- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The tank job by the Boston Celtics — real or imagined — to gain the No. 1 pick in the June draft is as foolish as trading Paul Westphal for Charlie Scott in 1975.

It didn’t work 10 years ago, when the Celtics entered the draft lottery with the best chance for the top pick (Tim Duncan) but came away with the third selection.

It might not work this time, because coveted freshmen Greg Oden and Kevin Durant have given no indication they plan to leave college early for the NBA. (Neither has freshman Brandan Wright or junior Joakim Noah.)

The Oden vs. Durant argument is as ridiculous as it is hypothetical.

Yet ESPN.com has started a blog on the subject. NBADraft.net ranks them 1-2 in their 2007 mock draft. And Celtics legend John Havlicek calls this miserable season “The Greg Oden Sweepstakes.”

College basketball has enjoyed its first full-fledged freshmen class since 1994-95, the season before Kevin Garnett entered the NBA straight from high school.

The assist goes to commissioner David Stern, whose age requirement of 19 years old prevented Oden or Durant from doing the same.

But Oden has said he would not have made the jump from high school to the pros, and there isn’t any evidence he will after this season.

The Celtics (14-42) remain hopeful. They have made an effort (or not) for the best chance to draft Oden or Durant, losing 22 of their last 23 games, including a franchise-record 18 straight.

Lowlights included Celtics fans chanting “M-V-P!” for Kobe Bryant when the Los Angeles Lakers guard scored 43 points against them Jan. 31 and the team sending All-Star Paul Pierce home before a game with swelling in his left elbow and a low-grade fever.

The Celtics were 10-14 when Pierce was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left foot. Pierce missed 24 games, and the Celtics began “developing their young talent.”

The Memphis Grizzlies (15-43) began doing the same after a 6-24 start, when team president Jerry West fired coach Mike Fratello.

The Philadelphia 76ers (19-38) traded Allen Iverson in an effort to begin anew.

The NBA began the lottery, a system in which all non-playoff teams have a chance at the No. 1 pick, because of the Houston Rockets’ tank job of 1982-83. The Rockets finished 14-68 and drafted Ralph Sampson with the top pick.

At least they knew Sampson would be in the draft because he was a senior.

“Obviously, everyone knows what’s out there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last month.

Yes, Yi Jianlian of China definitely will be in the draft.

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