Boston Celtics Should Have Learned from the Detroit Pistons' Demise
Okay, so I will paint a picture for you.
There is this veteran team. It is comprised almost exclusively of veteran players that never won anything on their own that came together and dominated their conference for a decade.
They always carried themselves with a swagger and were the best defensive team in the league for an extended period of time.
Every year they were in contention for a title, yet only won one despite their domination of their conference.
And if you asked this team or their fans, they would say that they were the best team in the league for many of those years and should have won at least two more titles. Easily.
For my regular readers, this team is definitely the Detroit Pistons of the prior decade.
But for the folks reading this right now, this is the Boston Celtics.
And there is one more similarity between these two teams; they are being held together much too long.
In the NBA, evolution is crucial
The Celtics had an excellent opportunity at the trade deadline this year. They had several veterans that were in demand and according to numerous rumors and reports, they had plenty of willing trade partners.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and even Rajon Rondo were in demand and could have brought back plenty of help for the Celtics' rebuilding plan.
But alas, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge stayed put, hoping that his crew had one more title run in them.
For longtime Pistons' fans, this sentiment was familiar.
The Pistons won their title in 2004 and were one quarter away from winning another one in 2005, but did not return to the Finals during their run.
But by 2007, the writing was on the wall that this team had gone as far as it would go. They were not improving and their players were beginning to lose their collective value.
Team president Joe Dumars did not actively shop his players, instead hoping that they had enough left to get him one more title.
When he finally figured out that his team had nothing left, he made all the wrong moves and had nothing left to show for it.
He dealt Chauncey Billups, the face of the franchise, for the expiring contract of Allen Iverson that he eventually would turn into Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.
Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess walked away from expiring deals. Ben Wallace walked in 2006. Collectively, they received nothing for any of those players.
Richard Hamilton was eventually bought out of his contract, leaving the Pistons to pay him $5 million per year through this season.
So what do the Pistons have to show for their decade-long dominance? A lot of pretty pictures in the rear-view mirror.
Since 2008, this team is one of the worst in basketball. They haven't made the playoffs since then and are just now starting to put together some talent to figure out the next decade.
They are far from a contender and probably even a season or two away from playoff contention.
For the Celtics, they need to learn from this mistake.
This is not a team that can beat the Miami Heat. This is a savvy veteran team that will easily make the playoffs and might even win a round or two. But they are not built to win right now.
So what is the point of keeping this group together? Does Ainge really think they can win a title? And if he does, what does that say about his mental fitness to do the job?
The NBA is all about evolution. You either evolve, or you end up like the dinosaurs.
Sure, it is a great story that these guys came together and are loyal to the franchise. Heck, I have been a huge outside fan of this team because they play basketball the way it should be played. They work hard on every possession and are devoted to team defense.
They truly call to mind my Pistons of last decade.
But enough is enough already. They need to break this team up and get what they can for their stars.
Garnett should have been dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers this year. Hopefully, they are still interested on draft night, as they are sure to get bounced before reaching the Western Conference Finals. But even if they aren't, the Celtics surely will have willing trade partners that night.
They need to flip Garnett for young talent and hopefully a pick or two.
Pierce, however, might be the key to this franchise's turnaround.
He is 35 years old, but he still is one of the league's best small forwards. He also knows how to win and could be the missing piece for a team near the top.
If the Indiana Pacers decide to deal Danny Granger, they should look seriously at Pierce.
Pierce needs to bring back some talent.
After this season, he will have only one year left on his deal. Therefore, he not only will be an intriguing pickup for a contender, but he also will be a good looking piece for a rebuilding team looking to cut their long-term payroll.
The Celtics need to get some talent in return for Pierce.
And then there is Rondo. It is hard not to like Rajon Rondo. He plays the game with such intensity and he is certainly one of the best pure point guards in the league.
The Celtics need to figure out if they want to build around their mercurial star. Obviously, real point guards that can create for their teammates don't grow on trees, so the Celtics should tread carefully.
That being said, Rondo will certainly have the most value on the trading block.
He would certainly bring back a first-round pick and solid talent.
But this would constitute a full rebuilding of the franchise, and I'm not certain they need all that.
Perhaps Rondo is the player that the Celtics should build around. If they could flip Garnett and Pierce for a young wing with athleticism, a couple of decent picks and salary-cap space, they could have a shot at landing a free agent or two.
Boston benefits from being a much more attractive landing spot for free agents than Detroit. It is a great city with plenty to do.
The Celtics could certainly attract a player like O.J. Mayo and maybe a decent post player. But they need to be careful not to spend for the sake of spending. If the free agents that are out there don't fit with the team model, then don't spend this summer.
Optimism for the future
The Celtics are not currently my Pistons of the 2000s. However, they are teetering on the brink of becoming them. They have already kept their team together too long, something Ainge should have learned from watching the demise of his Celtics and even the Bad Boy Pistons of the 1990s.
But luckily, their players still have value. They can still be dealt and Ainge can still turn this thing around.
The Celtics have been collecting some solid young talent like Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
They still can right the ship.
But this summer will be crucial. If this same team trots out onto the court in October, then they will be in serious trouble.
As a Pistons' fan that watched with horror while his team turned into a cellar dweller, I hope the Celtics get it right.
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