Jul. 31, 2017
Welcome to Your Dream Job, Rookie
To Whoever is selected first overall by the Boston Celtics:
June 22 will be the biggest day of your life. Your career will begin at 100 Legends Way in Boston. You’ll wear a green hat with a leprechaun on it for the first time. You’ll shake commissioner Adam Silver’s hand. You’ll hold up a green jersey with “Celtics” arching across the top.
In the meantime, I hope you’re watching the Celtics in the playoffs. Imagine that’s you standing in the corner as Marcus Smart passes you the ball. You confidently shoot the ball, a motion fine-tuned by hours in the gym, over the raised hand of a charging defender. Splash.
Sweet, right? To go from falling short of the NCAA Championship (or not even qualifying for the tournament) to being in the playoffs in your first year. Wouldn’t that be great?
Well for some people, it wouldn’t. According to an ESPN report, some prospects perceive Boston’s situation as unstable, fearing the possibility of being traded. Agents are worried about playing time for their clients, preferring someplace their client will get 25-35 minutes per game instead of possibly coming off the bench in Boston.
For anyone with concerns about playing for Boston, you must be out of your freakin’ mind. You should pray Boston selects you and believes you will be a piece of the next Celtics title contenders.
First thing you must do is tell your agent he works for you, not the other way around. Your rookie deal is slotted. You’ll get endorsements just for being the first pick overall. More will come with success on the court, both in the box score and the conference standings.
Next tell your sycophants shut the hell up. They only wanna be down wit you because you’re their winning lottery ticket. All those new friends and family members want you to put up big numbers so they can get a piece of your financial numbers.
As for you, if you think you want all the minutes you can handle, ask yourself a few questions:
Would you really enjoy putting up big numbers almost every night while losing seven or eight games out of every 10?
Would being a celebrity at the hottest clubs in town make up for having nothing to play for by February?
Do you want to start vacationing in April?
Boston being in the lottery is an anomaly. Rarely is a playoff team in position to select one of the best prospects to add to their championship aspirations. The other lottery teams have similar aspirations but are years away from actually competing, if they ever get there.
Here’s a reality check for you if you’re not sure about a Celtics career. The Lakers were 26-56, their fourth straight losing season. The 76ers, 28-54, have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. The Sacramento Kings, 32-50, haven’t seen the post-season in eleven years.
Or if Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t sucker the Brooklyn Nets about four years ago for the right to swap selections in 2017, you could be joining a 20-62 franchise. How long you think it will take to get a franchise that won 41 games over the past two years in the playoffs?
Think about recent first overall selections. Karl Anthony Towns being paired with Andrew Wiggins hasn’t turned the Minnesota Timberwolves in the playoff team for the first time in 13 years. Anthony Davis had one four-game playoff appearance in five years. Kyrie Irving wouldn’t had won a damn thing if LeBron James didn’t come back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Winning. Isn’t. Easy. Especially if you’re starting virtually from scratch, which the worst lottery teams are doing.
The best thing to happen to you would be being selected by the Celtics. If the Eastern Conference Finals is a short series, it would be the best reason for Boston to keep adding talent as opposed to accelerating contention by trading you.
Instead of instant savior expectations, you’ll come off the bench to learn on the job and do what you do best with significantly less pressure. If you prove to be as good as the Celtics thought, it shouldn’t take you long to take minutes from the veterans ahead of you on the depth chart. It’s very possible. Here’s why.
Boston’s roster is one star player (Isaiah Thomas), a versatile big (Al Horford) and a bunch of role players. Smart, Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller, etc. are all decent players. But none of them can carry the team consistently. If you exhibit that ability, you’ll earn crunch time minutes. From there, starting might be just around the corner.
The line for playing time isn’t as long as it appears either. Gerald Green, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, and James Young are all free agents. That’s five less people to compete for minutes with. You, along with fellow rookies Ante Zizic, Guerschon Yabusele, Abdel Nader, Demetrius Jackson, any 2017 second round selection(s) and Boston-to-Maine commuter Jordan Mickey will scrap for those available minutes. Everyone won’t make the team. Your spot is guaranteed.
Most importantly, you’re joining a playoff team! Few lottery players have the opportunity to be in the playoffs in their first year. Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Jakob Poeltl (Toronto Raptors), Thon Maker (Milwaukee Bucks), Domatas Sabonis (Oklahoma City Thunder), Taurean Prince (Atlanta Hawks) and Denzel Valentine (Chicago Bulls) were the only lottery selections to be on playoff teams.
Not only are you joining a playoff team, you’ll be a part of one that’s trending towards championship contention. Since missing the playoffs in 2014, Boston has improved year after year. If the front office builds the team right, being in the NBA Finals isn’t far away.
Hell, if the front office builds the team right, you and the Celtics will be in multiple NBA Finals. Boston already has Brown. Next they add you. Next year the Celtics have two first round picks, including Brooklyn’s pick - which could be a lottery selection as well. Boston could assemble a young core that could compete like Golden State’s trio of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson for years (two straight NBA Finals appearances with a third just days away).
And the price for all of that is losing some playing time in your first year.
If you still think you’re missing out, go ask Brown about coming off the bench in his rookie year. He said during the second round of the playoffs, "Man, it's a blessing. Like, who would have thought? Last year, I was going into the draft, and now I'm here with the Celtics with a chance to close out a Game 6 and go to the Eastern Conference finals, man. I'll take that any day over going to a team and playing 30-, 35- minutes or whatever the case may be.”
And that’s coming from a soon-to-be teammate that’s living it. If you can’t take my word for it, take his.
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