posted: Jan. 27, 2006  |  Feedback

My father was delighted about Thursday night's Celtics trade because he likes any trade where his team gets the best player AND a No. 1 pick. He has also liked Wally Szczcerbiak going back to college because he's "one of those guys who's done it in big games." When you're like 5-55 in close games, you need as many of those guys as you can get.

But here was Dad's favorite thing about the trade, hands down: "If I could have picked any four guys on the team to get rid of, I would have picked those four guys!"

The four guys: Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, Mark Blount and Justin Reed. Here's why they drove my Dad crazy ...

• As I have written before in this space, Reed was one of those "What does he do?" guys, where I'm talking to Dad during a game and Dad says, "What does he do? Does he do anything? What are his skills supposed to be? I can't figure it out. It just seems like he runs up and down the court." I'm not a huge fan of the plus-minus stat, but Reed's was the lowest on the team by far (-14.2). Best-case scenario, he becomes a very poor man's George Lynch. Does that sound enticing to you?

• Banks has a slim chance to be one of those Robert Pack/Antonio Daniels-type players down the road, but it wasn't going to happen in Boston, and there's a 90-percent chance that he will never grasp even the basic principles about playing point guard. As someone who loves and values that position, watching Banks run the team was always a harrowing experience. He needed to go.

• Blount duped the Celtics into signing him to a 6-year, $40 million deal during the last three months of the 2004 season, when he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds and resembled a poor man's Robert Parish. That summer, when they re-signed him, I wrote a column defending the decision (after all, it was market value for a starting center) while leaving the door open that he had hoodwinked the team with his contract push. Of course, my father was horrified and thought they made a terrible mistake, screaming, "It's Mark Blount! He's got bad hands! He'll always have bad hands!"

As it turned out, that was the least of our worries. Blount simply checked out after the contract -- indifferent on the court, indifferent off it, the kind of guy who watched the Jumbotron during timeouts and walked on the court for a noon practice at 11:59:59. This season he averaged an astonishing 4.2 rebounds a game -- to put this in perspective, Nate Robinson averages more rebounds per minute. Throw in his contract (four excruciating years after this one), youngster Kendrick Perkins (who needs to play) and the immortal Doc Rivers (who kept throwing Blount in there even after his bosses agreed, "Hey, Perkins needs to play!"), and getting Blount off the team was Danny Ainge's number-one goal before the deadline. Mission accomplished. Minnesota should be perfect for Blount -- it's cold and depressing, and so is he.

• As for Ricky Davis (the key for Minnesota), he matured over the last three seasons from "selfish me-first gunner who partied like a madman off the court" to "team-oriented guy who worked his butt off and wanted to get better." But there's a ceiling with him -- some habits just can't be broken, especially for guys who came into the league when they were 19 and bounced around for the next few years. For instance, he's an atrocious defensive player. Just atrocious. He TRIES hard, and he'll get to a couple loose balls every game, and he rebounds and stuff, and maybe he'll pick off an occasional cross-court pass ... but if there's anyone in the league who could have used a few more trips to basketball camp as a kid, it's Ricky. You know the whole concept of "move your feet, keep your body in front of your guy and the basket?" Totally foreign to Ricky. He'll help you out on defense, but he's always a second late. You can pick-and-roll him to death because he'll invariably make the wrong choice. If you're a good shooter, he'll forget this five-six times per game and give you a wide-open shot. And so on and so on. Again, because he's trying hard, it seems like he's a good defender. He's not.

Offensively? He's explosive in the open floor (it's a shame that he spent his whole career playing without a real point guard) and someone who can wake up a dead crowd in three seconds. In a halfcourt offense, if you're running him off screens, nobody's better at curling around to the top of the key and making open 18-footers. Against poor defenders, he can beat them off the dribble and create his own shot. But that's about it. If you're not specifically running plays for him, he stands around and watches everyone else. Any good defensive team could shut him down -- just look at what happened in the Indiana series, or some of the Detroit games this season.

Honestly? I was tired of watching him. He gets 0.05% worse every time you see him, the kind of player who looks better on John Hollinger's computer than a 40-inch Sony Wega. On Minnesota, where he's going to be asked to carry its perimeter offense and score at the end of games, I think he's going to struggle. Mightily. If Ricky ever plays for a contender, it will be in the role of "Sixth man off the bench who carries your second team and occasionally catches fire in crunch-time," almost like how Phoenix uses Eddie House right now. He will never be the second- or third-best player on a 50-win team. Please believe me.

So the Celtics dumped four guys who needed to go. Here were five other reasons why they made the trade:

1. For this particular team, Szczerbiak was a better fit than Ricky. Now they can move Paul Pierce back to shooting guard, where he's a much tougher matchup for teams. And they needed another reliable shooter, someone who could spread the floor -- along with Delonte West (who's quietly emerged as one of the best outside shooters in the league), Wally makes it impossible for teams to collapse on Pierce now. This team desperately needed an identity, and now they're moving closer to one -- with West, Wally and Pierce, suddenly they're looking a little like the 2005 Sonics with three guys who shoot 40-percent on 3's.

2. Wally was having a career offensive season on Minnesota -- 20 points a game, 50 percent from the field, 41 percent on 3-pointers, 89 percent from the line -- and playing better than more respected guys like Peja Stojakovic and Rashard Lewis, for example. He's a below-average defender, but you know what? So was Ricky. And he's turning 29 in March, so he's clearly in his prime right now. The biggest Wally issue is his contract ($36 million for the next three years after this one), but the Celtics would have been paying Blount and Ricky the same amount of money over the same time. And besides, if Wally became a free agent this summer, wouldn't he command Mobley/Simmons money, something like $45 million over five years? So he's overpaid by 25 percent. That gives him something in common with everyone else in the league.

(One other bonus: By all accounts, Wally doesn't have any baggage off the court that could potentially sink the team. For example, when Chris Wallace traded for Vin Baker's max contract back in the summer of 2002 -- which would have been the single-worst move by an NBA executive this decade if Rob Babcock didn't give away Vince Carter last season, but at the very least, gives Wallace two of the top five since he also drafted Joe Forte over Tony Parker -- he answered the age-old question, "What would it be like if an NBA team willingly traded for Reverend Jim from "Taxi?" And that's why Chris Wallace is no longer gainfully employed as an NBA decision maker. Wally might be overpaid, but at least you know what you're getting from him every night, and at least you don't have to have clubhouse attendants sneak into his hotel room to hide the mini-bar key.)

3. Because Doc Rivers was playing too many guys -- and just for the record, he played all 12 guys in the first half again last week -- it was up to Danny Ainge to pare down the rotation because Doc obviously couldn't handle the responsibility. Now they have five starters (Perkins, Jefferson, Pierce, Wally and West) and a set-in-stone bench (LaFrentz, Scalabrine, Greene and Allen). Wouldn't you know ... it's a nine-man rotation where everyone knows their roles! Doc couldn't possibly screw that up, could he? That's why I would buy out the final year of Olowokandi's contract over keeping him -- you don't even want to tempt Doc here. Reduce his options, Danny. Please. I'm begging you.

4. With Blount's contract off the books, and Olowokandi's contract done after the season, the Celtics will be under the cap this summer. Now Danny can sign another white guy to go with Wally, Raef, Scalabrine and Dan Dickau for an official Whitewash. Bring back the tight shorts from the '80s, Danny! Let's take this thing all the way!

5. After losing back-to-back games to Detroit and Memphis by a combined 44 points, the T-Wolves had officially entered, "All right, we have to shake things up, we have to do it, we have to do it right now!" mode. I mean, if you're Danny Ainge, what's a better trading partner than an underachieving playoff contender with a maligned GM and unhappy superstar that just got blown out in back-to-back games? What could be better? It's like the Perfect Storm of trading opportunities.

In closing, I have three predictions ...

Prediction No. 1: The Celtics will lose their next two games, then start hitting their stride and making a run for the eighth playoff spot ... despite having a coach that makes decisions like, "Should I send a second guy at Gilbert Arenas on the final play of the game and make someone else on the Wizards beat us? Nahhhhhhh, let's just cover a 30-point scorer with a below-average defensive player like Ricky Davis and see what happens!"

Prediction No. 2: Wally will make a legitimate challenge to Tom Brady as the Boston athlete that local girls will openly ogle during games, leading to their annoyed boyfriend making a saracastic remark like, "Yeah, like Wally would ev-ah want to be with you," followed by the girl yelling, "Why, you don't think I could get Wally if I wanted to?" and everything escalating into a vicious screaming match. It's always fun to have those guys in town.

Prediction No. 3: Because of this trade, Kevin McHale will be fired in Minnesota within the next three months.

(Hey, at least he thought of the Celtics on the way out.)

Four other notes while we're here:

1a. Thanks for all the feedback on the Schilling piece yesterday. I even enjoyed the sarcastic e-mails like "Did you have to put on a pair of kneepads before you started the interview?" and other more graphic ones that I'm not allowed to print. My only thought behind that column was that it would be fun to exchange e-mails with an actual professional athlete, especially one that I happened to like. I just hadn't read anything like that before. If you're looking for Schilling's take on Boston's offseason and the team heading into spring training, ran a transcript of Schilling's interview with the Dennis and Callahan show on WEEI this week.

1b. Some readers wondered how we could exchange e-mails where we seemed to be interrupting each other, almost like we were IM-ing one another. Here's what happened: because he's a busy guy, I was sending him two or three paragraphs at a time, but with his responses, he kept jumping in and responding to certain things in the paragraphs instead of waiting until the end to write one big response. So that's why it looked that way at times.

3. Congratulations to Josh Schwartz for turning every guy in this country into R. Kelly with the introduction of Marissa's sister on "The OC." I'll let Rob from Manhattan Beach explain: "Have you seen Marissa's little sister on the OC, Willa Holland? My roomates and I were watching last night's episode and couldn't get over how hot she was (schoolgirl outfit). We figured she was at least 18 playing a 14-year-old. Then today at work my friend sends me link to her bio and I find out she was born in 1991! I feel dirty."

(Welcome to the club, Rob. Not since Anna Kournikova broke onto the scene in 1997 has the country been tested like this.)

4. Finally, a TV recommendation ...

Tonight on E! at 2 a.m., and again on NBC at 3 a.m. on Saturday night, they're replaying the greatest musical performance in "Saturday Night Live" history: The Crash Test Dummies singing two songs on a 1994 show hosted by Martin Lawrence. I don't want to ruin it. Just cue up your TiVo or DVR and watch a performance that has ...

A) Held "Save Until I Delete" for me since last October.
B) Earned a retroactive 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale.

So you're not disappointed, just know that it's not a home run the first time like the Namath-Kolber kiss or anything. You need to watch it a few times and soak everything in. But it will keep getting funnier and funnier. I promise. Years from now, this Crash Test Dummies performance will define the early '90s just like Journey's "Separate Ways" video defined the early '80s.

And on that note, enjoy the weekend.

January 2006