Bill Belichick has it a lot better than Danny Ainge -- a lot better.
This week has been a fascinating study in why the Patriots and Celtics are so different. Two very successful franchises, headed up by dynamic ownership, constantly trying to remake their teams and images.
Take Thursday. The NBA trading deadline came and went at 3 p.m. Ainge couldn’t pull off a blockbuster deal to land a big man, preferring instead -- according to our Paul Flannery -- to see if he can land Chris Kaman of New Orleans in a buyout deal, if he clears waivers by the NBA-owned franchise. So, what you see is what you get.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports reported Thursday that Ainge did indeed try to trade one of the Big Three, offering Ray Allen to the Clippers, but couldn’t finish the deal.
"We were looking to strengthen team for playoff run and/or build up chips and assets for the future," Ainge said Thursday night. "Nothing seemed good enough to do."
Ainge has earned the reputation around the NBA as driving too hard a bargain at the deadline. “[Bleep] him,” one agitated GM said of Ainge to Amico, who tweeted it Thursday. Funny how Ainge’s reputation as a player has carried over to his front office career with the Celtics.
Belichick? As Patriots coach and de facto GM, he sits back in his office chair, extends his hands above his head, satisfied his team addressed a big need by scooping a free agent bargain from Cincinnati in defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene for three years and $12 million.
A day later, Belichick gets Dan Connolly and Matthew Slater back in the fold and signs his safety -- former Chargers DB Steve Gregory – for three years and $8 million, with $3.35 million guaranteed. Ho hum. Wes Welker? He’s been franchised and will be back, maybe even in a long-term deal, if the two sides can agree.
In the NFL, Thursday also marked the third day of free agency, featuring the Bills handing a $100 million deal to pass rushing beast Mario Williams, with $50 million guaranteed. The Jets are looking for safety help by inviting Brandon Meriweather to visit, and the Dolphins still are wondering about Peyton Manning.
In the stormy waters of free agency and player movement, the Patriots and Belichick are steady as she goes. Danny Ainge and the Celtics are trying their very best to batten down the hatches for very stormy seas ahead.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have shown -- more than any organization in sports -- they have mastered the art of dictating terms to those who want to play in New England. They don’t need to go out and blow $100 million on a superstar in free agency. Obviously, they don’t need a quarterback and they don’t even feel the need to add a superstar receiver.
What makes them the best franchise in the NFL? Not Tom Brady. Not even Bill Belichick.
They’re nearly $7 million UNDER the $120 million cap for 2012 and they had $6.6 million in carryover from 2011. That’s roughly $13.6 million to spend this season without having to cut. The best businesses build their assets and save them for a rainy day. Sure, the Patriots could use a stud receiver like Vincent Jackson, but they’re also not going to spend silly money like Dan Snyder did when laying out $42.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed) for Pierre Garcon.
The Patriots protect their assets. They’ve had this approach ever since their first Super Bowl title. It’s not about to change now.
The Celtics certainly have the pedigree, but don’t have the flexibility to do the same, thanks to the load they’re carrying in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and, to a lesser degree, Jermaine O’Neal.
The Celtics are going to have to rebuild at some point. The Patriots reload.
Belichick and Ainge are both highly regarded in their respective sports as shrewd managers of their rosters, evaluating every detail and placing appropriate value on every player asset.
But Belichick, thanks to the good fortune having the best quarterback in the game and the wisdom to rebuild his defense three years ago, is in far better shape.
What makes Ainge’s situation so unique and interesting is the number of different ways he could go with the Celtics' immediate and long-term future.
It's not that Belichick is any better than Ainge, just in different worlds -- and leagues.
Let’s go to the Trags Bag for a few helpful hints from Celtics fans on what Ainge should have done before Thursday's deadline:
@Jesse_Dampolo Trade every NON STARTING expiring contract to New Orleans along with the Clippers 1st for Chris Kaman.
@Z_Buck Get some help inside to rebound/defend. Not pulling the trigger on a deal would be a mistake this team is still close & #miami is vulnerable. #celts r top3 in every defensive cat. We just need some1 who can rebound on a nightly basis to limit 2nd chance pts.
@Andreas24x7 if the celtics can add a rebounder (Leon, Ely, Gadzurich) they will be the 3rd seed in the east nodoubt
@0_LayDX since they can't get a high price big man, get a cheap one (probably older) that could hang for a yr or 2, if not, nothing.
As mentioned above, the asking price was too high to Ainge. He is hoping the Hornets pass him through waivers and the Celtics can acquire him on a buyout. A player who has spent time in the league this season must be waived by March 23 in order to be eligible for another team's playoff roster. He then can be signed any time prior to the final day of the season.
@GethinCoolbaugh Minimal move, if anything. Something to bring in a big body. Maybe shipping Keyon out? Decisions, decisions, decisions.
The reverse of the above could be true with regard to Dooling if Ainge feels heneeds the roster and salary space to add a big body. Otherwise, Dooling hasbeen nothing but a positive impact in practice and in the locker room.
@GriffinMorrow blow up the team. Look, I understand the concept of the Big3 being sentimental but they will not win big games or make a run #rebuild
Clearly, Ainge explored that angle, too. The rumor about Allen to the Clippers was just one of four involving all key members of the team in the past two weeks. In a wild one, Pierce was rumored to be dangled to the train-wreck Blazers. Kevin Garnett was rumored to be shipped out of town for Josh Smith. And Ainge -- despite insisting he was not looking to deal Rajon Rondo -- listened to all discussions involving the team’s superstar point guard. It’s not that Ainge was sentimental, it’s just that he wasn’t about to trade chips for pennies on the dollar.
As for the Belichick, fans understand the “Patriot Way” but still want action.
@kpaszk what makes him a "terrific" pass rusher? 12.5 sacks in two years. tully had 9.5and 5 the next one year and he was far from terrific.
Jonathan Fanene has two things that make him a natural fit in New England: He can play all over the D-line as he did with the Bengals for the last seven seasons. And he has a high motor. The fact that he comes at a bargain price doesn’t hurt. The sack numbers -- while a good barometer -- clearly don’t mean everything to Belichick if they can be totally disruptive.
@0_LayDX PFF said he played 292 of his 486 snaps at defensive tackle so this is a great break for Vince.
Exactly. This is why this move could be so key since Fanene, while smaller, could be an upfield force from any spot on the D-line.
@0_LayDX THE HAIR IN THAT LOCKER ROOM!!!! HIgh Tops, Jesus Hair, Polamalu hair. AHAHAHAHA!!!
Belichick has always loved Troy Polamalu. This was the next best thing.
@PORJIE05 Disgusted..it really gets old after a while.
@JMMercer Typical #Patriots MO. Don't they do the same thing @ the draft? #FreeAgency frenzy?
@CKL94 I'm fine with it. I'm even fine knowing BB won't pick at #27 AND #31.
@JKLUTE business as usual
@stacky88 for some reason my expectations were high that they would make a big slash. I don't know why it's not how they operate.
@s_thorn #FreeAgency has been going on forless than 24 hours. Knew #Patriots wouldn't set market on anything. Expected...& I'm fine with it.
@TheHighestMark Typical tactic by them & BB. Hope they make some big splash...
Most understand the following: The Patriots have no interest in overspending. They’d rather spend too little and make up the difference with hard work and preparation during the season. They don’t make panic moves. They take calculated gambles. Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon. It doesn’t matter. The Patriots have won 27 regular-season games in the last two seasons, and they came within a running game and a catch on third down of winning their fourth Super Bowl title. They have no motivation to break the bank on anyone not named Tom Brady. Business as usual, indeed.