When the blockbuster trade that sent beloved Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn was first completed, more than a few Boston fans happily admitted on Twitter that they would switch allegiances for one year. With more losses meaning more lottery balls for the Celtics, their fans didn’t feel bad temporarily swapping out green in favor of black and white, just to see Pierce and Garnett do well.
Less than a month into the season, the Nets are not going well — not by a long shot. Their loss to the Pistons on Sunday dropped them to 3-10 on the season, and tensions are running high on their current five-game losing streak. Pierce and coach Jason Kidd are sniping back and forth. Garnett is “embarrassed.” The rebuilding Celtics, who own three of Brooklyn’s draft picks over the next five years, are actually looking down on the Nets in the standings.
Suddenly, Celtics fans don’t sound so eager to see Pierce and Garnett succeed. If the Nets crash and burn this season, it could have a disastrous effect on the franchise’s fortunes for the next several years. And that would be really good for the Celtics, with all those draft picks.
For Celtics fans, though, it’s not just as simple as watching the Nets lose and collecting a lottery pick. The Hawks have the right to swap their 2014 pick with the Nets (whose pick now belongs to the Celtics) as part of Brooklyn’s 2012 trade for Joe Johnson. At 8-6, the Hawks have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and are virtually assured of exercising their pick-switching option if the Nets’ pick falls higher in the draft than their own. So Celtics fans cannot merely claim that they want to see the Nets fail to garner a higher pick. The Hawks have to hit the skids themselves for that to happen.
But there is something satisfying about watching the Nets struggle, regardless of whether it translates into a higher pick for the Celtics. Every Nets loss is evidence that 2007-08 really was a special season and that the Celtics gave up on their Hall of Fame foundation at just the right time. It’s proof that a team can’t just throw together an expensive and star-laden roster and automatically win a championship.
At first, Celtics fans agonized over how they might feel seeing Pierce hoist a championship trophy with another team. That’s looking more and more like a problem they will never have.