Let me throw you out some numbers 32, 35, 33, 15
At first you might think those are numbers retired and hanging on a banner in the Garden, not so fast. Those are the wins respectively for the years 1993-94 to 1996-97. Sad right? Our great franchise in shambles.
The one shining light in those 4 dark and forgetful years was a tall, pasty Croatian named Dino Radja who laid claim to our paint regardless what the scoreboard was telling him.
Easily one of my favorite Celtics of all-time and the most forgotten players because of his association with such a terrible period. Radja was the teams top producer for 4 awesome seasons… awesome solely related to his performance.
A center leading our team, when he was healthy, with a four-year average 16.7 ppg – 8.4 rpg – 1.3 bpg was our only consistent performer. The problem was that he could not stay healthy. His games played by year degressed as follows 80, 66, 53, 25 all because of knee injuries that would eventually force him out of the NBA.
When legendary coach (cough cough) Rick Pitino took over as head-honcho of Boston his first order was to trade Radja, his knee injuries caused him to fail the physical and Pitino waived the big Croat only for him to take his talents to Europe and win 2 championships before retiring and becoming the president of KK Split his first team in his native land.
Had Radja stayed on healthy knees we probably would have seen the same production night in and night out from Dino, with similar results, the Celtics would still stink. But instead of looking at “what if his knees had not given out?”, we should look at “what if Dino had joined the Celtics in 1989 when he was first drafted?”
The Celtics actually drafted Dino Radja years prior in 1989 with the 40th pick in the draft and he continued to play in Europe for a few seasons. Had Radja hoped a plane for America in 1989 we could have paired him with the 80′s dynasty lineup of Bird, McHale, DJ, and the Chief. Future Bossman Ainge had been moved west in a trade and Lewis was starting in the 2 spot, but to add Radja into that lineup might have been enough to help us out of some early exits, pair this with the Larry Bird WCHB? and you are looking at a dynasty carried well into the 1990′s instead of stopping in 1986 or 1987 if you count their loss to the Lakers in 6.
(p.s. yes I do own that SL, mine is opened and he sits on my bookcase)