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The masochistic Duncan Myth



Every year around this time, I indulge in two doomed dreams: first, that my accursed Minnesota Timberwolves will find salvation in the NBA lottery; and second, that Celtics fans will stop bitching about how they should have gotten Tim Duncan back in 1997.

Let's review. Back in '97, Duncan was everybody's #1 pick. The Celtics had the league's second-worst record, two lottery picks, and the best chance--36.3 percent--of picking first. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs--who had a 21.4 percent chance at the #1 pick--won the lottery, picked Duncan, and became a mini-dynasty (as well as the league's most annoying team).

Don't get me wrong: if I were a Celtics fan, I would have been pissed, too. The problem is this: for the last decade, Celtics partisans have insisted on turning an unlikely-but-not-inconceivable outcome into a stunning twist of fate.

This year is no exception. Consider:
Peter May of the Globe: [A]s history has shown, the indisputable difference-maker in 1997 was Duncan. The Celtics had, by far, the best statistical odds to get him. They didn't come close. [emph. added]

Steve Bulpett of the Herald: The only story in Secaucus that day was green horror. "I couldn't believe what had happened," [Celtics VP Jeff] Twiss said. "...[Y]ou're just sitting there and, oh, my lord...We had far and away the best odds. And then not to get it, it was the most empty feeling." [emph. added]

Sean Deveney of Sporting News: Thee Celtics had two picks in the 1997 NBA lottery and a 36.3 percent shot at the No. 1 pick. With Wake Forest's Tim Duncan having just wrapped up his senior season, the future looked bright — so bright that Rick Pitino was lured away from the University of Kentucky with a 10-year contract to coach the team and direct its personnel.
Pitino has terrible judgment, so his thinking there makes complete sense. But you Celtics fans are smarter than this. My best guess is that torturing yourselves with the Duncan Myth A) provides some kind of masochistic satsifaction and B) lets you avoid admitting just how sorry the state of the franchise currently is.

Of course, I'd trade McHale for Ainge in a heartbeat.

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