By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As Tyler Herro hit shot after shot after shot in his epic Game 4 performance for the Miami Heat, it was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Boston Celtics.
Rumor has it that Danny Ainge was in love with Herro heading into the 2019 NBA Draft. He became enamored with the guard after a solid freshman season at Kentucky, with Herro knocking down 46 percent of his shots overall and 35 percent of his attempts from downtown. And after seeing the 20-year-old’s rookie season play out, he would have been the perfect scorer off the bench for Boston, something the Celtics have sorely needed all season long.
But Ainge never had a chance to draft Herro, because his nemesis in Miami, Pat Riley, took the guard one spot ahead of Boston with the 13th overall pick. Damn that Pat Riley and his fancy suits.
“He was a guy that we liked and I’m sure many teams liked,” Ainge said of Herro during his interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday morning. “I don’t think anyone thought he was going to be this good.”
The Celtics, instead, went with Romeo Langford at No. 14. We’ll leave it at that.
Just to add another layer of pain, the Celtics had the 14th pick because of a three-team tiebreaker. The Sacramento Kings decided to be somewhat decent for large stretches of the 2018-19 season, which was a shame considering the Celtics would be getting their first-round pick as part of Ainge’s heist of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Jayson Tatum/Markelle Fultz No. 1 pick swap. When the Kings had no reason to be horrible, they were only just bad. That robbed the “Kings Pick” of having the same glow that the famous “Nets picks” carried for all those years.
When the season ended, Sacramento, Miami and Charlotte all finished with identical records, so the draft order came down to a tiebreaker. Charlotte won and got the No. 12 pick while Miami took its spot in the middle and received the No. 13 pick. That left No. 14 for the Celtics.
Maybe Ainge should have packaged some of his picks (Boston also owned Nos. 20 and 22) to move up if he really wanted Herro, but many expected that the guard would still be on the board when the Celtics were on the clock at No. 14. Riley had other plans, landing a solid player while stealing from a guy he truly hates in in the process. It was a win-win for the Heat, and Wednesday night’s 37-point explosion from Herro to help Miami take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals twisted the knife a little bit more.
The Celtics now find themselves with their backs against the wall, mostly thanks to their own undoing. But the fact that Herro was a big part of the team’s demise in Game 4 must put a smile on Riley’s face. Thankfully, it’s covered with an upside down NBA mask, so Celtics fans don’t have to see it.