Friday, February 24, 2017

You Mean I Might Have Nothing to Do But Watch the Games?

Hell hath no fury like a talk show host whose home market teams don't swing big deals by their sports' trade deadlines. Doing nothing is unacceptable! (Make that three exclamation points here in Boston.)

As I went on a pizza run last night, it was very weird to hear Adam Jones on the SportsHub denounce Danny Ainge of the Celtics for timidity, no, downright cowardice for failing/refusing to make a trade before the deadline yesterday afternoon. But then, Jones had to top Felger and Mazz, whose squawks of scorn reverberated around town without one having to turn on one's radio.

Danny Ainge? The guy who made about 15 deals in his first year at Boston's helm. The guy who brought in Kevin Garnett? The one who acquired Isaiah Thomas at last year's deadline for a briefcase full of Imperial Russian railway bonds? Danny, timid? Making criticism loud is one thing. Turning up the volume to silly is another.

We know that Ainge could've acquired DeMarcus Cousins for almost nothing, since that's what New Orleans paid to get the volatile but gifted center, but decided, along with Brad Stevens, the Celts didn't want Cousins at any price. That's a real thing that happened, and if you or anyone else including talk show hosts disagree with Boston's assessment of Cousins, Ainge may fairly be criticized for that judgment.

Judgment, not temperament. To accuse Ainge of lacking the iron nerve of the true plunger is to ignore more than a decade's worth of Celtics' history. And to criticize his judgment for failing to pull off some unknown but allegedly available "big deal" that'd be a "real upgrade" is just nonsense. It's not only assuming facts in evidence, it's assuming assumptions not in evidence.

Fans and sports journalists the world over make the same mistake about trades every day in every sport. They blithely presume that their team is the only participant in one. The wants, needs, foibles, psychoses, etc. of the teams on the other sides of their fantasy deals are not considered, let alone the thoughts of the players who might be involved. It's usually a harmless way for outsiders to spend their time, much like imagining what they'll buy when their Powerball numbers hit.

But it's just as divorced from reality. There are no grounds for blasting Ainge for not acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Bulls or Paul George from the Pacers unless it is known (Twitter doesn't count as knowing) what either of those teams wanted in return for giving up an All-Star, whether they even wanted to do it in the first place, and if either player was amenable to coming to Boston. I mean, I wish I could go out and buy a Ferrari this afternoon, but I KNOW I can't because I get bank statements. Ainge is a capable GM. He's not Dr. Strange. Reality won't bend to his will.

Fans and sports journalists love deadline deals (hey, I used to as well) for a good reason -- they're something new to talk about in the dullest part of very long regular seasons. Front offices need a little more concrete return on investment than novelty.

Trade rumors are fun. They proliferate because teams talk about trades almost every day, in conversations ranging from late night hotel bar bullshit to deadly serious conference calls with lawyers, cap specialists and player agents.

Here's a trade reality that's less fun but worth knowing anyway. 999,999 out of 1 million of those conversations end with one or both parties saying "sorry, but no thanks."

PS: Just have to vent a pet peeve here. Heard either Jones or his sidekick say "what message does Ainge not making a move send to his team, to those guys in the locker room?" assuming they would obviously be disheartened by their bosses' failure to create an invincible powerhouse that would sweep the Cavaliers aside with ease in every drive time segment between now and the playoffs.

Do commentators ever look at player sentiment from the other end of that telescope? What is the effect on morale if Ainge HAD pulled off a big trade, one whose unspoken message would be "Boys, I love this team. But for it to have a chance of being any good, I had to get rid of one-third of you."


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