WALTHAM, Mass. (AP/CBS) — The Boston Celtics aren’t going to get what they really need with the No. 16 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
They won’t be able to select a coach, unless general manager Danny Ainge has found a loophole in league rules that allowed him this week to trade Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers. And, with their only pick of the night coming in the middle of the first round, they won’t find the player that they need, either: A younger version of Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce to replace the aging veterans who are increasingly showing signs of slowing down — but drawing interest from other teams around the league.
“I think it’s a fairly deep draft. I just don’t think it’s a star-laden draft,” Ainge said this week after explaining why he agreed to let Rivers go. “I definitely think there are some good role players in the draft.”
Five years after assembling the New Big Three, the Celtics seem finally ready to tear down the roster that won the franchise’s unprecedented 17th NBA title in 2008 and returned to the finals two years later. Ainge all-but confirmed that it’s time to rebuild this week when he let Rivers go to the Clippers in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015, a move that could be followed by the departures of Pierce and Garnett.
Garnett is 37 with a no-trade clause and a contract that will pay him $23.5 million over the next two years; he has openly discussed retiring. Pierce, the longest-tenured member of the team, is due to earn $15.3 million next season, when he will be 36; he could be bought out for $5 million, with the deadline at the end of the month.
On Thursday, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Celtics and Nets are discussing a potential blockbuster deal that would send both Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn, with Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Tornike Shengelia and three first-round picks heading to Boston. Other players on the Boston roster, namely Courtney Lee and/or Jason Terry, could be involved.
Moving on from Paul Pierce, with the departure of Rivers this week, would mark the beginning of a long rebuilding process for Boston — who have plenty of other question marks heading into the 2013-14 season.
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Point guard Rajon Rondo is a top ball-handler with a questionable shot who is coming off surgery for a torn ligament in his right knee. Guard Avery Bradley is a defensive specialist who missed the first half of last season with injuries to both shoulders.
Jeff Green, who returned after missing a year because of heart surgery, could take up the minutes that Pierce had provided. But with the health of Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger in question, the roster would largely lack big men without Garnett.
The centers who could be available with the Celtics’ No. 16 pick of the draft include Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga, Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and Mason Plumlee of Duke. Other possible mid-first round picks are point guards Shane Larkin of Miami and Dennis Schroeder of Germany and small forward Giannis Adetokunbo, who had been playing in Greece.
The Celtics finished at 41-40 last season, their worst record in six years, after losing 13 of their last 20 games. They were eliminated in six games by the New York Knicks, the first time in six years the Celtics didn’t make it to the second round.
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Ainge said it is not a setback to go into the draft without a coach, although he said the drawn-out negotiations with the Clippers were “a little bit distracting, to be honest with you.”
“The only wrinkle right now is that we need to get a new coaching staff,” he said. “There’s no urgency right now. We don’t need that to happen fast.”
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