Saying goodbye is always difficult. It is even more difficult when you have to say goodbye to someone you love. Someone who has brought a huge amount of joy and happiness into your life.
For many Boston Celtics fans, this is running through their minds.
Initially, there is always a reluctance to even consider saying goodbye. Denial and disbelief are only preludes to declarations of defiance and polar opposites to reality simply because it is so hard to accept.
That reality, on this occasion, is that the Boston Celtics do not have the required pieces to win an NBA Championship with the formation of their current roster.
Standing at 4-8 for the regular season, after being easily swept aside by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Kendrick Perkins' return to TD Garden, Danny Ainge now must make the decision of what is best for the Celtics in the long term.
Sentimentality, and memories of the 2010 season, when the Celtics followed a less-than-stellar regular season with a trip to Game 7 of the Finals, will make Ainge's choice much more difficult than the decision to trade Perkins during last season.
Trading Perkins was the beginning of the end for the Big Three in Boston. With Perkins fully healthy, the trio, along with Rajon Rondo, had never lost a playoff series.
However, now Perkins is gone, Rondo must still be watching his back after the tumultuous offseason and critically, the Big Three are that much older.
Last season, the Celtics looked old, as they were easily thrown from the playoffs by the Miami Heat. This year, the roster's hope for more athleticism and youth, Jeff Green, was sidelined before the year even began with a heart condition.
Green's loss has proven too much, because even if he was healthy they might be in the same situation, for a roster devoid of quality depth to cover aging stars.
Pivotally, the NBA is one sport in which talent seemingly trumps everything else. Having a star, or multiple stars, in their prime is what every team needs if they are to win a championship. It is why so many teams are willing to wager their futures on bumper free-agency deals and potentially crippling trades.
The Celtics do have one young star on their roster, Rajon Rondo, but he is not a superstar.
Rondo will never be a premier point guard in the NBA because of his inability to score outside. Without the Big Three around him, Rondo's ability as a point guard would be severely limited.
Rondo is the type of player you can win a championship with, but he is not the type of player that teams will be fighting for to build their franchise on.
Fortunately for the Celtics, the best ideology in the NBA is to avoid being a mediocre team. Quickly becoming bad has its rewards in the NBA.
Instead of lounging in the middle of the pack, never getting the top lottery picks or making it to the NBA Finals, the Celtics are set up to have a quick drop-off and load up on lottery picks.
If Danny Ainge does indeed make the decision to pull the trigger on a trade, or multiple deals, to break up the Big Three, then the Celtics will immediately enter a rebuilding phase that could see them return to the Finals within only a few years.
Paul Pierce is already attracting interest from around the league as a trade piece. Ray Allen leads the league in shooting threes, so he should bring back some value for a team expecting to be in the playoffs.
Kevin Garnett's deal is too big for him to be moved, but his deal, along with Allen's, will end after this season anyway.
Losing Garnett, Pierce and Allen's respective deals from their salary cap will allow the Celtics to begin to build with a clean slate. Other role players such as Jermaine O'Neal, Keyon Dooling and Mikael Pietrus could still hang around for a year or two but won't do enough on the court to hurt the rebuilding process off of it.
The Celtics would be in a good position to return to the playoffs in three to five years.
Provided that Jeff Green returns, the team would still have Rondo (25), Green (25), Brandon Bass (26), Greg Stiemsma (26), JaJuan Johnson (22), E'Twuan Moore (22) and Avery Bradley (21) to concentrate on getting the most out to hopefully reach their potential in the future.
Add to that any additions that can be brought in in free agency with the newfound salary space, as well as any high draft picks that come in through the lottery, and the Celtics' future could be bright once again.
With the amnesty clause still available to the team, Ainge could potentially trade for another team in cap trouble, bringing in draft choices, and then use that clause on a huge contract from that team.
There is a lot of work for the Celtics to do on this roster over the coming years. There are huge decisions for Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge to make.
Undoubtedly, they would like to win one more championship with the Big Three. Whether they can win one more championship with the Big Three is very doubtful, unfortunately.
Saying goodbye is never fun, if professional sports were all about fun, then mascots would be GMs. Sports are about winning.
More importantly, the Celtics are about winning. Danny Ainge understands that.