Keeping Garnett and Pierce Together Shows Some Things Are Bigger Than Basketball

Sloan PivaCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 30: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics congratulates teammate Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics during the game against the Sacramento Kings on January 30, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Nearly a week after the NBA trade deadline, the Boston Celtics have a lot of positives to consider. They must feel elated to be home after an arduous West Coast road trip. And they'll fully enjoy their two days of rest before returning to practice on Thursday.

But the best feeling for the C's should come from knowing they can put trade rumors in the rear-view mirror, and push forward with veteran leaders Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

With no shortage of deadline-day whispers looming over the squad, the concept of going the rest of the season without Boston's captain or their defensive heart and soul had become all too real for many fans. Twitter was chock-full of speculation, including the widely reported rumor that the Los Angeles Clippers would trade Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan for Garnett.

Pierce, meanwhile, was involved in offers from the Brooklyn Nets, supposedly involving power forward Kris Humphries, guard MarShon Brooks and a first-round draft pick.

But besides a deal that sent injured guard Leandro Barbosa and center Jason Collins to the Washington Wizards for guard Jordan Crawford, everything fortunately got squashed by 3 p.m. Thursday.

Despite Clippers star guard Chris Paul allegedly attempting to sway Garnett to waive his no-trade clause, the 15-time All-Star and proud Celtic wanted no part of the deal. And general manager Danny Ainge wanted no part of the Nets' proposal for Pierce.

“You don’t just give them away,” Ainge said to Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday. “There is great value in those guys.”

Many analysts and beat writers said Ainge was likely on the phone with the Clippers right up until the afternoon of the deadline. However, the Celtics president refused to divulge if he actually negotiated deals, or just simply listened to offers. He did say that he “never talked to Kevin,” and further asserted how much the two faces of the franchise mean to him and the team.

“We really like those guys,” he said. “I like Kevin and I like Paul a lot, and I didn’t want to move them.”

Nor did they want to be moved. Leading up to deadline day, Garnett spent tireless postgame interviews trying to convince the media that he “bleeds green.”

If he had hair, the one-time MVP might have donned a Dennis Rodman-like green dye-job to further illustrate his point. KG doesn't just consider himself a professional basketball player—he considers himself a Boston Celtic.

And Pierce, the greatest and most popular Boston player since Larry Bird, has continually voiced his wish to play out the rest of his career as a Celtic. The Truth's 15-year career in a C's uniform is second only to John Havlicek (16), who also stands as the only player with more all-time points for the franchise.

“I want to retire a Celtic,” Pierce said at a practice in late January (per NESN). “That’s been my longtime goal, but it’s out of my control. The organization makes their decisions. But it is something I desire, since I’ve been here so long.”

Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck told WEEI Tuesday that Pierce and Garnett's names received the most inquiries last week, but that no bids impressed them enough to let them go.

"I know what the offers were,” Grousbeck said. “You wouldn’t have taken them.”

Grousbeck said the vast interest in Pierce and Garnett stemmed from teams believing Boston would not “keep it together this spring,” and rather opt to begin a hefty rebuilding stage. But he maintained that, even without injured point guard Rajon Rondo and rookie forward Jared Sullinger, the organization feels confident in the team's ability to make a championship run.

"The assumption going in was that these guys had played well enough and it’s a team that’s building, and that we have a chance to do something and be a nasty opponent in the playoffs," Grousbeck said. “Don't blow it up in the middle if you're in a playoff position.”

Ainge and Grousbeck have both acknowledged that they entertained all trades, thinking about immediate improvements as well as the future. But the fact that Pierce and Garnett remain in Celtic green today proves everyone's commitment to this current squad. The organization justly believes in its leaders on the floor.

If the Celtics really wished to deal Garnett, Ainge would have stopped simply listening and started talking. He would have gone directly to KG to request his departure.

And if Boston legitimately wanted to start an aggressive rebuild for the future, Pierce would have been sent packing in the New Jersey deal, forcing KG's hand to waive his no-trade clause. But they stayed, proving that some loyalties do still exist in the professional sports world.

Pierce and KG's loyalty, as well as their dazzling efforts in Boston's recent 10-5 run (highlighted by a seven-game streak), seem to have guided Ainge away from pulling the trigger on a blow-up. He kept the gang together, not just because his guys didn't want to leave, but probably also because he knows their heart and desire can make noise in at least one more push.

It's a good thing nothing happened. Despite an onerous 2-3 road trip (involving five different cities in a week, three time zones, and nearly 7,800 combined miles of air travel), the Celtics' new-look second unit has meshed under the guidance of Pierce.

Garnett continues to anchor the defense, yelling at the newbies to ensure they're in the right spots. And emerging star Jeff Green has stepped up big-time, even getting nominated for Player of the Week for the Eastern Conference last week.

The Celtics ended their road swing Monday, earning a triumphant overtime victory over the Utah Jazz in a loud EnergySolutions Arena. Garnett dominated the glass, grabbing 10 boards and chipping in 13 points.

Pierce, however, dominated the game when it mattered the most. He scored seven straight points in overtime, finishing with 26, seven rebounds and eight assists. Coach Doc Rivers called it "the best win of the year."

Of course, it didn't hurt that his two best players were out there leading the way.