Welp. That was fun while it lasted.
The Boston Celtics' bid for an historic rally came up short the other night, falling to the New York Knicks in a game they had to win. Doc Rivers and Co. put up a valiant effort, especially given the decrepit state of their roster, but now they face an offseason of trials and questions.
Let's look at some of the hot-button issues surrounding Boston this summer.
Is Paul Pierce Done as a Celtic?
Since being drafted in 1998, and promptly averaging 16.5 points per game as a rookie, Paul Pierce has bled Celtic Green. He's been through dizzying highs and worrisome lows during his tenure, but the narrative suggests he's among the greatest ever. A true Boston Celtic, through and through.
But come next season, he could be sporting different colors.
Pierce has a team option on next year's contract at $15.3 million, with a $5 million buyout before June 30. Cutting ties with its star would save the team over $10 million.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge mused about his predicament to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, saying:
What's important to understand, yeah, it's going to be hard for fans and everybody else, but as far as what's doing what's best for the Celtics, it's probably going to be very hard, too...
It's not a no-brainer. It's not like you get a 21-year-old All-Star player, or you get the number one pick in the draft [if you let Pierce go]. Those decisions would not be hard, but I have a feeling the decision is going to be very hard, yeah.
For his part, Pierce already seems to be steeling himself for potential departure. He told The Boston Globe he understands that this could be his final season in Boston, adding that he's "been thinking that the last three years." He went even further in a different interview, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, who quoted Pierce as saying:
I always said I want to end my career as a Celtic. But they're the ones—I have a contract for next year, but it's not guaranteed. So the decision is in their hands.
Whatever decisions they make, maybe if they trade me somewhere or I end up somewhere else, maybe it can be a situation where I come back for a one-day deal and retire a Celtic.
The thought of Pierce in anything but green and white is unsettling to say the least. Blue or red or purple would surely disservice his portly frame. But at least all parties are going about this unideal situation like professionals.
Will Kevin Garnett Retire?
The fire is still there, burning like a matchbook in spilled gasoline. And his body has held up surprisingly well this season. But Kevin Garnett, the Big Ticket, perennial patrolman of the paint, is 36 years old, and even with two years left on his contract, there's a chance this could be his last hurrah.
Speculation on the matter of KG's retirement has loomed over Boston all season. Garnett himself has managed to play coy on the matter, but others in the know have been more chatty.
Before Game 5 against the Knicks, Doc Rivers admitted he didn't know what Garnett's future held in store. "I think he loves this team," Rivers told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, trying to convince himself that Garnett will return. "I think he likes the guys."
But that's just the thing. What guys will he be playing with? If Paul Pierce does indeed flee, Garnett will be left with a ragtag group of role players and a point guard with one knee. Is that really how he wants to spend his golden years?
Again, speculation has been there all season, and it does little good to keep musing on his intentions. But the possibility of KG's retirement is very real, and warrants close monitoring all summer.
Rajon Rondo's Rehab
Not just a tongue-twisting alliteration, Rajon Rondo's rehab is, perhaps, the most important issue in Boston this summer.
With Pierce and Garnett's futures in flux, Rondo is the bona fide face of Boston's future. Heck, even if they both come back, that still remains the case. But Rondo is a guy who relies on explosion toward the rim—God knows he can't shoot—and without his knee at full health, that future could be compromised.
And so far, the news isn't great. Whereas Washington's injured football star made a superhuman recovery, Rondo's upswing from ACL surgery has been much more of this world. As he told Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald:
I can’t jump, I can’t walk, so right now I don’t know if I’m on schedule.
I don’t know where I am, because this is the first time I’ve had ACL surgery.
Yikes. It's nothing to get too concerned about, not in May, but at some point Rondo needs to get back on the court. If not, Boston's mini "dynasty" out East could crash and burn in a heartbeat.