Boston Celtics: Why the C's Should Start Tanking Now

Jeremy GottliebContributor IFebruary 29, 2012

The time has pretty much come for this era in the history of the Celtics to end.
The time has pretty much come for this era in the history of the Celtics to end.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, upping their record to 16-17 to start the season's second half. But man, was it a slog.

Boston came out hot, running up a 13-point lead by the end of the first quarter before giving that edge back in its entirety and needing a late fourth-quarter rally just to escape a sixth straight loss.

A win is a win, but the fact that the Celts needed to sweat out a game against a non-contender like Cleveland with a performance described by coach Doc Rivers as "awful" once again elucidates the idea that the time has come for this particular group.

The C's need to blow this thing up. So why not start now?

The trading deadline is two weeks away and between now and then, the C's will play nine games, including the first three of a massive, eight-game road trip. It's conceivable that they could go on a run, that Tuesday's win over the Cavs was the start of a stretch not unlike the one run-off in January and into February that saw them win 10 of 12 to vault themselves firmly into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

But realistically, given the way the team has looked of late with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, only the two most important players on the roster, struggling, a rash of injuries, particularly in the frontcourt and the same problems that have been a plague all season long, it's hard to imagine the C's moving up the East ladder very much further.

On Tuesday night, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski proclaimed that both Rivers and executive vice president Danny Ainge don't believe the Celts can contend this season and that deals are coming.

The most likely to be moved, according to Wojnarowski, is Pierce, the longest-tenured Celtic, given that he has multiple years left on his deal, making him a more attractive chip for the Celts to move—what with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett both in possession of large, expiring contracts. Whether it's Pierce, Allen or even Rajon Rondo (zero points, 11 assists, five turnovers against the Cavs), something should happen. This group has run its course.

Deciding to give this Big Three one more go-around wasn't necessarily a bad idea. But given how little depth was provided, how poor the Celtics' drafting record has been over the past handful of years (J.R. Giddens, anyone?) and the failure to acquire Chris Paul—or any other real impact player—after the lockout signals that it was indeed the execution of said idea that was lousy and deserves criticism.

The Celtics need to rebuild and as unseemly as that process may seem (and believe me, Celtics fans have seen some unseemly rebuilding projects), why not just start now? It's inevitable that things are going to get at least slightly worse before the Celts can be in position to potentially contend again.

So why prolong that inevitability any further?

These past four years with Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo coming into his own have been a high point in the history of this legendary franchise. The Celtics have a 17th championship and a very near-miss on an 18th, not to mention a slew of wins and more division titles and playoff appearances to show for it.

But like everything else, it has to come to an end sooner or later. In this case, sooner is better.