Thursday, January 8, 2009

Celtics Sign Marbury, Announce Tanking Strategy

PIERCE: "The Window Has Closed."

RIVERS: "Maybe We Can Get That Guy From UConn. The Tall One."

(AP) -- BOSTON

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the NBA, the Boston Celtics, the defending champions and Atlantic Division leaders, announced Thursday they would immediately begin losing games on purpose to position themselves for the draft after a 2-6 skid exposed them as basketball weaklings and generally bad people.

After settling on the plan, the Celtics signed Knicks outcast Stephon Marbury and longtime Celtic power forward Antoine Walker, saying the veterans were "perfect" for the team's new tanking strategy.

"After losing to the Knicks and the Bobcats, it is clear that this team is simply not championship caliber," said Danny Ainge, the general manager credited with building the 2008 champions by trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. "This is, quite frankly, the worst Celtics team in recent memory."

The Celtics so-called Big Three--Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce--said they realized the team had passed its prime, even though it sits at 29-8 with an 11 1/2 game lead in the Atlantic Division.

"The window is closed," Pierce said. "James Posey is not walking through that door. P.J. Brown is not walking through that door. Sam Cassell is not walking through that door."

When told that Cassell, who is still on the team, had just walked through the locker room door, Pierce said, "Oh. Well, all that guy does is take crazy jumpshots anyway. None of us really liked having him around--except when he did that 'I have big testicles thing.' That was cool, I guess."

Coach Doc Rivers said Marbury would immediately replace budding star Rajon Rondo as the team's starting point guard and play about 40 minutes per game.

"Rondo's had, what, like four bad games in this streak?" Rivers asked. "It's obviously over for him. We have to move on. I think there's a Portugese point guard who should go pretty high in the draft. Spanish? Whatever. Maybe we'll get him."

Marbury was apparently unaware of the team's plans. He sauntered into the lockeroom, hugged Garnett and announced that, "As Jesus as my witness, we will bring the Celtics their 22nd championship this season."

Walker, who made three All-Star teams during his first stint as a Celtic, also said he was thrilled.

"Doc says I can shoot all the threes I want and that I never have to even go in the paint," said Walker, who despite being 6'8'' has dunked maybe four times in his entire career and can no longer grab the rim.

Rivers said the Big Three will continue to get about 30 minutes a night. "They're not really that good anymore, so it's not like they're going to help us win any games," the coach said. 

Rivers and Ainge did not respond to reports that the Celtics were looking into hiring former coach Rick Pitino to help in the tanking strategy. 

"I won't comment on the Pitino rumors," Ainge said. "Would he help us lose more games? Unquestionably. But I'm not convinced Doc can't do the job himself."

Experts said Ainge's plan has some obvious flaws. Even if they lost every remaining game, the Celtics would still finish 29-53, a record that would likely place them ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards. Finishing with the fourth-worst record in the league would leave Boston with a miniscule chance of landing the top pick in the draft and whichever player from the Big 12 or Eastern Europe Ainge learned about via a Chad Ford story on ESPN.com last week. 

"Even I know this makes no sense," said Isiah Thomas, former general manager and head coach of the New York Knicks.

Ainge dismissed the criticism. "They don't get it," Ainge said. "We're building something here. If we can't win with Garnett, Allen and Pierce, we're going to rebuild with that guy from Oklahoma. That big guy. I think he's white? Or maybe some kind of Italian? Whatever, the future is bright."


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