If your favorite thing is watching great team-builders fit the pieces together up close, you can’t live in a better place than right here, because in Dave Dombrowski, Danny Ainge and Bill Belichick we have three of the best guys in their sports doing that for the Sox, Celtics and Patriots. Each does it with a mix of creativity and vision while having the guts to make the bold move most wouldn’t when opportunities arrive. Throw in the stuff Theo did minus the free-agent mistakes, and from the 2004 Nomar deal to this week it’s been quite fun watching it all go down
Don’t believe me? The biggest trade of baseball’s off season was Dombrowksi’s adding Chris Sale to a rotation with two Cy Young winners. And he did it without giving up anyone off the projected 2017 roster. Yes, he gave up baseball’s top prospect, but he was blocked. As for Danny, every so-called local expert said you can’t build on the fly, but after tanking just once the C’s have gone from 25 wins to 38 to 48 to projecting 54 this year thanks to a succession of creative moves. That’s positioned him to finish the rebuild this summer where by signing one more free agent and using Brooklyn’s Top 3 pick he’ll be a trade for a big away from having a realistic chance to win an NBA title. All done with superior vision and the guile to make the incredible Brooklyn deal that will provide three Top 3 picks for three fading stars.
Then we have Coach B. Based on his track record, he did not one but two things last week no one thought he’d ever do. The first was lavishing $42 million guaranteed on free agent DB Stephon Gilmore. Then with me saying “no way he’d spend a first pick on any wide receiver” he gets speedy Brandin Cooks from New Orleans for a first and sliding his 103rd overall third-round pick into the fourth round at 118. Then he got Chris Long’s replacement for just sliding back eight spots from 64 to 72 for versatile Carolina D-lineman Kony Ealy. And for now, he’s also kept Malcolm Butler, which, if it stays that way, quite possibly could give him the best secondary he’s had in Foxboro. All of which was enough to drown out the arrival of the NCAA basketball tournament, something that, courtesy of Danny’s Brooklyn heist, should hold high interest locally with the C’s possibly having the top pick in this coming NBA draft.
Here are a few more thoughts on the week that was, and the one we’re headed into.
In case you missed it during the flurry of free agency signings: Litchfield tight end Ryan Griffin re-upped with his Houston Texans in a four-year deal reported to be worth in the neighborhood of $2.2 million.
Insurance mogul Dick Lombardi has the best idea I’ve heard for the Jimmy G mess. Keep him and franchise him at the end of 2017. Then, like Michael Jordan did in Chicago to bring in Dennis Rodman and others, get the rich beyond belief Brady to take back-up QB money, to let them pay Garoppolo what he’d get on the open market, with the bonus being that it would send the haters into an absolute tizzy after being outsmarted once again.
Chris Long’s classy Twitter explanation for why he was moving on probably provided a clue to the Patriots’ overall success, and also why they moved on from Jamie Collins. He’s basically leaving because he wants a larger role than his had evolved into here. Which says to me, the Patriots take good players, or those whose weaknesses were exposed when previous teams asked them to do more than they were able, and boil them down to just their strengths, then carve out niches for that into the overall scheme. Said another way, it’s like the Borg collective on Star Trek: The Next Generation – to maximize their awesome power the individual skills of their half-human, half-droid beings are plugged into the “collective” because their whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Borg also are the show’s all-powerful villains, which of course fits how the rest of the NFL sees the Pats as well. And maybe that’s what they felt they couldn’t do with Collins – so they moved on from him.
Given the hoo-ha over not getting Jimmy Butler or Paul George at the trading deadline, here’s what I would do instead to get the second 20-point scorer everyone says they need. Go hard after Gordon Hayward if he opts out in Utah. He’s a better get than either, because his 20 per come in the flow and you don’t need to break up the core to get him. Plus, having played for him at Butler, he’s a Brad Stevens type player. Keep the Brooklyn pick and then use the considerable remaining inventory of draft assets and expendable players (see the glossary) to overwhelm a team in a deal for the kind of defensive/rebounding guy I say they need most. That happens, they’re knocking on the door.
Markelle Fultz is the one most say will be the next No. 1 NBA pick. But I hope UCLA gets a long run in the tourney so I can see more of Lonzo Ball because I love guys who see the floor, and he’s like – take your pick – Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson and, yes, my friends, Larry Bird. I’m not exaggerating either, so he would be an intriguing addition if it comes to that.
Even with all the puffing up of Coach B earlier, he should get some blow-back in the locker room for giving an outsider who’s done nothing for the cause gigantic money in free agency, after guys who have done something like Butler, Collins, Chandler Jones and maybe Dont’a Hightower had or will have to go elsewhere to get paid. That would bug me if I played there.