An open letter to Danny Ainge: why you messed up.
Feelings aside, it makes sense why you didn’t give an offer to Leon Powe, and allowed him to walk out of the Garden doors toward the path of free agency. Financially, you need to save every penny that you possibly can in order to chase down guys like ‘Sheed. Logistically, you need to save every coveted roster spot for a player that can offer on-the-court contributions toward the ultimate goal of raising the 18th banner in the 2009-2010 season.
I understand all of these reasons.
I am not a GM. I don’t work in a front office. I am not handling someone else’s millions of dollars… but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical about this decision.
Remember last year when you kept Sam Cassell along for just over $1 million to wear a suit instead of a uniform? Remember when you signed Patrick O’Bryant to a 1-year contract and offered him a roster spot? Remember how you’ve kind of stuck with this guy named Gabe Pruitt that can’t really shoot, pass, or drive sober? Yeah I remember how all of these guys took a roster spot on the Boston Celtics at the start of the 2008-2009 season.
When building your teams, you’ve made calculated risks. You have the cornerstones of the franchise, 3 to be exact: between Pierce, KG, and Ray Allen, you have almost $56 million locked up between these 3. That means you have to find deals elsewhere. You orchestrated a trade a few years ago that allowed one of the top point guards in the league to play in green at a mere $3 million. You’ve stuck with and developed a center that is the most underrated defensive big man in the league at a cheap $4 million. Your starting lineup is filled with blockbuster future-hall-of-famers and emerging all-stars that is easily one of the top 2 starting lineups in the association.
From there, you are looking for deals to build your bench because you don’t have any financial flexibility. You’re looking for value. You’re looking for low-risk situations: can we pay someone little and have them thrive and flourish in our system? Can you find someone that does what is asked of them consistency and well enough to help the team win? Can you find the right personality and player that others either overlooked or discounted for various reasons?
But you’re looking too far to build your bench. You’re looking too far to find true value. You’re looking too far to find the best low-risk situation. Leon Powe is quintessentially what you need for your bench: he is value, he is low-risk, and he is so much more.
I’ll spare you of his past (at least until the end of the post). You know his past better than all of us. But let’s revisit what his past has taught him: perseverance, dedication, faith, persistence, optimism, and 240 pounds of sheer muscle. Sheer. Muscle. He’s blown out his knees before and recovered each time. Why not this time? He’s only 25 years old– he’s not 35 and on his way out. Powe has time and age on his side to recover from this injury.
When you asked Powe to bump bodies underneath, he did it. When you asked Powe to draw contact and get to the line, he did it. When you asked him to improve his free throw shooting, he did it. When you asked him to body up and box out, he did it. When you asked him to work on his agility to become a better rebounder, he did it. When you asked him to work harder to understand the team’s defensive schemes by watching additional tape and talking with Coach T, he did it. When you asked him add a few low post moves that could be your go-to options when getting the ball, he did it. When KG got hurt and you asked him to shoulder even more front-court responsibility, he did it. Not only did Leon do all of these things, but he did them well.
Damn it, Danny. How is this even an issue? All you have to do is offer him a 1 year contract at the league minimum… wait to see how his rehab goes through February toward the trade deadline… if he’s not far enough along, you cut him or trade him. You let him go and free up your roster spot. If he’s far enough along, then you’ve got yourself superb front court help from a guy that not only knows the system but is GOOD. Powe is a quality, quality PF off the bench. For a cheap $800,000 you could get a guy that would help you win playoff games. You would have a guy that you trust to put in when games mattered– if KG or Perk need a breather in the playoffs, you would trust having Powe in the game. That’s it– bottom line.
What is so risky about this? If you were willing to keep on Sam Cassell and Patrick O’Bryant at the start of the season, why not keep Leon? Get rid of Gabe Pruitt and give his roster spot to Leon.
There is nothing that risky about this at all. For $800,000 you take a chance on a guy that helped you win the franchise’s 17th championship and would resign for the future TO BE your bench. He wants to be in Boston and Boston wants him here.
And you know, Danny, you know that Leon would have taken your 1-year contract at the league minimum.
Doc Rivers from the ESPN OTL video that ran last year: “As a coach, I guess you should never cheer for a player… and I clearly cheer for him.”
Well, we all cheer for him, Doc… and we wish we had the chance to continue to cheer him on for the 2009-2010 season.