The 2000-2001 season wasn't a very good one in Boston. We were mired in what would be the final year of the Rick Pitino debacle. The Lakers were on their way to repeating as champs while we managed only 36 wins.
But by the time the 2001 NBA draft rolled around, Pitino was gone, and the Celtics had THREE first round picks. They had a budding young star in Paul Pierce. Antoine Walker had just averaged 23.4 ppg, and was a decent second scoring option. Guys like Eric Williams and Tony Battie showed they could play a valuable role. Things seemed to be poised for a turn-around.
Then the Celtics drafted Joe Johnson, Kedrick Brown and Joe Forte.
Johnson was traded for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers… which at the time seemed like a decent deal. The Celtics were a playoff team that year and trading away a rookie for established veterans was a good move. Rogers came in and averaged almost 11 points and 4 rebounds. Delk provided a little spark at PG off the bench behind Kenny Anderson. We didn't know what Johnson would become.
Anyway… Johnson was gone quickly. Kedrick Brown was a bust who took what seemed like months to recover from a sprained ankle. And Joe Forte… a favorite of Red Auerbach's… was an even bigger bust. He was selected ahead of guys like Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas… but his NBA career just never materialized.
Forte reportedly had a terrible attitude and even showed up to a
Celtics game wearing a Lakers’ throwback jersey. The Celtics were quick
to trade Joe to Seattle that offseason. There, Forte continued his
immature ways. After a tough loss, he went back into the showers and
started singing – a move that earned him an OZ-style beating by
teammates. That summer, he was pulled over for speeding and after
searching his car, police found a small amount of weed and a gun. He
had also reportedly assaulted a man during a pickup game back home in
Washington, D.C. The Sonics cut ties with him shortly after and Forte
hasn’t played in the league since.
Now, he's having a nice little career for himself overseas. Last year, he played for an Italian team… whose fans like him so much they created a YouTube tribute for him (it's in that link to the Dime piece). Forte admits to not being able to handle the sudden jump into the NBA, and the fame and money that goes along with it. He's certainly not alone… and it's a testament to how the pressure of being a first round pick can trump talent… which Forte clearly had.
This piece also serves as a reminder that the Celtics had a chance to pull out of their slide earlier this decade, and they blew it. Like I said, I get the Joe Johnson trade and it made sense at the time. But aside from Parker and Arenas, guys like Richard Jefferson, Gerald Wallace and Jamaal Tinsley were there for the taking… and the C's instead chose Brown and Forte. One bad draft can really be a killer… especially when you whiff on 2 of 3 first round picks, Chris Wallace.