The Celtics held a draft party last night. They traded their pick, acquired a later pick, but the evening was basically an unqualified success well before David Stern announced the NBA's first pick shortly after 7:30 p.m.
By then, the season ticket holders at the draft party and everyone else were aware that the Celtics had traded their only pick, the seventh overall, to Portland in a deal in which they also gave up Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz while welcoming Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff, along with a second-round pick in 2008.
Any disappointment the Celtics might have felt at making the deal before they knew who would be available at No. 7 was diminished by the fact that they were able to unload the presumably unloadable contract of LaFrentz. And they also got a point guard in Telfair who, according to coach Doc Rivers, would not have been available at No. 7 had his name been in the draft.
``It worked out for us," Rivers said. ``The things we like most about him [Telfair] are his great speed and great decision-making."
The Celtics later traded for the 21st pick from Phoenix in exchange for Kentucky speedster Rajon Rondo, generally seen as the second-best point guard in the draft (behind Marcus Williams, who went 22d to the Nets). The Celtics had Rondo rated very high on their board after two impressive workouts and there was some talk they might have taken him at No. 7. (Although, as history showed, he was still available in the 20s.) The Celtics agreed to take Brian Grant ($1.8 million in 2006-07) from the Suns, although he's not coming here. Boston also gave Phoenix a No. 1 pick, the pick from Cleveland in 2007.
``We addressed some needs and we think we got two terrific young players and get some cap management at the same time," Danny Ainge said.
The two point guards also mean that Orien Greene's days are over; the Celtics have until tomorrow to waive him and not be liable for any more payments.
As for Telfair, he ended last season as the third-stringer on the league's worst team. ``It didn't work out for me," he admitted in a conference call." But he was still deemed to be head and shoulders above those in last night's draft.
``No question about that," agreed John Nash, the former Portland general manager who drafted Telfair 13th overall in 2004. ``It's not even close."
The Celtics also felt, correctly, they needed to improve at that position. Delonte West manned the position ably last year, but he is not a classic point guard. Telfair is. Rivers talked constantly about the kid's vision and work ethic. He also has been overhyped since high school in New York City; he already has been the subject of a documentary film and a Sports Illustrated cover boy. But he didn't make much of an impact in Portland, other than when he brought a loaded handgun onto the team plane.
``That was an aberration," Nash said of Gungate, in which Telfair's .22 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was found on the Blazers' plane while it was at Hanscom Field in February. He was disciplined by the team, but no charges were filed by the Massachusetts State Police.
``He's a good kid, very level headed," Nash said. ``He had a good rookie year for us and he had a good second year until he got hurt. Then he lost the job to Steve Blake, through no fault of his own. He's a real talent and he'll be better served playing an uptempo game. But we played a more deliberate style. And he'll generate more assists in Boston because the Celtics have players who can make shots."
Most gratifying for the Celtics is getting out from under LaFrentz's deal, which has three years and more than $35 million remaining. In taking Ratliff, the Celtics will owe the veteran big man more than $23 million over the next two years. Admitted Rivers, ``for our team, it was very important."
Some of that savings might well be earmarked for Allen Iverson.
Ratliff is 33 and has been known to be a defensive presence throughout his career, which includes stops in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.
He lost his starting job last season to Joel Przybilla, but still averaged 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game in just 23.7 minutes. He will help the Celtics defensively, especially as a shot blocker, but he's not a scorer.
``Theo still has life in him," Nash said. ``He can still change a game defensively."
Agreed Rivers, ``you put him on the floor at the end of games and no one is going to make a layup."
Dickau, coming off an Achilles' tear, is a native of the Pacific Northwest -- he was born in Portland -- and played at Gonzaga. He played in only 19 games for the Celtics before getting injured.
There still is likely to be ongoing dialogue for Iverson, which could extend into next month. For now, the Celtics have to be happy the way the day turned out.