Don’t count Gary Payton among the masses who think Greg Oden will be Danny Ainge’s messiah in June’s NBA Draft.
“All [Oden’s] going to do is bring fans in here,” the Miami Heat point guard said in the locker room before Friday night's game with the Celtics. “That’s it. That’s all they want. We aren’t talking about no playoffs here. They’re not going to the playoffs. If they’re sold out that’s good. They want to make their money.”
“If they get Oden they still ain’t going to do [crap], period” said Antoine Walker, sitting just a few feet away.
The two former Celtics were very candid in assessing the state of the team they left for the greener pasture of an NBA championship. According to Payton, there’s only one way to make the Celtics a winner.
“Go out there and get some veterans,” said Payton. “If you get some veterans in here to play with Paul (Pierce), then you’re going to have a basketball team. You can’t have seven young players on a team and expect to win. That doesn’t happen. It’s just like when we were here. He had veterans and we won the division and we went to the playoffs."
"It’s not knocking the young guys, but that’s just the way basketball is. Because eight young guys, you get in crucial basketball games, they don’t know how to finish. Now if you put them together for six or seven years, that’s a different story. They grow older together.”
Payton acknowledges Danny Ainge can’t give away his young players for nothing.
“[Ainge] can’t do that,” said Payton. “Then he’ll lose his job. You have to give people opportunities to play. In two or three years they’re going to have a good season because they’re going to start knowing each other. Don’t just give up on anybody. You have to go in there and make the right deal.”
“But in another case, you have to understand that you have to get some teachers. You can’t have a young guy teaching a young guy. He hasn’t been in the league, he hasn’t been in playoff games. How much experience do they have? So you have to have a veteran up in here to have the experience to work through that kind of stuff and show them how to play.”
Unlike, say, Los Angeles, another of Payton’s former teams, the Celtics have a more difficult time attracting free agents and building a winner.
“This is Boston,” said Payton. “Some people want to go to a different city. The weather is a big part of this too. The city is a big part of this. You all have to see this summer, see what happens. He’ll make some moves. If he gets the No. 1 pick, he’s going to have to trade some of these guys to get some veterans around Oden. Oden’s not going to come in here and be Shaquille [O’Neal].”
“Paul’s getting older,” said Payton. “He’s getting frustrated. He wants to win, or at least get an opportunity to at least win a championship. It’s just like Kevin Garnett. Sometimes you have to move on. And if that’s the case you have to do it. For Paul you can get a lot of people [in a trade].”
Payton acknowledged Pierce’s contract extension would be an issue in any potential deal.
“That’s a problem, too,” he said. “Nobody is going to pay that type of money and get rid of their whole team. Nobody’s going to trade four or five players for one guy. Then you’re going to have to rebuild your team. That isn’t worth you doing.”
Despite his openness, Payton made it clear he didn’t harbor any ill will toward the Celtics.
“They’ll be alright,” said Payton. “Danny will make the right moves, and if Doc’s here, he’ll help him out. If Doc’s still the coach or whatever they’re going to try to do, he’s going to help them out. Doc is a good guy where he knows what kind of players to get. Hopefully they can do it.”