BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics-Nets blockbuster that has sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn trade makes sense for Boston, but that doesn’t mean we all have to like it.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, waking up and thinking about Pierce in anything but Celtics’ green, but that is the reality this Friday morning. The C’s captain is gone after 15 years in Boston. To add to that sorrow, so is Kevin Garnett – the man who changed the franchise in 2008 and led the Celtics to their 17th title after a 22-year drought.
This isn’t how it was supposed to end for Pierce, or even Garnett for that matter. After 2008’s title, it was expected they would add a few more banners to the Garden rafters and Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen would all find their numbers there as well. But those other titles never came for various reasons – injuries, renegade trades by Danny Ainge, old age – and none of the new “Big Three” will finish their careers in Boston.
It should have been different, with farewell sendoffs and ceremonies, but that isn’t happening. The NBA, like all sports, is a business, and the Celtics had to do what’s best for their future. Now, instead of dwelling on the past, the future becomes the focus — however dim and blurry it may be.
Danny Ainge always said he would trade away his Big Three rather than let them get old and his franchise get nothing in return for their past performances. Well, he let them get old, but he still got a nice bounty based on their glory days.
The deal isn’t a terrible one for Boston; it jump-starts the rebuilding process that probably should have gotten underway two years ago, and immediately gives Boston numerous chips to work with as they navigate their future. It also sheds the $10-million+ owed to Jason Terry over the next two years, which, after watching the veteran guard struggle through last season, makes the deal worthwhile in itself.
The players Boston received in return are nothing special. No one is jumping for joy that Kris Humphries is coming to the Celtics, but don’t fret too hard — chances are he ends up somewhere else before donning a C’s jersey. Reggie Evans would have been a solid role player two years ago, when the Celtics were, you know, good, and Gerald Wallace’s contract is flat out silly. Mostly, they’re just bodies to make the money work. UPDATE: Boston will receive guard MarShon Brooks and forward Kris Joseph instead of Evans and forward Tornike Shengelia.
This deal was all about the draft picks, and Ainge got three of them. When it comes to rebuilding, as much as a toss up as draft picks are, they are invaluable towards the process.
Boston now has four additional first round picks over the next four years thanks to their trade with Brooklyn and the “trade” of Doc Rivers to Los Angeles. They now have nine first-rounders over the next five years, and two first rounders in each of the next three drafts — with next year’s draft expected to be the strongest since guys named James, Anthony, Wade and Bosh were taken in 2003.
Whether those picks turn in to actual contributors, or are once again turned into bargaining chips by Ainge remains to be seen. But they are assets nonetheless, and when it comes to rebuilding, those are more valuable than aging stars.
Had Ainge not worked hard to acquire certain trade chips prior to the summer of 2007, the Celtics never would have been able to swing the deals that landed them Allen and Garnett. His plethora of young talent and picks got the two future Hall of Famers to Boston, another banner in the rafters, and put Boston Basketball back on the map. But that didn’t happen overnight, with Ainge stockpiling chips (from extra picks to expiring contracts like Theo Ratliff) over the years.
These picks (and players) won’t pay off next year, maybe not even the year after that. But without Doc Rivers, the number-one recruiting tool to get players to Boston, the Celtics can’t expect anyone to come willingly — they have to trade for that talent. Teams can’t trade for talent without assets.
Doc Rivers is gone and now so is Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. This was a day all Celtics fans knew was coming from the day Ainge assembled Pierce, Garnett and Allen and put in place his original three-year plan. They gave Boston one title, fought their hardest for a second, and never stopped fighting even when their old legs couldn’t go anymore.
Six years later, Pierce and Garnett will now keep on fighting in Brooklyn, Rivers in Los Angeles, and Allen will likely get another ring in Miami. The Celtics? Well they’re going to be bad. Probably not bad enough to “earn” a high lottery pick, but bad enough where the Boston winters will be a little colder if your allegiance lies with the team in green.
Pierce and Garnett will have their days in Boston, and their numbers will eventually sit high above courtside with the other Celtic greats. For now, that day may be all Celtics fans have to look forward to — a quick remembrance of what once was.
Those glory days are now over, and the rebuild is underway. By getting as many assets as he can to work with, Ainge now has to do his part in making sure these dark days don’t last too long.