WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -All that losing for nothing.
After spending most of the season in contention for little more than a better position in the NBA draft, the Celtics picked up another loss in the league's draft lottery on Tuesday: the fifth overall pick - the worst-case scenario going into the night.
``That's not where you wanted to see (our) name,'' coach Doc Rivers said at the team's practice facility after the Celtics effectively lost their chance to draft college phenoms Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. ``You had ping pong ball parties in Boston, so I think a lot of people allowed themselves to fantasize.
``I think we're going to have to continue to fantasize.''
, which is more wide open but could be North Carolina forward Brandan Wright.
When the envelopes were opened, though, Portland, Seattle and Atlanta had jumped over the Celtics and earned the rights to picks 1-3, respectively.
``Dang it. That was my first reaction,'' Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge said.
``He's Mormon,'' Rivers added with a laugh. ``I said something else.''
Steve Pagliuca, one of the team's owners, noted that Ainge has been successful drafting in the second tier, picking then-high schooler Al Jefferson with the No. 15 pick in the 2004 draft and watching him develop into a solid player.
``There's going to be some all-stars that come out,'' Pagliuca said. ``Danny's done a great job of finding those guys, with much lower picks.''
And this draft is generally considered to be the deepest in years, in part because high school seniors who were ineligible last year are now coming out after their college freshman year.
``Danny's been telling me for a month and a half that there are five or six great players in this draft,'' owner Wyc Grousbeck said. ``So we're just going to put that to the test.''
It's the Celtics' second failed attempt to reach the upper echelon of the NBA draft lottery. In 1997, the team all but tanked the season in pursuit of Wake Forest star Tim Duncan.
Even though Boston had the best chance at the top pick, San Antonio landed Duncan, winning three championships with him, with the chance for another this year.
``It says that you should try to win every game. That's what everyone was doing, I guess,'' said Rivers, who grew miffed at times during the season when fans were clamoring for the team to lose. ``I just don't think anyone should be rewarded for being bad. I've never liked the lottery. I just don't know how else you would do it.''
The drawing continued a stunning run of bad luck for what had been the league's most fortunate franchise. Under patriarch Red Auerbach, the Celtics' prowess at working all the draft angles was the stuff that made legends.
They picked up Bob Cousy when they drew his name out of a hat in the dispersal draft to reassign the bankrupt Chicago Stags players. Auerbach finagled his way into Russell by promising the owner of the Rochester Royals a visit by the lucrative Ice Capades. Tommy Heinsohn was a territorial pick.
Auerbach drafted Larry Bird a year before other teams were willing to do so, knowing he was worth the wait. He got Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in the same trade (giving up the rights to select Joe Barry Carroll). And the Celtics also picked up Ainge when other teams figured he would stick with baseball.
But the team with the shamrock on its uniforms and the mascot named Lucky appears to have exhausted its good fortune.
The Celtics haven't won a title since 1986 - a gap twice as long as the franchise's previous championship drought. Despite earning their 16th banner that year, they had the No. 2 pick in the draft from a trade with Seattle and used it to select Maryland star Len Bias.
He died of cocaine intoxication less than 48 hours later.
Reggie Lewis was supposed to usher the franchise from the glory days of Bird, McHale and Parish to the next great era. He dropped dead on a practice court in 1993.
The next great hope was Duncan. The ping pong balls didn't go their way that year, either.
``There's other ways to get lucky. There's other ways to get guys in the draft,'' Ainge said. ``Nobody thought Paul Pierce was going to be as good as he is when we got him at 10.''
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