There are plenty of words that have perfectly described this year's Boston Celtics.
Tough. Resilient. Bold. Heart.
These words and more have been the epitome of a team that first formed the "Big Three" by bringing in future NBA Hall of Famers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to pair with their own Paul Pierce. Since then, the Celtics have successfully made the playoffs the last five years, earning one title.
Game 7 against the Miami Heat was a game where the age of Boston's Big Three was evident, a game where nagging injuries finally caught up to them and a game where Boston failed to find their third gear after battling back to take a 3-2 lead after Game 5.
Now that the Celtics have been eliminated in a long fought run that saw them advance despite the injuries that left them drained of depth and playing through nagging injuries, they need to evaluate what moves must be made next.
And the biggest of these will be the status of the Big Three.
Have Celtic and NBA fans alike seen the last of them? Will they stay together for an attempt at one more run for the NBA title, or will the Celtics break them apart and move in a younger direction?
Right now, the only things that many can say for certain is that Rondo has now become the face, heart, and soul of the Boston Celtics. As Rondo goes, so do the Boston Celtics. His leadership, especially his career 44-point performance in the series against the Heat, has shown that the Celtics will pivot and build around him as the face of the franchise. Paul Pierce is a long-time Celtic great and will be sure to retire in green and white.
But, the questions lie with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, who will both become unrestricted free agents. Allen has had nagging ankle issues since the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs, and at age 36, he's nearing the end of his career. Garnett is also 36 years old and has also shown some nagging injuries as the end draws closer for him.
Both of these players provide plenty of veteran leadership, and have for the past several seasons. But as their windows close, more windows open for the likes of teams in the East like Chicago, who, when healthy, are one of the top teams next to the Miami Heat. If Boston wants to compete with these teams, it may have to let one, or both, of them go, especially if Garnett and/or Allen forgo retirement.
Moving forward, Boston's main goal will be to get healthy, and the return of players like Avery Bradley will be key to a "younger movement," and the addition of two first round draft picks will be very essential for a new look Boston. Bradley's great potential at the guard spot could also make Ray Allen a more expendable piece, leaving room for the draft picks and a possibility of re-signing Garnett for the right price. Look for Boston to add a big man for life after Kevin Garnett, and possibly another forward at the 3 spot. The Celtics should also re-sign Brandon Bass, who proved his worth in a starting role when Bradley went down with injury.
The Boston Celtics will have a busy, decision filled off-season. Come next season, the starting unit for the Celtics could look quite different from the one that ended in the 2012 Finals.