With Paul Pierce dealing with heel issues, Kevin Garnett fading, Ray Allen still effective shooting threes but headed for his 37th birthday and the Celtics 5-8 entering the weekend, the team’s owners gave GM Danny Ainge the official go-ahead to move any member of the troika.
“We’ve got to move on,” said one Celtics official. “Let’s face reality.”
When the lockout ended, Ainge and Doc Rivers believed they could squeeze one more title run out of their nucleus. But it hinged on a couple of other players. If Jeff Green played and they could sign David West , the Celtics figured they would help lighten the regular-season load for Pierce, Garnett and Allen.
But Green needed heart surgery and West, who had expressed an interest in signing in Boston, changed his mind when he wasn’t offered a deal that would have made him among the highest-paid players on the team.
Without Green or West, ownership finally conceded the team doesn’t have the quality reinforcements to make a deep run. Ainge says he won’t hesitate to trade off any member of the Big Three in the right deal. If he can find any takers.
After hearing Paul Pierce reiterate last night that he wants to retire a Celtic, I'm inclined to want Ainge to keep the Celtics Lifer unless he's given a sweetheart deal. I mean a year and a half from now Pierce could simply just leave for nothing and join another team for a year (think Karl Malone), but he also could just play his whole career as a Celtic and that would be special. Ray and KG on the other hand were hired guns brought in and we can't keep all 3 (of the Big 3). If you're going to trade one of Ray or KG, might as well trade both.
While fans are more anxious to trade KG due to his struggles coming off an 8 month hiatus (due to the early exit last season and then the lockout), people need to remember, you get more for the guys who are actually playing well right now. Ray tends to always start seasons hot and then cool off later. His value will never be higher. Despite all the KG bashing I've been seeing, his personality alone could change the culture of a contender's defense. Both players should bring in a bare minimum of a 1st rounder or decent young player.
Now you also must understand that the Celtics ownership's decision to "blow things up" might not just be basketball related. Ticket prices on secondary sales have gone down to pre Big 3 levels. And if the owners see themselves not bringing in the same revenue in the future (like a long playoff run) then I believe they won't want to pay top dollar for their roster.
The owners have already made two significant financial decisions that have hurt the product on the court. One was shipping Perkins out of town, because they did't want to pay him an extension. The 2nd one which I'm surprised NOBODY has brought up, is the withdrawing of the qualifying offer to Jeff Green. I believe they withdrew it, because Green could have then accepted it. Not sure, but if they ended up paying Green (to sit obviously) they would have been entitled to an injury exception (worth half his contract) which would have enabled the Celtics to fill out their bench with someone other than minimum salaried players. So yeah a rebounder like Reggie Evans might choose taking the league minimum from the up start Clippers over the same pay in Boston. But what if he was offered double?
The Celtics owners want to win. If they didn't they wouldn't be at all the games. But they are not spenders like some teams. The bottom line might not be more important than winning, but it certainly isn't less important. Look for the Celtics to break up the Big 3 within the next month and a half. Also look for the team payroll to go down.
The big questions then become: Will there be a player or two worthy of spending the salary cap space on? Will the team follow the Dumars Pistons model and after winning a title and being competitive a few years after that, they then broke up their core, but wasted their cap space on overpriced bums? And will Danny revert to the the drafter he was earlier in his tenure when he picked the best player available on the board and guys who fell to him like Al Jefferson, as opposed to the more recent Danny drafter where he has passed on guys who have fallen to him like DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, and MarShon Brooks, and drafted players not projected that high like Gabe Pruitt, J.R. Giddens, and JaJuan Johnson.
Ainge also seems to have changed to drafting more for need, starting when the Celtics were supposedly all set at the wings with Pierce, Wally, and Green, so he passed on Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay to trade for a need in point guard Sebastian Telfair. This trend continued this past June when faced with a need at the center position Ainge traded Rookie of the Year contender MarShon Brooks (a wing) for college center Johnson. One could argue if they had had one less wing on the projected roster (let's say Jeff Green) and one more center on the roster (let's say Kendrick Perkins) then Ainge doesn't make the Brooks trade and keeps the high scoring, athletic wing. The Perk Trade: The trade that keeps on kicking Celts fans in the balls.
Change is a coming. Many Celtics fans have a lot of faith in Danny Ainge. Let's hope he knows what he's doing. The hard work starts now. Trade deadline is March 15th.