BOSTON — Under better circumstances, we might appreciate the Boston Celtics’ first round draft pick last night, Romeo Langford of the University of Indiana, a little more.
Langford, who left Indiana after his freshman year, is tough. He defends. He gets to the free throw line. He drives. And, on the negative side, he was the worst 3-point shooter in the Big 10.
Coach Brad Stevens, who seems to have a kinship with his native Indiana basketball players, however, made him sound like a five-time All-Star who can fix his shot fast.
Romeo would’ve looked real good as a backup to Kyrie Irving, taking his time to develop. How does he look as a guy who had better learn to shoot well, quickly?
This was supposed to be, at worst, an enjoyable, no-pressure evening for Celtics fans. More secondary first round draft picks for Danny Ainge. Maybe draft a European teenager — or two — and allow them 24 months of growth overseas.
My original plan was to write a column focusing on the great future of the newest Celtics selections — Langford at 14th; Grant Williams from Tennessee at 22nd (they traded the 24th for a first rounder next year) — and how they give the Celtics some depth.
But real life in the 2019 NBA happened.
Superstar Kyrie Irving opted out of his deal, becoming a free agent. Star Al Horford, somewhat surprisingly, opted out of the final year of his deal, worth $30 million, becoming a free agent. And the potential “dynasty” we were praising Danny for got a new name: The Dynasty-That-Never-Was.
If we want to get technical the seed of this year’s disaster probably started in the opener in 2017-18 in Cleveland, when Gordon Hayward’s foot went “Exorcist” on all of us.
The cherry on top was Danny suffering a second heart attack in a decade, before Game 2 in Milwaukee. The Celtics, winners of five straight game heading into that game, never were any good again.
That 18th banner might as well be flying somewhere on Mars.
I get it. Nobody outside of New England feels bad for the Celtics or, especially, Boston.
“We” are like Alabama football and UConn women’s hoop. “We” aren’t supposed to lose.
But “we,” regarded as the most arrogant sports fans in America, probably needed and deserved big pieces of humble pie.
The Bruins’ Game 7 loss at home is one thing. But what happened to the Celtics was another. It reminded us to take nothing for granted, even around here.
The Celtics, it had been rumored, had been trying to deal away two of their three first-rounders. They were able to rid themselves of one of them. Nobody around here, including their coach, has the appetite for another five-year rebuild around 20-year-olds.
Last night’s draft might turn out to be memorable three or four years from now. The second first-rounder, Williams, another guy not noted for his shooting, seems to have Marcus Smart’s DNA. He’s not really a star, but he doesn’t like to lose and is willing to get floor burns doing it.
But it is tough right now, even on a night like last night, thinking about Langford or Williams truly affecting the future.
Danny & Co. have a lot of work and maneuvering to do over the next few weeks. Maybe there will be a quick fix. Maybe this team will be retool (sounds less harsh than rebuild) sooner rather than later the way Stevens wants.
It’s just tough to get excited.
“Danny and the staff have done a great job. We have a real good vibe in the building,” said Stevens. “But I understand why it isn’t that way outside.”
It could be fun. In fact, knowing Stevens ability to coach up players, it probably will be.
But we’re not there yet. We like to dwell on the “What ifs,” especially when it appeared the Celtics were so close.
Langford, Williams and the rest of the benchwarmers will have to wait this out a bit. We’re not done dwelling in the past just yet.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.