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Massarotti: Celtics Fans Patience Will Now Be Tested

BOSTON (CBS) - Once again, it seems, the fireworks will have to wait until the Fourth of July.

And so here you go, Celtics fans: your patience is now going to get tested. After a tornado of trade rumors that included everyone from Jimmy Butler to Nerlens Noel to Jahlil Okafor to Gordon Hayward, the Celtics came home from the annual NBA Draft on Thursday night with … six drafted players, including Jaylen Brown, the Cal player whom they chose at number 3. Entering this draft, the most surprising outcome would have resulted if the Celtics actually used all eight picks. They used six. And they got no proven players back.

Frustrating? You bet it is. The Celtics had so many draft picks entering this draft – so many "assets," as we have come to call them – that they couldn't possibly use them all. And they couldn't. Which means they weren't the assets that we thought they were.

And the first of those highly-cherished Brooklyn picks? It turned out to be exactly what the experts said it was: the third pick in a two-player draft. Maybe Brown will be a star, maybe he won't. But it's impossible to believe the Celtics traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a few years ago with the idea of Jaylen Brown as the return.

At least for now.

So fine. But you do understand what this all has come down to now, right? Danny Ainge is playing Keno, hoping to find the next needle in the haystack of the NBA Draft, the next Steph Curry (No. 7) or Klay Thompson (No. 10) or Kawhi Leonard (No. 15) or Draymond Green (No. 35). In the last three drafts, while the standard NBA draft haul has been six total picks, Ainge has made 12. The list of players now includes Marcus Smart, James Young, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey, Marcus Thornton, Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, Demetrius Jackson, Ben Bentil and Abdel Nader. Somewhere in that mass, there is undoubtedly a player or two. Maybe even three. But the rest of them will end up in the trash like worthless lottery tickets, which is what most draft picks are.

The idea was to bundle those picks together, remember, and to get one bigger, better prize. Instead, the truth is that the Celtics are just plodding along like everybody else, waiting for the next break. Maybe it will come, maybe it won't. But there is simply no way, again, that Ainge went into this process expecting to build the Celtics through the draft.

And right now, that's what he has been reduced to.

In so many ways, this goes back to the summer of 2007, to Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. We knew that Ainge had pulled a rabbit out of his hat. We just didn't understand quite how big. And if we did, we somehow deluded ourselves into thinking he could do it again.

As a Celtics fan, here is something you should know about Ainge, and it has nothing to do with him being "Trader Danny" or any other cute nickname that makes him sound like a wheeling, dealing gambler. Ainge is bright. He is emotionally secure. And he is patient. But the problem in the NBA is that you can be all of those things and still end up in quicksand, the terrain that, sadly, covers most of the league.

Are the Celtics still going in the right direction today? Well, yes. Sort of. But moving in the right direction in the NBA doesn't get you much, save for a better spot in the quicksand, where you squirm and flail and gasp, but where you inevitably sink.

What the Celtics wanted in this draft – what they needed, to a degree – was to get out of the quicksand.

And on far more solid ground.


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