NEWS ITEM: The Celtics trade G/F Ricky Davis, C Mark Blount, G Marcus Banks, F Justin Reed and a pair of second-round picks to the Timberwolves for F Wally Szczerbiak, C Michael Olowokandi, F/C Dwayne Jones and a conditional No. 1 pick.
WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT THE TRADE: Szczerbiak can shoot the hell out of the ball (20.1 ppg, 49 percent from the field) and if he can control his selfish tendencies could be a swell complement to Paul Pierce. But we're going to go with the even more obvious benefit here. Celtics boss Danny Ainge corrected the biggest mistake of his regime - the decision to give Blount a six-year, $40-million contract after his curiously well-timed decent half-season 2003-'04 season. We watch a fair amount of the NBA - certainly more than, say, Isiah Thomas - and we feel comfortable stating that Blount is the second-biggest mutt in the league. He simply just does not care. He got the big money, and he mentally retired, simple as that. And he's not nearly gifted enough to get away with pulling such a despicable stunt. He has a decent jump shot for a man his size, but any reasonably coordinated 7-footer should be able to average more than the measly 4.2 rebounds Blount stumbles into during his 28 minutes of playing time per game. His idea of defense is to kindly step aside, and he has hands as soft as trash can covers. And did we mention that he doesn't give a flying bleep at a rolling expletive? We did? Well, he doesn't. If we actually found humor or irony in the sluggish approach he takes to his job, we might have gotten a chuckle out of his announcement that his last name is pronounced "Blunt." That's exactly the kind of object every self-respecting Celtics fan has daydreamed of pummeling him with at one time or another. Now he's the T-Wolves' headache, and the minutes he shouldn't have been getting in the first place will go to young Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins. Good riddance, jerk.
WHAT WE DON'T LIKE ABOUT THE TRADE: Seeing Ricky Davis go. Yeah, yeah, we know he has his weird quirks and flaws - he takes frequent naps on defense, his shot selection sometimes leaves you wondering if he might have a concussion, and he contributes more to the stat sheet (19.7 ppg) than he does to a winning cause. But man . . . at his best, he is just plain fun to watch. He might be the most electrifying athlete ever to wear the green and white (excepting Greg Kite, obviously), and yet he features a vintage midrange shooting game, a lost art in the current NBA and a hint at how hard he works to hone his fundamental skills. Plus, he plays the game with a smile, an endearing habit that earns him plenty of Tommy Points from us. Aw, lay off Ricky, man. He just wants to ball, yo. Considering how we'd been ominously warned about what a selfish gunner and divisive force he was when he arrived from Cleveland in Dec. '04 for the rickety remains of Eric Williams and Tony Battie, I'd say his time in Boston went a long way toward repairing that reputation. He was a good citizen (no Celtic is better with kids), made the games entertaining (and isn't that why we watch?), and was just a little nuts in a harmless, almost charming, way. I'll damn sure miss him. And regarding what the Celtics got in return . . . well, it's interesting we should mention the word selfish. We've rooted for Szczerbiak, a genuine top-notch offensive talent and a better pure athlete than you think, since he carried mid-major Miami (Ohio) to the Sweet 16 back in '99. But we've followed Wally World from afar; I'm not sure he's a guy you want playing on your favorite team. He has a reputation as a ball chaser, demanding his own shots at the expense of the offensive flow. He also has a history of bickering with Kevin Garnett, and considering KG is one of the few superstars who brings his intensity and passion to the floor every single night, that's a definite red flag. Garnett is about winning, first and foremost, which makes you wonder what exactly Szczerbiak is about. The educated guess here is that it also begins with W. But at least he can - and will - play. Remember how we ranted a few sentences ago about Blount being the second-biggest dog in the league? Well, get ready to meet Fido No. 1. Olowokandi is the Pervis Ellison of this generation, always "injured." always looking oh-so-ridiculously cool sitting down at the end of the bench in his natty suits, always staring at the JumboTron when the coach is talking, always looking like he's mentally counting his cash and, on the off-chance that he has any shame, thanking the heavens he grew to seven feet tall. He is a dog, D-O-G, and if he ever gets on the court for the Celtics - I think he's sidelined with a career-threatening case of hat head at the moment - his off-the-charts cluelessness, indifference, stone hands, and ever-so-brief teases of actual ability will have you remembering Blount as the second coming of Robert Parish. So tell me . . . how in the hell was this stiff drafted first overall, 9 picks ahead of Paul Pierce, in the '98 draft? Huh? How? Oh, right. The Clippers.
LAST SHOT: Judging by the angry mass of words we just spewed, you'd think we hated this trade like Shaq hates Kobe. Fair to conclude, but not entirely accurate. We've calmed down now. We've taken a deep breath (not to mention a couple of big swigs from our favorite flask), and we've decided that we're willing to give Ainge the benefit of the doubt, for one reason. Mark Blount is no longer around to assault our basketball sensibilities. For that, we can endure one season of Olowokandi's unprecedented indifference, the thought of Davis, still only 26, growing into his talents as KG's wingman, and Szczerbiak chasing Paul Pierce around the perimeter, clapping his hands and yelling, "Hey, 34, I'm open! HEY! HEY!!!" 35 times a game. Yep, we'll endure. For now, anyway.
• • •
As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:
What we imagine Out Of Service Pervis would offer as a scouting report on Olowokandi:
"Man, that kid is so lazy, he looks like he's slipping into a coma out there. Or is he just playing dead? (Appreciative nod.) Yeah, I can respect that. Looks like a No. 1 overall pick to me."