It was a busy summer for Danny Ainge. After working out deals for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, he had to find their back-ups and fill the hole left by an injured Kendrick Perkins. And he did a pretty good job of it too, constructing a roster that was deep just about everywhere except one: The back up small forward spot.
Marquis Daniels was always the wild card on this team. We could always look at this roster and, no matter how much we loved these guys, say "man, we're kind of screwed if Quis goes down, huh?" Without Daniels, the Celtics would have to cobble a back up for Pierce… or just let him play 40 minutes a game. And since that's not really feasible if you want him to last through the Finals, it was pretty important that Daniels be available all, or most, of the year.
Danny Ainge put a pretty big bet down on Marquis. And he lost. Marquis didn't suffer a sprained knee or a jammed thumb or even a broken leg. Marquis suffered a bizarre injury that left him temporarily paralyzed and potentially needing surgery for him to even resume his career. No amount of Von Wafer or "hey, let's try Baby at the 3 for a few minutes" was going to change the fact that Danny lost his bet. Marquis was gone, and the Celtics absolutely had to do something about it.
And Danny did what a lot of gamblers do when their stacks suddenly get short. You skip past the little bets and you go all in on the first decent hand you get dealt. The "Anthony Parkers" of the world weren't going to cut it anymore. Danny, looking at his team, his payroll, and the team's future, decided to lay all his chips on this one move.
So out went a popular, young, hard-nosed center who helped anchor the toughest defense in the game, and in came a a young, athletic swing man with a ton of potential. Out went popular teammates and in come unknowns. Out went the benefit of the doubt and in came "Man… I hope to hell you know what you're doing."
Danny saw the Celtics' early season success without Kendrick Perkins and figured the Celtics can recapture that. Adding a guy like Green to that mix… and adding Krstic instead of Semih to that mix… along with the return of Delonte West and whomever else the C's can bring in presented a situation too enticing for Danny to pass up.
So he pushed his chips to the middle of the table. Danny's flipped his cards and now he can only stand and watch to see if the rest of the hand will fall his way. And just like poker, this will take some luck. Danny doesn't know if the system will truly work for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Danny doesn't know if the team is too devastated to fully embrace the new plan. Danny doesn't know who really will get bought out… and if those guys will even sign here once they do. He's got to get a little lucky and hope all of those things work out for him. It's entirely possible that they will. But it's also possible that hey won't.
And just like poker, if this hand doesn't pan out, Danny's busted. Fans will not forgive him. The Celtics express, despite some injuries, was steamrolling to the Finals. If they get derailed before they get there… or worse… if they lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder if they do get there… then Danny's reputation is done. All of the other moves… some of which were really, really great moves… won't matter anymore because this "what have you done for me lately" society doesn't care what you've done. They only care about what you're doing. Your resume is just a piece of paper and subsection in your Wikipedia bio. The move you just made is what we're invested in now.
Danny Ainge is all in. We're going to have to wait and see how the hand plays out.