons to see Ainge’s blueprint get the Green back to redecorating the Garden rafters.
This is a city used to seeing its construction projects take longer than expected and the planning process turn anfractuous.
The Celtics are actually on schedule, even if it doesn’t feel that way.