But a recent turn of events—as well as general manager Danny Ainge’s annual case of trade deadline fever—has some advocating for the Celtics to embrace the rebuilding process that awaits, be proactive and potentially trade Kevin Garnett, or worse, Paul Pierce.
Dealing Garnett would hurt the Celtics, but the team would survive.
But trading Paul Pierce? That would be a fatal mistake, for more reasons than one.
The most obvious is that there is no way that the Celtics would ever even get equal value for Pierce. At 35 years old and in his 15th season as a pro, his odometer has racked up considerable miles. He’s played well over 1,000 regular-season games and over 100 playoff games.
Pierce’s sun is setting, but what he means to that franchise and its fan base can’t be overstated.
Draft picks always entice teams looking to build for the future, but for every LeBron James, there are at least five prospects like Darko Milicic. For every Kevin Durant?
Yep, Greg Oden.
As it currently stands, thanks in part to the team’s seven-game win streak just before All-Star weekend, the Celtics still have a very realistic chance of not only making the playoffs this year, but also hosting a first-round playoff series.
You run the race until it’s over. The same way we seemingly woke up one day and heard that Rondo had torn his ACL is the same exact way it could happen to any of the conference’s other top players.
Injuries are a part of the game, and so are underdogs defying odds stacked against them.
In 1995, the Houston Rockets managed to go just 47-35 in the regular season. After entering the playoffs as the sixth seed, the Rockets managed to put together a helluva postseason and shocked the world by winning their second consecutive NBA title.
Without Rondo, it may seem impossible, but Pierce and Celtics fans deserve the opportunity.
Ainge trading Pierce and pulling the plug on the Celtics is tantamount to Byron Scott forcing Kyrie Irving to the bench so that the Cleveland Cavaliers can lose games and improve the odds of securing the top pick in the next draft.
We frown upon tanking, and that’s exactly what a Pierce trade would be.
From a strictly basketball perspective, Pierce is one of the better two-way players in the entire league and is the unquestioned leader and closer for Doc Rivers’ team.
There is simply no way that a veteran-laden squad like the Celtics could lose its leader and pull together in the closing months of the season. Even more so, whatever youngster brought in by the franchise would have immense shoes to fill, and pressure busts pipes.
Someone currently on the roster could rise up for the Celtics, but only when Pierce, on his own volition, is ready to step down.
In pro sports, and especially in today’s NBA, there is no greater bond than that between a fan base and a player who has spent his entire career wearing one team’s jersey.
Many all-time greats, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and even Michael Jordan, have donned jerseys for more than one NBA franchise.
But John Stockton, Reggie Miller and David Robinson are amongst the select few.
In today’s NBA, where the game has become bigger than the game, big markets and fat contracts became more important than loyalty, and that’s just sad.
Call it a sign of the times if you will.
As a result, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki are the last of a dying breed. And Pierce deserves to be mentioned amongst them.
Pierce was drafted by the franchise back in 1998 as a 20-year-old who spent three years as a Kansas Jayhawk.
Since then, he has seen 125 teammates come and go. Among them were some NBAers who have since been long forgotten: Ron Mercer, Vitalty Potapenko, Danny Fortson, Calbert Cheaney, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Wally Szczerbiak, just to name a few.
Pierce has seen this franchise rise up from the doldrums of laughingstock status and annual visits to the draft lottery to battling with Jason Kidd’s New Jersey Nets and Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Ainge tore it down and built it back up around Pierce. In 2008, Pierce helped the franchise once again reach the top of the NBA mountain and, with Garnett, Allen and Rondo, became the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP.
It’s not every day that a player experiences the ups and downs with a franchise, including enduring an 18-game losing streak, only to rise up through it all.
Pierce does not deserve to be dumped. He deserves to be honored.
Many of us were upset with LeBron James because of the way that he left the Cleveland Cavaliers while others were annoyed because he joined forces with Dwyane Wade—his only real competitor.
On some level, though, we were probably disappointed that James could not finish what he started in Cleveland and lead that city and team to a few championships.
We expect players to show loyalty by sticking through rough times with a franchise and even sacrificing money to help build contenders, but we’re not nearly as quick to admonish even the thought of trading someone who is the epitome of a franchise player.
It is a double-standard.
After this season, Pierce has one year left on his current contract. He will be 36 years old, and if the Celtics are not contending, may call it quits.
Ultimately, that should be his decision to make.
After all he’s been through for the Celtics franchise, Pierce deserves to ride out into the sunset, on his own volition.
Ainge should not ruin that.
Wanna talk about bad karma?
Trade Pierce, and not even the luck of the Irish could reverse the franchise’s fortunes.