I've never liked the idea of "tanking." The concept of rooting for your team to lose does not compute in my mind. That's why my stomach turned every time I heard or read a comment asking, "What are they doing?" whenever the Celtics won a game this season-- which has happened far more often than many Celtics "fans" would have liked in the first half.
Losing is not acceptable to me under any circumstances. It sets a negative tone. I don't want that in my locker room. That stink is not easy to clean out.
I know we live in an increasingly wussified society. Grades in schools have increasingly become either pass/fail. "It's OK, Johnny. You got a 98 and Bobby got a 71, but you both get the same grade."
Kids have been deprived of playing one of the best games of all time. Dodgeball has been banned for, what, being too violent? When you consider what has happened in schools in recent years, I'd rather my son take out his aggression throwing a rubber ball at people.
Kids are coddled. Teachers have to walk on eggshells around students nowadays. Can't touch kids. Watch what you say to them. Don't joke. Don't be sarcastic. Don't be too harsh or you'll get a phone call from one of the numerous helicopter parents.
Maybe I am just getting old. Maybe it's just my competitive nature. Everything I do there needs to be a winner and a loser. It may sound silly, but it irks me when I play something as innocent as miniature golf and the group I am with suggests, "Let's just play for fun-- no keeping score." What?!?!
Heck, I take playing Scrabble seriously. If you play me, you better have an official Scrabble dictionary handy.
That's why I have not bought into "the Celtics should try to be as bad as possible" philosophy. Au contraire, it infuriates me. I cringe much the same way I did when I had to incessantly hear about the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes a couple of years ago in the NFL.
I always thought the Celtics had a better team than many thought. I know many had a hard time believing the Celtics may actually be better without aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Look at what they have done for Brooklyn. Pierce is averaging 12.7 points per game. Garnett is doing even worse at 6.5 points per game.
The Celtics have some solid pieces. They have scorers-- Brandon Bass, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green. They have bangers and rebounders-- Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger. They have defenders-- Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee. And they still have their best player, Rajon Rondo, waiting in the wings.
And they have a terrific young coach. If Ainge wanted to throw away a season, he should have hired one of these retread NBA coaches like George Karl, Mike Dunleavy, or Paul Westphal. There are plenty of others to choose from.
Ainge could have waited a year to hire Brad Stevens. He's too good. Did I just write that? People are rubbing off on me.
Do I think the Celtics can compete with the Miami Heat? No. But there aren't many teams that can say they can. Does this mean the other 29 teams should "tank" in hopes of getting the next LeBron James? Should every other team just forfeit the championship to Miami? Of course not.
Life is all about challenges. Everyone loves a David versus Goliath story. Look at what the Red Sox did this year. Did anybody pick them to win it all in 2013?
There can be enjoyment had in making the playoffs and making a deep run. Are you going to tune into games to watch your team lose? I don't know about you, but I am getting older (that is twice I've had to make this admission in this column), and I don't like to just throw years away. I like to enjoy each and every season.
Losing will not ensure a number one overall draft pick. The Celtics and Rick Pitino had two shots in 1997 to land the top pick (Tim Duncan) and came away with the third and sixth picks. Well, that didn't work out well. It sure didn't for Pitino.
We've all heard the talk about how great next year's draft might be. Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart are all names being bandied about as "can't misses." Wasn't the same said about Greg Oden? How about Kwame Brown?
I disagree with the premise that teams have to bottom out before they can return to elite status. The Indiana Pacers are 20-5 this season. When have they ever had a top five pick? Not since 1989. Their best player, Paul George, was a tenth overall pick. Danny Granger was a seventeenth overall pick.
Look at the Celtics. Who is the best player on their roster? Rajon Rondo? He was a 21st overall pick. Jared Sullinger was a 21st overall pick.
There are outstanding players to be had throughout the draft. You just need to do your homework. You can try and win during the season and still hope to rebuild through the draft. With the proliferation of international players, general managers are rewarded more than ever for doing their homework. Just laying down and losing to get the number one overall pick is the lazy way out.
I've heard it said the biggest fear is that the Celtics will be one of those bubble teams-- always be an eighth- or seventh-seed. "I don't want the Celtics to be another LA Clippers or Washington Wizards type franchise."
The reason those teams never took it to the next level was because of bad personnel decisions. It wasn't because they never bottomed out, although the Clippers did frequently for over a decade.
I have more trust in Danny Ainge than I do Elgin Baylor. Teams can be rebuilt through free agency, through trades, and, yes, through drafting later in drafts. Win now, compete, and do your homework.