Paul Pierce's run in green could be nearing an end.
Done, it's over. The best players are too old and the young players aren't good enough. It's not really anyone's "fault" per se, but it's an inevitable occurrence.
The Boston Celtics are heading toward either narrowly missing the playoffs, or making them with a low seed followed by an early exit. Neither result is really anything to be too proud of. Worse still barring major changes the results next season are not all that likely to be dramatically different.
The season can continue at it's current pace if that's what Danny Ainge wants. The Celtics will have their nights. There will be times when Ray Allen is hitting shots like he was six years younger. There will be nights when Paul Pierce is matched up against a weaker defender, and is able to exert his considerable physical strength and knock down shots and get to the line.
There will also be nights when Rajon Rondo is really clicking and dominating to the point that the opposition has no answer at all for his exceptional athletic gifts. Those nights will happen.
Something else will happen too, though. There will be nights when Ray Allen doesn't have the energy to consistently fight through screens. When that happens his fatigued legs render his shot uncharacteristically inaccurate.
There will also be nights when Paul Pierce is unable to shake a younger and more athletic defender to become a creating offensive force. There will be nights when a still somewhat immature Rajon Rondo allows his frustration to show and makes ill-timed decisions.
The big problem is that the second, far less attractive set of circumstances is the one becoming increasingly familiar. It's not going to magically stop either. Three or four nice wins could easily be followed by five or six ugly losses.
One player returns from a nagging injury and another unfortunate sprain or pull pops right up in it's place. This is what the Celtics are. It's no longer too early in the season to make some more concrete judgements, and with the breakneck pace of the lockout-shortened season, the overall metrics of the season are unlikely to dramatically change. Things are simply happening at too fast a pace.
So what now? The Celtics have four players they can trade. In case there are readers not familiar with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they are the four players most likely to be dealt. In an ideal scenario, Allen and/or Garnett could be dealt this season before they become free agents after it ends.
The problem is that opposing teams aren't in a hurry to help out Boston. They know that Allen and Garnett are both well past their primes, and they also know that Boston is facing a circumstance in which they can easily lose both players and receive nothing in return. The Celtics are at a decided disadvantage.
That leaves Pierce and Rondo. Both players could be worth a decent package of either younger players or draft picks to the right team. Pierce on a team with other natural scorers could be a very solid second or third offensive option, and he's signed through the end of next season.
Rondo, of course, is one of the more athletic point guards in a league that is filled with athletic point guards. He does have some maturity issues, but his skill set is elite in terms of ball handling, passing, defense and rebounding for his size.
The degree to which the Celtics decide to, or not to, transform the nucleus of the Celtics is going to have a major impact on the quality of the team over the next few years. It's no longer an issue of "should they" as much as " to what extent." The run of the "Big Three" is over, even if the roster has yet to reflect it.